Over the past 100 years, the world has gone through a variety of economic downturns. And, while every recession is a slap in the face, the fallout we’re seeing from COVID-19 is entirely unprecedented. As a global public health crisis, everyone is affected. That means that no matter who you are or what your station in life is, you’re at risk. Even if you or someone you know hasn’t contracted the virus, your business and personal finances have undoubtedly taken a hit.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the situation is very fluid. As recently as a week ago, I don’t think everyone fully appreciated the scope of the challenge we’re facing. In fact, many people seemed to be taking a pretty fast-and-loose approach to dealing with the crisis.
Fortunately, reality has since set in and today most everyone recognizes the impact that COVID-19 is having both on our individual businesses and the global economy. I now see an ecosystem that’s mobilizing and taking a wartime approach to the situation. Every organization I’ve spoken to in recent days is acutely focused on survival and working hard to manage their liquidity and runway during this period of extreme uncertainty. Make no mistake, if you haven’t adopted the same mentality yet, you need to immediately.
Understanding and managing your cash flow
As a business, you have access to a lot of internal and external data. Now, more than ever, you need to harness that data to better understand the impact that the current crisis is having on your overall runway and liquidity.
The reality is that times are tough and everyone is having to make difficult decisions. Unless you’re Zoom, Slack, or one of the other few businesses actually benefiting from the current crisis, you’re inevitably seeing a real slow down in business. In fact, your revenues might already be down by 30 percent, 40 percent, or more compared to your budget. It’s time to be honest about what’s happening and not to harbor any false hopes. Manage your expenses carefully and start looking at the absolute worst-case scenarios and how they would impact your business. I say this not to make you panic, but so that you’re truly prepared for whatever may come.
Now more than ever, it’s important to surround yourself with as many real-time feedback loops as possible so that you create up-to-the-minute forecasts based on where your business is at this very moment. More specifically, I recommend creating a six-month cash flow forecast, where the first three months are weekly and the last three are monthly. Make sure that it’s a rolling forecast and that you extend it as needed. And remember, things are moving very quickly. If you’re not using today’s data as your baseline for those forecasts, you’re already out of touch.
Throughout the crisis, it’s also critical that you remain in close communication with your shareholders and your board. If you have less than 12 months of cash burn on hand, you need to work with your existing shareholders and creditors to determine the right funding to extend your funding runway as quickly as possible. At the same time, make sure to monitor government programs closely and to apply for everything available. There’s a lot of capital being made available to businesses and you should be doing everything you can to get your fair share.
The positive spin
Despite all of the doom and gloom you see in the news lately, keep in mind that in any situation like this, opportunities arise. If you’re a strong business that’s well capitalized, M&A opportunities will emerge that allow you to acquire companies that help you obtain a new feature set for your product or that expose you to a new customer base.
Meanwhile every business has the opportunity to pivot and adapt to the new realities. That’s why you’re probably seeing your gym offer virtual classes or why your favorite restaurant now suddenly offers take out. It’s been truly amazing to see how quickly companies are adapting to the realities of our current situation. Think about how your business can do the same so that you can continue to deliver value to, and retain, your customers.
Finally, I would remind everyone that we have a very strong and resilient innovation ecosystem in Canada and the United States. Our communities are coming together and working very well together to shepherd each other through this difficult time. Make sure to tap into your local community to reach out for support when you need it. And, when you have the opportunity, give back to your community as well. Offering advice and mentorship is critical to helping everyone expedite their thinking and galvanizing around the best ideas to help us all move forward.