The national Certainty Advice Group, which serves hundreds of small and large retail businesses across the country, says there are four basic steps retailers can take to navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

Group founder and author of financial advice and planning books, Jim Stackpool (pictured) says retail businesses need to be more resilient than other industries which can more easily adapt using digital technology. It is imperative to review what’s important and re-assess long-term plans both professionally and personally.

Below is the general strategic guidance Certainty Advisers is providing to clients dealing with the current challenges.

Don’t panic

“The catch phrase at the moment is to ‘pivot’ your business. But it can be fatal to change direction as a result of the current turmoil, particularly if it’s inconsistent with the strengths, direction and core values of your business before,” Stackpool said.

Advisers are helping their retail clients in these times with crucial conversations that are similar to the military’s observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) approach used to make plans when the stakes and emotions are high and the options are many.

“Panic is the opposite to observing. Observing is when our advisers help clients take in everything impacting their situation. Orient is when they add meaning to everything observed.

“Support like this helps businesses form short and long-term alternatives. Once alternatives are identified, our advisers provide the structure, accountability and follow-up. The last part of OODA is to act. This can be the hardest part because so many businesses hesitate hoping to find better new alternatives. This often makes situations worse rather than better.”

Revisit what’s most important personally

Stackpool said it’s tempting to throw out pre-existing plans when revenue and profits take a nosedive and the future is uncertain.

“Before you make any sweeping changes and big decisions, revisit what’s most important to you personally and professionally. When retail owners feel like their working life is going from bad to worse, it doesn’t seem the best time to sit back and determine priorities.

“Unfortunately, if they don’t set their own priorities, they will be more likely to react to everyone else’s. This can lead to businesses going around in smaller circles of frenzied activity not working towards what is important to them.”

Get help

“It helps to get another perspective. In challenging times we can magnify our potential losses or raise doubts about our ability to progress. It’s like lying awake in the middle of the night feeling weighed down, trapped and alone. In these moments, objectivity is often the sunlight needed for effective path-finding to the next steps. So too is the accountability by a trusted third-party,” he said.

Be aware of the “overlap”

For business owners, it’s more important than ever to correctly manage the overlap between business and personal plans.

“Tough decisions will need to be made in one or more aspects of business and life. Understanding what each aspect needs, and purposefully prioritising between the two will ensure you are building a future that ticks goals on your family and business lives, rather than just one of them to the detriment of the other,” he said.

“These are not easy times, but retail business owners are naturally resilient. They will find new hybrid models of former business models. Retail people are driven by necessity, they are not afraid of hard work having worked on the front line throughout their careers.”