By Leon Gettler >>

WITH THE COVID-19 recession in full swing, Lyndall Spooner, the founder and director of consultancy and advisory firm Fifth Dimension, said business leaders need to adopt a wartime mindset.

She said whenever there is a downturn, businesses have traditionally been protective, whereas they need to become more innovative and push their businesses forward more than ever. 

“To me, the wartime mindset is you need to be basically relentless when things get tough and you need to rethink your business, where you are headed and what you’re going to do to make sure your business survives – and to be ruthless in that vision,” Ms Spooner told Talking Business

She said many businesses were not prepared for this as they had experienced nearly 30 years of growth since the last recession.

“I think a lot of businesses have looked at their success and probably over-inflated the success of things they’ve done in their business and not taking into account a lot of their growth would have come regardless of what they did or didn’t do, because we’ve been living in a growing economy for several decades now,” Ms Spooner said.

“So what happens when that economy changes and you are now in a downturn?

“You now have to fight to survive as a business. You have to make sure that every dollar you invest in the business is actually going to give you a very good return.

“And you shouldn’t rely on what you’ve done in the past because, I would say, where you did invest, you don’t know to what extent it was successful because there was this natural momentum in the economy anyway that was driving everyone forward,” Ms Spooner said.

DATA MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

Lyndall Spooner said Fifth Dimension urges its clients to use the right data to make the best decisions that they can. She said many companies had been basing decisions on data in an economy that was growing – and only discovered they needed new data when there was a downturn.

Ms Spooner said data came in two forms. The first was operational data setting out sales and revenue and profitability. The second came from the customer base and the market indicating what consumers needed and were buying, and how that might be changing.

She said this second area of data was what companies often got wrong. They often did not see they were looking at the wrong metric until they saw a decline.

“We are in an environment where consumer spending is declining and consumers are becoming far more discerning about the companies they want to buy from and the products they want to buy,” Ms Spooner said.

“So you need very good data to tell you how consumer sentiment is changing. What is it that they’re looking for? What should you be focusing on to invest in your business to have the right products and services to meet their needs?”

CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR METRICS

Ms Spooner said there was “no single metric out there” to explain consumer behaviours and businesses needed to look at what the right metric might be for the industry they are in – and what kind of metric suited the company, to help its brand grow

“Be a war time CEO, be prepared to let go what you’ve done in the past, find the metric that will help you grow in a very tough economy by better understanding your consumers and their needs than your competitors and ensure your business is investing in the right things,” she said.

Ms Spooner said a lot of marketing models currently used by companies were developed in the 1800s and the world was now a different place, in terms of how consumers get introduced to brands and select them, particularly with Google.

She said all this needed to be taken into account when selecting a metric. And also, companies should not rely on a single metric.

“You need an ecosystem of metrics to understand all these different areas and considerations,” Ms Spooner said.

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Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

ends

By Tracey Dunn >>

THE FEDERAL Government has released more detail about the much-anticipated changes to the JobKeeper program.

In a press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a new and more targeted version of the JobKeeper program will commence from October 2020.

The changes will take effect from September 28 and will be implemented progressively so employers currently receiving the wage subsidy will continue to receive JobKeeper in its current form until the end of September.

The revamped JobKeeper program, labelled JobKeeper 2.0, will see some fundamental changes to the program, particularly around eligibility testing and the rate of pay required to be paid to eligible employees. Under the current JobKeeper program, eligible employers were required to satisfy the decline in turnover test once, with the test period limited to either a selected month or relevant quarter. 

While eligible employers were required to provide monthly data to the ATO of current and projected turnover, eligibility for the program did not cease if turnover returned to normal or increased.  

Under JobKeeper 2.0, eligible employers will need to re-test the decline in turnover in October and December to ensure ongoing eligibility. The PM has indicated the new JobKeeper eligibility tests will be based on a comparison of quarterly turnover and will not be limited to a one-off test.

To be eligible for ongoing JobKeeper assistance, businesses will need to pass the relevant decline in turnover rates as follows:

Eligibility period

Decline in turnover test period

Conditions

October – December 2020

April – June 2020
July – September 2020

The relevant decline in turnover test must be satisfied in BOTH quarters.

January – March 2021

April – June 2020
July – September 2020
October – December 2020

The relevant decline in turnover test must be satisfied in ALL three quarters.

Testing of ongoing eligibility based on ongoing quarterly turnover will assist in ensuring integrity in the program and ensuring the program is targeted at those businesses impacted most by COVID-19.  This is a welcome change that will help limit the financial burden on the government and Australian taxpayers, but also ensures business owners impacted by COVID-19 are provided with the support to continue to operate and engage their employees until COVID-19 outbreaks are contained and restrictions released.  

While the detail of the new eligibility tests is yet to be announced, on the face of it, it appears the proposed changes will assist in ensuring financial support is targeted to industries most impacted by the ongoing effects of COVID-19 restrictions such as hospitality, tourism, entertainment and the airline industry. The proposed changes will also ensure financial support is directed to businesses in Victoria and New South Wales which have been impacted by an increase in COVID-19 cases and a second round of restrictions.

The PM also announced changes to the JobKeeper minimum wage condition which will see employees receive support based on their basis of employment as opposed to receiving a flat rate of support. The government has announced JobKeeper 2.0 will have a two-tiered approach to the minimum JobKeeper wage: one for full time employees; the other for part-time and long-term casual employees.

The new rates will be as follows:

Period

Employee working >20 hrs per week*

Employee working <20 hrs per week*

28 September 2020 – 3 January 2021

$1,200 pf (before tax)

$750 pf (before tax)

4 January 2021 – 28 March 2021

$1,000 pf (before tax)

$650 pf (before tax)


This change is welcome as it will address the anomaly where casual or part-time employees were paid a flat rate of $1,500 per fortnight (before tax) irrespective of their usual rate of pay or working hours, or where stood-down employees receiving JobKeeper support from their primary employer have obtained temporary employment with another employer.  

The gradual weaning off of government support will give businesses the opportunity to revisit future sustainability. RSM strongly advises business owners to engage with their advisers to create a plan for the future, whether that be business growth, business reinvention or business cessation.

Finance Minister Mathias Corman had indicated in an earlier press conference that the government was cognisant of the issue where stimulus support packages, such as JobKeeper, were keeping otherwise-insolvent companies afloat and this was not the intent of the program. The proposed changes may be a warning for zombie companies. Given the impending changes and ultimate cessation of the program in early 2021, otherwise-insolvent companies may need to consider whether they continue to reassess eligibility or seek advice relating to voluntary administration or winding up while ASIC concessions surrounding insolvent trading provisions are still in effect.

Further detail regarding the changes is not expected until government resumes in September; however, today’s government announcement appears reasonable and equitable, and will ensure support is more targeted towards those who most require it.

 

About the author

Tracey Dunn is the associate director of RSM Australia, one of the nation's leading professional services firms with a 95-year history of assisting Australian businesses to innovate and develop.

* The 20-hour work test refers to the month of February 2020 (with some Commissioner discretion).
 
ends

RESEARCH published by Forbes magazine suggests most staff spend from 2.5 hours to as much as 6.5 hours per day reading and replying to emails.

Even at the lower end, that’s more than a quarter of each working day and that’s just the average; some workers in information-intensive roles or industries may spend much more than that. This can create significant bottlenecks when it comes to sharing information, collaborating effectively, and moving projects forward. 

OnePlace Solutions CEO James Fox said, “When email became widely adopted in the business world, it was revolutionary. It provided a faster communication method than letters and memos that had to be physically distributed and it was more private and convenient than faxes.

"However, as email has become ubiquitous, it has devolved into a time-wasting business tool instead of one that promotes productivity," he said.

“In many organisations, business managers are looking for ways to minimise the use of email or make it more efficient so that employees can focus more on deep work and creative tasks instead of on managing their emails. However, most of the solutions organisations trial end up with their own set of challenges.

"For example, instant messaging is too hard to organise and track, and it doesn’t work for team members in different time zones, while internal collaboration tools don’t always let third parties communicate with the team seamlessly.  

“As more employees and businesses are discovering the myriad benefits of remote working, the question of how to solve the email challenge is becoming more urgent.”

In many situations, email still provides the best option to communicate with teams, especially if that communication includes a lot of information. Therefore, it’s likely that the best solution to the email challenge will be one that seamlessly connects individuals’ emails to team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or SharePoint.  

“Often, people receive important attachments via email," Mr Fox said. "They then have to manually save those attachments into SharePoint or, worse, shared drives that don’t have an obvious or reliable taxonomy, making those documents hard to find again. 

“Being able to put those emails and their attachments straight into SharePoint without having to switch between Outlook and SharePoint is a massive time saver. It means that all project team members can access all relevant information at all times, keeping projects moving forward based on the latest information.

"This reduces the amount of time people spend on managing emails and increases the amount of time they can spend on creative and innovative work, leading to greater job satisfaction and better results for the organisation.” 


References:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/annabelacton/2017/07/13/innovators-challenge-how-to-stop-wasting-time-on-emails/#786a619e9788
https://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2017/02/15/as-workplace-communication-evolves-email-may-not-prevail/#27d71f80626c

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

A BIG ISSUE now for businesses is that employees are coming back to work, after the lockdown, but the world has changed.

Work places need to accommodate the new conditions and social distancing. And many employees who have been working remotely are reluctant to come back.

Office National CEO Gavin Ward said businesses need to come up with some ingenious ways to entice staff back to work. These include perks, creative activities, wellness equipment, elaborate desk top accessories, parties and more. 

“There’s a variety of reasons that people don’t go back. Some may say ‘I don’t want to do the traffic’ but I think you have to look after some fundamental things to make it work,” Mr Ward told Talking Business

“The first thing is we can’t ignore COVID. Make it safe. So one of the exercises is ‘Am I going to be safe in the new workplace’. So if you’re going to start talking about people, you will need good communication in terms of the way you’re going to prepare the workplace to ensure that they don’t get an infection so you’re going to have the right processes to say you’re going to wipe down the surfaces on a daily basis, that you’re going to have the wipes and all those sorts of things. So there is a fundamental thing, you’re going to make it safe.

“What you’re going to have to do is create an environment when they come back that they’re going to be engaged, that they’re part of the team. You’re going to promote connection about objectives, about what you’re doing and how you’re succeeding. These kinds of fundamentals are really important.

“The other thing business owners need to do is make them feel comfortable. Some businesses have been encouraging people to bring their dog into work, bringing part of the world they have at home into the office. Dogs also have an impact on the other people in the office and calming folks. Other employees might instead bring in a pot plant,” Mr Ward said.

“Business owners also need to look at the office environment. Is the light right for employees to do their work? Are there multiple screens elevated to the right height? Are the keyboards ergonomic? Are there brush-pens? Are the chairs right? Do they give good support? Can the seat be moved in and out?

“If you do these things and get the right equipment, when they come back they’ll find they’re much more connected, they’re much more productive and they can create really solid great work,” he said.

FACILITIES IMPORTANT

Fitness and wellness equipment at the workplace will also be important. Milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, successes and good occasion should also be celebrated.

Mr Ward acknowledged that many employees, after spending months working from home, would opt to come into the office three or four days a week, and do the balance from home. Companies will need to accommodate that.

“I think the world has changed forever and we’ve always had to consider the different styles of people we work with,” Mr Ward said.

“Part of what we’re doing is we need to entice people for the times that we need it, but I think we will always need to be agile and have some people working from home because I think they just won’t fit in the new workplace.”

He said the trend to hot-desking will be harder to sustain in the post-COVID environment.

“So the concept of working at a desk, getting up and moving your stuff back and someone coming down and sitting in that same space and ensuring that’s clean and ensuring you have the distance and socially isolate with the person next to you is going to be extremely challenging,” Mr Ward said.

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Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell has released a free online mental health webinar for sole traders, amid alarming predictions of a dramatic rise in Australian suicide rates due to the economic and social impacts of coronavirus.

Beyond Blue ambassador and sole trader, Garry Mills hosts the short webinar, during which he describes his own experiences with depression and anxiety and some of the strategies that worked for him in his darkest times.

“Garry is an exceptional person who comes from an incredible background as a former security guard for an ex-Prime Minister, running complex security operations in Australia and overseas as well as competing in triathlons and training elite athletes,” Ms Carnell said. 

“His unique story is proof that depression doesn’t discriminate. In addition to Garry’s personal story, he provides a number of excellent practical tips for boosting mental health, many of which are tailored to sole traders who may be struggling as a result of this COVID-19 crisis.

“I understand that small business owners don’t have a lot of time to devote to their mental health, but if you can find 10 minutes in your day to watch this video, it will be time well spent," Ms Carnell said.

“The webinar also directs viewers to our My Business Health web portal, which offers dedicated holistic support to employers and sole traders.

“The COVID-19 section of My Business Health walks small business owners and sole traders through the practical steps to keep their business afloat and also links with resources from Beyond Blue, which has taken a lead role in providing mental health assistance throughout this pandemic," she said.

“There’s no doubt this is a very difficult and uncertain time, but there is support for small businesses and sole traders and I would encourage them to access the free resources and services on offer.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

THE REMOTE work force could become a permanent feature, according to Moe Vela, the chief transparency officer of TransparentBusiness.

Mr Vela, who was a strategic business adviser to US Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, said the coronavirus had already transformed the global workforce.

Speaking from his home town of New York, he said figures showed that 80-90 percent of the global work was now being performed remotely.

“One of the challenges is that there was no transition period, there was no adjustment period. It was just a shock to the workforce system and workforce model,” Mr Vela told Talking Business

He said it might become a permanent feature of the workforce if it was handled correctly.

“If we make it work well during this pandemic, I actually believe it will become the new normal in phases,” he said.

“Incrementally, I think we will move over the next few years towards a more robust remote workforce.”

He cited a recent study by Gartner which found that 74 percent of managers now expected 15-20 percent of their workforce “would remain remote.”

REMOTE ‘CONTROL’

Managers, CEO and boards of directors had not previously moved towards remote work because of concerns about damage to productivity, operational efficiency and the “out-of-sight-out of-mind-out-of-control” syndrome.

Mr Vela said the first thing management should do is use the technological tools – such as Zoom, or Skype or WhatsApp – that are already in the marketplace, to mitigate those risks and concerns and create connectivity.

Another approach is to use file sharing programs.

A third is to use remote workforce management software.

“Communication is integral in making a remote workforce setting effective,” Mr Vela said.

“Communicate with this remote workforce and remind them that you value them, that you respect them, that you affirm them and that you appreciate them. Those are the kinds of messages you need to be sending.

“Number two, communicate and remind them that you trust them,” he said.

“And during the pandemic, as part of this communication effort, remind them that you as management are flexible because you understand their plight. You understand there’s a lot of anxiety in this new setting. You understand their children may not be in school because of the pandemic and maybe they have to stop in the middle of the day to play blocks on the living room floor, or put their child down for their nap, or play with them for a little while.

“Remind them as management you understand that and that you are flexible, that you are patient and that you have their back.”

TRUST MAKES REMOTE WORK

Mr Vela said these approaches by management would elicit trust, appreciation, gratitude and loyalty from the workforce.

He said studies had shown this could even create a more productive workforce. The studies found that workplace productivity increased between 15-60 percent.

Mr Vela said there were five beneficiaries of remote workforces.

The first is management producing a more productive workforce with less absenteeism and less sick leave.

The second is the employees who enjoy it because it gives them a better work-life balance and greater flexibility.

The third is the economy, with studies showing remote workforces can add $2 trillion to the national economy as they deliver more savings for companies.

The fourth is the environment, with commute times eliminated and lower carbon emissions.

A remote workforce is also beneficial for women, especially single mothers or those who cannot be on site, and people who are disabled who are unable to commute, Mr Vela pointed out. 

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Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

By Leon Gettler >>

THE BIG CHALLENGE for companies now in this age of lockdowns, social distancing and social isolation, is to change their business models. Many are now going online and, for some, that is an enormous challenge.

Executive and leadership development coach Ronan Leonard, who connects people up with his online platform Eccountability – the first global virtual mastermind platform – is helping service professionals move their business online as the coronavirus social distancing rules and lockdown come into effect.

Mr Leonard said for businesses now, it is a case of “adapt or die”. 

He said not every business can switch online and it might take some creative thinking – but it’s an area that could attract a lot of service professionals.

“One thing I am advocating with people is to look at how they delivered content and information in the past and find ways they can do it differently – and certainly they can do it online,” Mr Leonard told Talking Business.

He said the early adopters of technology are much more likely to survive the coronavirus-induced economic crisis.

“The reality is, everything was changing even before this crisis, things were always changing and evolving, so the more you are able to embrace new technology and try new things, you’ll find better ways to work,” he said.

“The people that are early adopters, the people that embrace technology or embrace change, are going to be far more resilient in this time.”

PIVOTING BUSINESS

Mr Leonard said even in sectors like cafes and restaurants, there are business owners that have pivoted around and are doing home deliveries or coming up with subscription models.

Instead of waiting for customers to come to them, they are looking to deliver meals to people who are now working from home.

Other examples include financial planners who, instead of writing up detailed reports for clients, are now putting it all on Zoom or something similar, where they could record and transcribe all their notes and have it as a digital footprint.

Or a yoga teacher who has moved his classes to an online streaming business model.

“Sure people like the personal touch. We don’t want to use technology to put us into a box where we never interact with people. We are a social animal, that’s what we’re all about,” Mr Leonard said.

“But there are definitely ways where we can improve for certain businesses and this for some people is just the push they needed.

“Some businesses will be able to pivot and adapt. Not everyone can do that.

“So it’s a question of going back to your assumptions and thinking, speak to other people, find the creative ways where you can potentially turn this around and get some income coming in in these troubling times.”

CHANGING FOREVER

Mr Leonard said this will change business forever when the crisis passes, whenever that may be.

Some may never open their doors again, others will have a completely different business model.

“That is all about being adaptable and looking at this as a potential opportunity of a way to do things differently,” Mr Leonard said.

He said a positive mindset helped people work through these ideas.

“If you’re in shut-down mode right now, crisis mode, fear kicks in, cortisol kicks in and you struggle to make those good decisions, but there are people out there that have already changed their model,” he said.

“In a perfect world, we are happy where we are and we are comfortable in that zone.

“Due to this crisis, it’s been forced on everybody to take a long hard look where they’re at, what their strengths are, what their gaps are and to fill in those gaps.”

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Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

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