Keep calm and carry on, if you can

Monday, March 16, 2020

Jo Francis thinks the unfolding coronavirus crisis is off-the-scale in terms of anything anyone currently running a business has experienced before.

The situation puts me in mind of those personal finance articles that advise us all to have a financial buffer so we could, if necessary, pay three months’ worth of bills and outgoings – easier said than done, of course.

How many businesses have the equivalent cash reserves to withstand a three- or four-month hiatus?

I think we’re about to find out. A worldwide recession appears to be on the cards and the print boss who described the coronavirus situation as an ‘existential threat’ to business was very accurate.

The knock-on effect is going to be immense – it’s not just print, it’s every industry.

Some packaging and label printers have no doubt never been busier, while other parts of the printing industry have already seen work fall off a cliff.

Anyone who struggles with cashflow has to be at serious risk, and cash protection will be the current focus at firms large and small.

It really is a mixed bag: one seasoned CEO told me he believed the pandemic would result in an “unprecedented drop in print volumes” and huge number of industry casualties, while another said he’d just been tasked with reprinting a large job as the client has made changes because of Covid-19, but still wants it printed.

That said, there’s no getting away from the fact there is more bad news than good at the moment.

What will the government do? This crisis looks like it is going to dwarf the banking bail-out. A lot of firms in lots and lots of sectors are going to need assistance, or the alternative is going to be a widespread industrial and services sector meltdown.

One thing seems certain in a world of uncertainty: the government is going to have to print a lot of money.



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