The COVID-19 outbreak is rapidly unfolding with significant impact on small businesses, especially social enterprises and Indigenous business.

At Social Engine, we are facing many challenges for the multiple social enterprises we run, spanning hospitality & catering, logistics & warehousing and site services. Our warehouse and cafes are temporarily closed, and most of our clients are facing the reality of reducing or pausing business activities.

The impact of the closure is extremely difficult for our ‘at-risk’ young people participating in the program. For most of them Social Engine is their only means of support and many of them lack any form of back up from family or friends.

The challenge is real – where to from here?

As major disruptions to our businesses are expected for the next six months, planning is critical to survival. It’s not all doom and gloom. Where we can, we are trying to pick up new contracts in adjacent industries related to COVID-19, such as call centres; logistics; essential products like food, PPE and hand sanitiser; and community services for cleaning areas exposed to COVID-19. We are considering both delivery and supply of these services to companies in these industries.

But first, the Executive Team at Social Engine had to look closely at the short term.

Here are our priorities moving forward in a COVID-19 world:

  1. Managing a weekly budget for the next six months. A ‘lights on’ budget will help us make the best decisions and compare trade-offs.
  2. Business continuity. We listed the biggest risks to our business over the next six months and have developed mitigation strategies.
  3. Talked to suppliers and debtors. We understand the reliability of our supply chain and can determine if we need alternative sources.
  4. Understand government support. In conjunction with our accountants we have assessed the Government tax incentives and understood support systems available.
  5. Take care of our employees. Completed a close review of staffing arrangements considering how we can manage wage expenses, redeploying staff, stand-downs, leave in advance or leave without pay.
  6. Making the hard decisions now. We decided to make the critical cuts now that allow us to survive the worst-case scenario over the next three to six months.

Importantly, we’re asking for help.

We are talking to our network in the Social Sector to find out who can support us. We know accounting and law firms offer pro-bono support to non-profits and can help us navigate the more complex elements of government support packages. Other Social Enterprises are experiencing high demand and need staff and resources, so proactively connecting is key.

We welcome anyone in our networks and beyond to reach out if you are able to assist with our ‘keeping the lights on’ challenge. Now more than ever it is crucial we are able to continue to offer employment opportunities for the 30+ at-risk youth that we support every year.

Colin Stimpson

Director, Social Engine