Perhaps you've noticed the news about COVID-19, aka, Corona Virus? If your business is not already dealing with the impact of the pandemic response, you're likely scrambling to figure out how to get through the next few weeks. And the easiest way to ensure you'll be able to get back to normal after the pandemic is to focus on your people.
At the end of the day, it's people, whether employees or customers, that determine the success of a business. And in times of crisis, we all naturally shift focus to our own well being. With that in mind, and with the well being of your own business in mind, let's talk through some actions you can take to ensure your business emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than it was before the pandemic.
For your employees:
Can what each employee does, be done remotely? Remote work allows employees to self quarantine, along with being able to help care for family and friends that could be impacted by the virus. Productivity and safety all at once.
For work that can be done remotely, are the employees equipped to do that work remotely? Remote work at minimum requires computer(s), phone access, and internet access that allow employees to access key business systems and send/recieve information. This includes internal business systems that can be accessed remotely. The benefit of equipment that can be used remotely, is that it works just as well as equipment that is typically contained to the office. There is typically no, or very little, increased cost associated with setting employees up with equipment that be used remotely, boosting productivity year round, even when the world is running smoothly.
If equipment is needed for employees to work remotely, do you have a local supplier that can provide that equipment in a state that it is ready for use? Laptops are readily available, but they need to be formatted correctly for your business, with the software and applications you need ready to use. If an interruption like a pandemic impacts your geographical area, will there be enough laptops and devices available to meed the demand from all the potential businesses looking for the same equipment? Hardware is simply a conduit for your unique business processes, and needs to be either preconfigured, or easily configurable to meet your needs.
Are you able to continue providing pay and benefits for employees during business interruptions? In times of crisis, the primary focus for every one of us is ensuring we have the basic needs of life: food, water, and shelter for us and our families. And in the case of a pandemic, the ability to get medical care when sick. If employees are unsure of their ability to provide those basic necessities, they will be guaranteed to not be focused on their jobs and roles with your business. If you want employees to support the needs of your business, it's critical that they feel confident that you are providing for their basic needs, eliminating those worries.
For your customers:
Can you still serve customers remotely? For retail operations, even if the bulk of your business is done through in-person sales, having a working web based sales platform to lean on when in-store sales are slow can help maintain minimal levels of critical cash flow. If you're a service based business, having the necessary equipment, systems, and training for employees to work with customers remotely can mean the difference between shutting down and thriving in times emergency. A business that can still connect with customers no matter the customer or business location will always have access to those customers, minimizing risk of sales loss as people transition to more convenient options.
Can you operate on reduced or zero cash flow for a minimum of 1 week? 2 weeks? Many business interruptions can easily last a week, weather from sickness or natural disaster. Being able to survive a minimum of 1 week, preferably 2 weeks, of lost cash flow gives you time to focus on ensuring yourself and your employees can take care of the essentials (see item 4 for protecting employees). Having a 1-2 week buffer for cash flow puts your business in a strong position to ramp back up to normal operations faster than your competition following a crisis. This will leave you able to meet the needs and wants of your customers during a crisis situation.
Do you have protocols in place for reduced operations that allow you to still meet critical customer needs? While preparing emergency plans before a crisis is always the best option, if you find yourself and your business in a crisis situation developing plans on the fly to keep customers supported, TAKE NOTE of what you're doing, what works, and what doesn't! When the crisis passes, take what you learned, and take the feedback from your customers on what worked and what didn't, and put a plan together for future events, as that is the perfect time to formalize what you learned while it is fresh in everyone's minds.
In the end, taking care of your employees empowers them to take care of your customers. Putting your employees in a position to successfully pull through a crisis, like what we're seeing with COVID-19 as it spreads throughout the world, puts them in a position to ensure your customers can continue to be served by your business. And that ensures we all emerge from the crisis more resilient for every day.