A new survey of Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has found that businesses that had to close their doors or downsize due to coronavirus restrictions want to be fully prepared before reopening.

The survey, commissioned by corporate affairs firm Bastion Reputation Management, found that just over a quarter of respondents wanted appropriate safety measures in place to protect staff and customers prior to reopening. 

SMEs that elected to reopen as soon as restrictions were lifted, even if they were not confident of safety measures, cited financial pressures as driving their decision.

The survey also found that 30 per cent of SMEs believed their reputation had been impacted by current operating restrictions and were concerned about potential outbreaks if they opened before having the appropriate measures in place.  

Clare Gleghorn, CEO of Bastion Reputation Management said, “The survey highlights the very real challenges small and medium-sized businesses are facing as restrictions are lifted and businesses are rightly concerned about the safety of their staff and customers and managing the amount of uncertainty about reopening.

“These small and medium businesses are the ones we rely on every day and will lead the recovery. The key for them to emerge successfully is to understand the measures needed, have access to the tools and resources required to implement these measures, and the confidence to clearly communicate them to their staff and customers in a timely and calm way to minimise any confusion and worry.”

The survey also showed that sources of quality, authoritative and clear information were mixed with some SMEs seeking advice from accountants and other professional services firms, while others were resorting to social media to interpret government requirements. 

More than half of respondents reported that they had not sought information or advice from anywhere.

To support SMEs navigate their way through this challenging time, Bastion Reputation Management will host a free webinar Communicating your COVIDsafe recovery for small and medium businesses on 4 June 2020. 

“What we’ve learned over the last several months now of working with a range of clients in sectors from government, to healthcare, to education, hospitality, sport and the community sector, is just how critical clear, timely, targeted, empathetic and positive communications are as we all navigate our way through this.”

The corporate affairs firm has also launched a communications toolkit with practical guidelines as well as templates and tips to help SMEs communicate to stakeholders with clarity and confidence. You can find out more about the toolkit here