7-Steps to Overcome the Impact of Coronavirus in Your Business

How is your business being impacted by the coronavirus? This pandemic seemed to have come out of nowhere, and within a matter of weeks, is causing major disruption in the global economy and business communities all over the US, as well as most countries around the world. With travel restrictions, cancellations of professional sporting events, and closing of schools, government agencies, restaurants, and many other types of public establishments, things seem to be at a standstill until the coronavirus threat is mitigated or eliminated. The problem is that we don’t know when that may be.

This is something we have never faced before, at least on this scale. It has created a sense of panic, fear, scarcity, and uncertainty, which has caused a significant increase in demand for daily items like food, toilet paper, cleaning solutions, etc, and has overburdened suppliers in being able to keep the shelves stocked. In addition, the US government has asked citizens to “shelter in place” or “self-isolate” as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the contagious virus. While these necessary actions are helpful to the cause, business owners/leaders are worried about the future of their company, employees, and customers.

As an expert business coach/advisor, business owner myself, and someone who has led organizations around the world as an officer in the military that has experienced similar situations, I am providing some urgent steps you can take TODAY to minimize the impact to your business and allow you to succeed through coronavirus:

  1. Stay positive. As a leader in your organization, everyone is looking to you and watching how you react to this situation. Be an example. Remain calm, know this is temporary, and stay focused on the immediate next steps that will lead you to your overall goals. Do not allow yourself to become clouded in confusion, lose clarity, and get overwhelmed by the “noise” that surrounds the media.
  2. Develop a plan. Gather your leadership team. Review and start executing your disaster response plan. If you do not have a disaster response plan, review all the options available to you. As they say, “It takes a village.” You probably won’t solve all the problems on your own. Connect to other business experts (business advisors, coaches, business administrations, chambers of commerce, banking institutions, etc) and solicit help from other professionals to ensure you are making the best decisions for your business with minimal risk as possible.
  3. Communicate. This is a time where you cannot communicate enough. Communication is the key that will determine how well you respond to this challenge and overcome. Center your communications around clarity and the new expectations to get the company through the coronavirus outbreak. Three areas to concentrate your communications:
    1. Yourself and the leadership team – stay informed and connected to the latest information. Communicate and work better together as a team. Ensure there is a unified company message being sent out from the front office.
    2. Your employees – the last thing you want is employees worrying about whether they have a job, if/when they are going to be paid, or what to do next. Be clear, succinct, and timely on the company’s decisions so they can plan, manage their household affairs, and be able to put their best foot forward in moving the company into the future. Also, invite your employee benefits providers in to share the latest in how they can help the staff with their programs (stress management, financial counseling, insurance options, loans, etc).
    3. Your customers – coronavirus will no doubt have a significant impact on your clients. Be proactive and get out in front of the relationship by understanding their needs, expectations, and impacts to their business. The mindset should be, how can we help minimize your risk and add value throughout the process? That will allow you to positively manage the relationship, prevent frustration and confusion, and harmonize operations making it as easy as possible for all involved.
  4. Create a new norm for daily operations. The faster you can get the team in a new routine the better. Where you are able, allow employees to work from home. Leverage technology such as, Zoom, Skype, Go-To-Meetings, Microsoft Teams, G-Suite (Google), messaging, texting, telephone, and other hosted collaboration systems in order to communicate, share documents, and continue your business operations.
    1. Work from home. Warning – working from home is much different than at the office. I recommend the following:
      1. Home setup. Ensure employees have connectivity and a dedicated place to work in the home. You want to minimize distractions so employees can concentrate and perform their duties in a professional manner.
      2. Daily standups. You will need to communicate differently in remote work environments, which means you will need to increase the frequency and follow up of the expectations, assignments, and deadlines. Quick (daily) video conferences to bring teams together, update each other, provide clarity, and answer questions is critical in maintaining accountability and keeping things on track.
      3. Process. Develop a process for employees to contact supervisors and leaders. Key managers need to be available in order to help solve problems, prevent bottlenecks, obtain authorizations, and assure the smooth delivery of products and services to consumers.
    2. Work from the office. In some cases, it may not be feasible to work from home. Employees may be required to be physically present at a company facility. In that case, I recommend creating smaller teams working in various shifts. The smaller number of people (25 or less) will decrease the chances of spreading the virus to others and allowing you to continue your operations. When selecting this option, I highly recommend implementing a stringent hygiene policy and thoroughly cleaning the facility after each shift.
  5. Adjust marketing & sales. For most companies, if not all, you will need to realign your revenue expectations as it is probably not realistic for you to reach your original goals with the country in lockdown. However, I would suggest refocusing your marketing/sales strategies to better meet the needs of the consumers during this critical time. Their needs and priorities have certainly changed, and you should take advantage of the opportunity to serve them differently if possible. You will be surprised to see how well your current customers, and even new ones, respond when they see how much you care.
  6. Control expenses. This is a perfect time to perform a forensic review of the company’s finances. I’d recommend cutting all expenses not absolutely critical to daily operations (trips, conferences, vehicle leases, sponsorships, etc). Every time I have done this, I have discovered a lot of “financial creep” that needed to be eliminated. I would also recommend implementing a more restrictive (temporary) approval process & policy for any new purchases with the authorization at the C-Suite level. Lastly, track your losses caused by the coronavirus. The better you account for it financially, the faster you will be able to recover, especially in relation to 2020 tax filings.
  7. Backup plan. I would advise contacting your business insurance agency and reviewing your policy for coverage under the current coronavirus conditions. Most policies have some level of support for disasters like we are experiencing. I would also suggest reaching out to organizations like Small Business Administration (SBA)

SBA.gov/disaster or contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 or email at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. The federal government has allocated funds to help businesses with no to low interest loans and other types of assistance. If that is not an option, many banks are offering special loans, lines of credit, and other programs to support businesses in this time of need.

The coronavirus has taught us all a valuable lesson in that everything in life is fragile. An incident in one particular country can rapidly have devastating effects across the globe. Another reminder is that we are all connected in the world and that the world truly revolves around people. While we have all sorts of technology around us, relationships and working together are most important. No one can succeed alone. In order to go far and achieve our dreams, we must do it together.

If you are a business owner/leader and are feeling pressure, stress, frustration, and/or isolation, please reach out. I help people just like you navigate through situations like coronavirus to minimize your risk, make better decisions, maximize performance, and ensure the best outcomes possible.

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