05 June 2020

Published by: Close Finance

Preparation and agility for post Covid-19 transition

Evidence from previous downturns have shown that when the time comes, businesses that are most prepared will rebound more effectively.

Every business is different, and business owners and decision-makers should consider the right plans for their circumstances, but shouldn’t let the urgency of the short term stop them looking further ahead.

Business planning

The most obvious place to start for many businesses will be managing supply chains, production and orders. Depending upon your business, there may be different elements to consider, but some of the plans and questions you may want to look at are:

  • Supply chain planning: Which suppliers do you need to engage with and when? Do you need to engage new or additional suppliers or build contingency plans in the event of shortages?
  • Order management: How will you monitor and prioritise customer orders? Do you have a backlog to consider? Will standard timings and service level agreements need to change? Will it be a slow ramp-up or straight back to full capacity?
  • Staffing plan: How will you re-engage furloughed or working-from-home staff? How will you plan shifts and resources?
  • Financial planning: Will there be a cash flow issue? Will customer payment terms need to change?

Working with social distancing measures in place

Government guidance suggests that social distancing will need to be in place for the foreseeable future. Many businesses are already operating a socially-distanced working model, but for those that have suspended work on site or have switched to remote working, it will pay to prepare for this now. Some areas to consider:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): What PPE will your staff require in order to carry out their jobs safely? How will you acquire the necessary equipment and can you order it ahead of time? Can you create sterile storage environments for your PPE?
  • Hand sanitiser and soap: Washing hands will likely remain of extreme importance, and businesses will be expected to provide plentiful supplies of both hand sanitiser and soap to enable this. In addition to ordering these items, consider where they will be located for easy access.
  • Workplace etiquette and congregations: Depending on your work place, you may need to consider setting rules for how people interact with one another and congregate: for example, should the lunch room be limited to just a few people at once? Should the kitchen area be restricted? Do you need to set a cap on the number of people who can attend a meeting?
  • Staggered shifts: You may want to consider changes to working hours and shift patterns to make it easier for staff to avoid contact with one another at key times such as arrival and departure. If your staff rely on public transport, avoiding peak commuting time may also be of benefit.
  • Sickness policy: How will you manage staff who you believe may be showing early symptoms? Do you need to make changes to your sick leave policies?

Communications planning

Clear communication internally and externally is always important, but will be especially so as businesses transition out of lockdown. There are a number of key audiences to consider:

  • Staff: How do you re-engage with and motivative staff who may have felt detached from the running of the business. In what order do you need to communicate, to whom, and how will you manage and respond to questions and queries?
  • Customers: What do you need to communicate, when, and what channels are the most appropriate to do so? How will you field questions from customers? How will you create a chain of command so messaging goes through the most appropriate channels/individuals for your business?
  • Investors: Businesses that aren’t owner-operated may need to carefully plan how to communicate to investors. What do you need to communicate and when? Is written communication appropriate or is a call or meeting better?
  • Suppliers: Which suppliers do you need to notify and when? Do you need to ask your suppliers to adjust any of their practices to enable a new way of working and if so how much notice do you need to give them?
  • Adjusting your offering
  • While many businesses may be able to ‘pick up where they left off’, for others, the profound changes brought about by the pandemic may require them to change or adjust their offering. Or for some the changes may even have created new opportunities.
  • The starting point is to assess your offering and the associated demand. Talking to your customers and other industry sources may help you form a point of view on this.
  • If you do think there’s a case to adjust your offering, it’s important that you do so in a way that minimises risk. The starting point should be to understand and identify your core competencies, expertise, and available resources. In most cases offerings that build from an existing position of strength are more successful and sustainable.

Finally, build flexibility into your planning

With the duration of the recovery period unknown and global market volatility extremely likely, it’s important that your plans are able to flex as much as possible as market conditions change. To enable this, consider building flexibility into your staffing and supplier agreements and making a series of best case and worst case plans so you can adapt to changes quickly. Businesses should be looking to create long-term plans but with the ability to react quickly to short-term changes.