This article was first published on 28 May 2020 and has been updated with additional reporting.
For many business owners in Singapore, 2020 has likely been one of the most challenging years in recent times. Companies in specific industries such as tourism, F&B and retail have probably seen their businesses severely impacted, given the two-month circuit breaker measures earlier in the year and the ongoing safe distancing measures required post-circuit breaker.
However, even companies outside of these industries would be affected. At the very least, adjustments will need to be made for the office to adhere to safe distancing measures.
As business owners, it’s important to remember that adapting is part and parcel of business building. Even if COVID-19 did not happen, our businesses would have needed to evolve anyway. While 2020 has not been a good year for business, we can make some changes today to prepare ourselves for a post-pandemic business world.
#1 Adopt PayNow For Business
As a Singapore-based business, you should adopt the use of PayNow for Business now (pun intended) if you haven’t already done so.
With more than 2.8 million users in Singapore, PayNow is already the most widely used cashless payment systems in Singapore, and will likely continue growing. One can argue that it ranks only behind cash and cards when it comes to most popular payment method in Singapore.
In a post-pandemic world, it is very likely for customers to increasingly prefer contactless payment methods. This is not just to avoid handling money for now, but really for the convenience of digital payment solutions in the long-term. Adopting PayNow is perfect if you are running a consumer-facing business such as an F&B establishment or retail outlet.
Even if you are a business-to-business company, it makes sense to have PayNow for business. Minimally, it gives your vendors an additional option to pay you. This may be preferred by many, especially during a period when sending a cheque is inconvenient for many businesses.
Furthermore, you can include a QR code in your invoice for your partners to scan and pay you. This is faster and safer. Funds are also received immediately.
For example, if our business partners scan the QR code in the invoice we send them, they will see that they are paying DollarsAndSense.
As a bonus, the government is also using PayNow to disburse funds to companies from various schemes, such as the Jobs Support Scheme.
Registering for PayNow for your business can be done quickly and entirely online. The existing bank you are using for your business account is also the bank that you can sign up for PayNow through. Simply log-in to your online business banking or business mobile banking app to do so.
For example, if like us, you are an OCBC business banking user, you can register your business account for PayNow by linking your account to your company’s Unique Entity Number (UEN) using [email protected] (Desktop) or your OCBC Business Mobile Banking app.
Besides PayNow, you need to embrace digital solutions company-wide to remain relevant in the business world today. This means adopting many of the current digital solutions already available to ensure your business continues to operate smoothly.
For example, your business can enjoy preferential rates and/or subscription with services such as G Suite for your employees to collaborate on their work online, Talenox to automate your payroll and HR requirements, Xero for your online accounting needs, and more.
#2 Take A Business Loan, Even If You Don’t Need To
For many SME owners who have run their companies well using internal cash flow or personal savings, taking a business loan may be something that they are not comfortable doing. This is perfectly understandable.
However, business loans have a place in the business world and provide advantages for companies that can wield it correctly, and in a responsible manner. For example, business loans can ease short-term cash flow challenges, allowing business owners to focus on profitable long-term decisions instead.
Similar to our personal finance, credit history is important when applying for a business loan. Lenders prefer borrowers who have already shown a strong track record of having borrowed in the past and making timely repayments. A first-time borrower is, unfortunately, not likely to be considered the best kind of borrower.
Even if you don’t need an urgent loan, 2020 may not be a bad idea to just take up one anyway. From now till 31 March 2021, eligible SMEs in Singapore can tap on a government-supported scheme called the Temporary Bridging Loan. This government-assisted loan helps Singapore companies get access to working capital at a low cost to ease their short-term cashflow challenges.
Even though it’s a collateral-free loan, interest rates are exceptionally low because of the government support – at potentially 3% or less. This is an excellent time for businesses to build up their credit history at a low cost. Being seen as a good borrower allows your business to gain access to future liquidity more easily.
#3 Work-From-Home Vs Office
While there have been discussions in the past about remote working, this has never been adopted widely in Singapore until circuit breaker. Since then, most companies, which may have been uncomfortable with letting employees work from home, had no choice but to adopt it.
As a business owner, if you are in a position to continue allowing your employees to work-from-home, it might be worth considering it. For a start, there is tighter rules governing safe distance measures for offices in the today, so returning to the office is not going to be pleasant for many employees. At the same time, employers will have to ensure safe distancing procedures are in place and that they are upheld in the office.
Furthermore, if your employees have already adopted good work-from-home habits, getting them to return to the office may be counterproductive.
#4 Reconsider What Your Ideal Office Looks Like
Depending on your decision to allow your employees to work-from-home, or not, this will have an effect on what’s the ideal office for the future.
For example, some companies that previously intended to expand their team, may no longer find it necessary to get a bigger office space, if they are looking to adopt a partial work-from-home arrangement.
For other companies that intend to have their workers return to the office, there is a need to consider what the new ‘ideal’ office layout would be. Business owners will need to reconfigure their office to ensure that their employees comply with safe distancing measures expected.
This could mean giving up previously valued common areas such as a hotdesking space, in favour of more personal space per employee. Traditional office cubicles may also be reintroduced again.
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