As a business leader or owner during the COVID-19 pandemic, you've been trying to keep many plates spinning in an unpredictable situation. As restrictions ease and you consider reopening, this checklist can help ensure that you’ve thought of the things you’ll need to do establish a foothold in the new normal, protect your staff and operate alongside other businesses that begin their road to recovery.
1. Improve cost discipline
Moving forward, one of your first areas of focus should be cutting business costs. Consider critically re-evaluating the terms you paid for pre-pandemic, including renewals on insurance policies, subscriptions, leases and other third-party services. Do you have the visibility ahead that it makes sense to renew for another 12 months? Is the cost/benefit ratio still sound? Could you get better value elsewhere?
Consider pausing discretionary spending like marketing (if the cost to restart the project in the future will not be prohibitively high), and all but essential hiring until you can see more clearly how the reopening continues to unfold.
2. Keep your premises safe for customers and employees
As businesses reopen and some staff begin planning their return to the office, business leaders will need to think about what measures to introduce to keep employees and customers safe. Introduce a quarantine policy for staff that have symptoms, with paid time off to support employees sick with COVID-19. Prepare for for potential absences, including your own, by creating a business continuity plan.
Look to advice from bodies such as the Chartered Institue of Personnel and Development, as well as Government guidance to define the best workplace hygiene procedures. Rearrange your workspace to allow people to maintain social distancing according to those guidelines, and look to reducing all opportunities for unnecessary contact.
Consider limiting visitors to offices or other premises, changing shift times so that the minimum number of staff come in to contact, and adjusting your travel policies to reduce non-essential journeys.
3. Support your staff
While it is imperative to monitor the physical and mental health and well-being of your staff, it is key to remember data protection and privacy regulations. If you are planning to introduce COVID-19 testing in your workplace, consider taking professional advice on how to handle this correctly.
Encourage your staff to proactively inform you of any symptoms and give them the chance to ask questions. Consider improving your employee benefits programme, for example, with a private health plan or offering online access to medical advice. Try your best to support remote employees who have additional caring responsibilities. Also, consider improving cybersecurity and IT facilities if staff will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.
4. Step up for your customers
Consider reaching out to your customers to explain how you are thinking about reopening as well as your short and long-term operating plans. Build trust by giving back to the community, and try to avoid decisions that can be seen as capitalising on the pandemic, especially in areas of marketing and pricing. Encourage customer feedback so you can find out what they need right now and respond to that. If you are struggling to fulfill orders, be honest and realistic. Review your returns, shipping or cancellation policies to make it easier for your customers to buy from you.
5. Respond to a changing market
Pay attention to what your competitors are doing and how they are coping, especially if they are further along in their coronavirus response timeline. Review your budgets and targets more frequently to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and use business intelligence, such as customer or distributor surveys, to pick the right moment to redistribute your resources. whether it's redirecting your sales activity, launch a marketing campaign or make changes to inventory.
6. Strengthen your supply chain
Look for the weak links in your supply chain to try to shore it up against future disruptions. Look at who the intermediaries are and assess the financial health of your suppliers’ suppliers. Think about reducing your reliance on just a few key suppliers or geographic locations. Try to streamline product ranges and focus on your core product lines where possible.
7. Check your insurance coverage
Review your insurance policies, paying attention to any exclusions your insurer may have added during the crisis. Look to see whether you can claim for business interruption, event cancellation, cleaning costs, lost revenues from shutdowns of factories or supply chain disruption.
8. Stress-test your business
Conduct a full risk assessment so see where your vulnerabilities lie. Think about stress-testing your business against worst-case scenarios, such as a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections, reintroduction of stay-at-home measures, or an economic recession. Think about what shape you expect the economic recovery to take, and map likely scenarios relevant to your business.
9. Get ready for a rebound
Consider capacity and make sure your company is well-positioned to cope with changes in demand as activity returns to some segments of the market. Look for takeover opportunities – if you have the capital, you can make a strategic acquisition at a great price. When the time is right, plan a new product launch, special offers or an ad campaign for a bold comeback. Read our guide on how to create a marketing campaign for less.