Some Crisis-management Strategies for Businesses to Consider
As the outbreak of COVID-19 has escalated and caused unprecedented reactions such as closing schools for weeks, cancelling professional sports, limiting restaurants and bars to takeout only, and social distancing and prohibiting the gathering of groups of more than 25 people, business leaders have growing concerns for the financial health of their organizations, people, and customers.
COVID-19 presents an exceptional level of uncertainty, making it difficult to implement any single contingency plan. However, crisis management can be made easier with preparation and by staying current on resources that are available. To that end, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. offers the following tips and best practices for financially surviving this pandemic.
• Evaluate telecommuting options. Begin by first evaluating your organization’s daily operations. How many of your employees can effectively perform their jobs while working from home? How many essential personnel must be present in order to perform their responsibilities? What will your policy be for employees in each category? Do you have the proper technology and security to even offer a work-from-home option?
Once you have decided who can telecommute and who will simply not have that option, it is important to communicate your policy clearly. What steps should employees without a telecommuting option follow if they need time off?
For employees that do not typically work from home, it can be beneficial to share best practices and expectations, such as to work during normal business hours; be available via phone, e-mail, and company messenger during normal business hours; attend a daily virtual check-in with managers to discuss progress, outstanding tasks, etc.; set up call forwarding for your business line; and maintain access to necessary equipment and materials to perform the job.
• Communicate clearly with your employees and customers. As your business braces for untreaded waters, it is vital that you communicate clearly and in a timely manner to both your customers and employees. Don’t allow misinformation or confusion to spread faster than the virus. Your employees, clients, customers, and stakeholders will be looking to you for reassurance and up-to-date information.
Customers, clients, and stakeholders want to know: will deadlines be affected? Have your in-person policies been temporarily changed? Will you be offering a virtual service in the interim? Let them know that you are actively monitoring the situation and how you are making temporary adjustments to your business so that they know what to expect. This can also mitigate fears and concerns that your customers may be feeling. Communicate these and other relevant information via e-mail, phone, social media, and/or any other normal communication channels.
Your employees want to know: in addition to any telecommuting options that may be temporarily available, what is being done to protect their health and safety? Have you increased cleaning around your place of business? Have you taken any action to limit exposure for employees? Have you encouraged any at-risk or sick employees to stay home? Have you cancelled in-person meetings or business travel to limit exposure? Again, a large part of crisis management is dispelling fear; therefore, a well-thought-out and communicated plan will go a long way for your business.
• Assess your inventory. Whether you are talking about actual inventory that you sell or supplies that your business needs to operate, do you have a clear idea of how this is affected by the virus? Who are your suppliers? Will they be able to replenish your stock, or are they potentially unable to do so because of isolation? Do you have a secondary option for suppliers, or will you have to cease selling certain products or services until these products become available? If so, will you take back orders?
On the contrary, could you end up with a surplus of inventory? For example, did you order perishable supplies that could potentially expire? Are there creative solutions you can take here, such as freezing products? Saving products for a future event or for when you re-open? Increasing the marketing for take-out? Or perhaps even donating products which would become a writeoff and have a positive public-relations benefit? How will you communicate these supply-chain issues to your organization and customers
• Identify scenarios, points of failure, and other risks. Currently, businesses are scrambling to get off defense. In order to get back on the offense, you need to have a good playbook with a variety of plays for any given situation. What are your worst- and best-case scenarios? What is the game plan for the short term and the long term? How would a longer impact affect your business? Will your business see a rise in demand or suffer loss of business — and how will you cope? Do you have the right teams in place to perform critical duties as needed? Do they have the right skills, equipment, technology, and security to perform those duties if they need to work from home for a period? How would staggered shifts affect your business? Are there critical duties that must be performed on site for your organization to function? What adjustments will you make if those duties cannot be performed?
As with any crisis, most plans will need to be adjusted day by day as new information becomes available. If you have planned for a variety of scenarios, then the adjustments will be more manageable. In some cases, it may even be the key to a company’s survival. It is simply critical that businesses and organizations remain proactive, informed, and agile.
• Finally, stay informed about resources for your business and employees. Here are a few financial-assistance and business-planning resources that may be useful to you: