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 to establish a foothold in the next 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 controlling costs. Consider critically re-evaluating the terms you paid for pre-crisis, 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 working in shared spaces once more, business leaders will need to think about what measures to introduce to keep employees and customers safe. Introduce a quarantine policy for staff who have symptoms, with paid time off so they are able to stay at home if they are sick. Plan for absences, including your own. Look to local and state guidance to define stringent hygiene procedures and provide the training and equipment your workers need to adhere to them. Rearrange your workspaces to allow people to maintain social distancing according to those guidelines, and look to reducing all opportunities for unnecessary contact, such as discouraging cash payments. Consider limiting visitors to offices or other premises, changing shift times so that the minimum number of staff come into contact, and adjusting your travel policies to restrict all but essential journeys. Make sure you are up to date with the latest government guidance.
3. Support your staff.
While it is imperative to monitor the physical and mental health and wellbeing 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 program, for example, with a more generous health plan or offering online access to medical advice. Try to make allowances for those 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. Rebuild customer trust.
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 capitalizing 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. Show empathy and the human face of your business.
5. Respond to a changing market.
Pay attention to what your competitors are doing and how they are coping, especially in locations which are further along in their coronavirus crisis 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 redirect your sales activity, launch a marketing campaign or make changes to inventory.
As businesses reopen and some staff begin working in shared spaces once more, business leaders will need to think about what measures to introduce to keep employees and customers safe.
6. Strengthen your supply chain.
Look for the weak links in your supply chain to try to shore it up against future shocks. 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 second wave of COVID-19 infections, a return to lockdown or an economic crash. 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— now could be great time to make a strategic acquisition at a great price. Plan a new product or service launch, special offers or an ad campaign for a bold comeback.
Photo: Getty Images
The information contained herein is for generalized informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute investment, financial, tax, legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS ADVICE. Therefore, seek such advice in connection with any specific situation, as necessary. The views and opinions of third parties expressed herein represent the opinion of the author, speaker or participant (as the case may be) and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions and/or judgments of American Express Company or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions. American Express makes no representation as to, and is not responsible for, the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or reliability of any such opinion, advice or statement made herein.