By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com
After months of quarantine, the prospect of re-emerging into the world and restarting business operations might seem almost as foreign as shutting down and staying inside seemed a few months ago. Even if you’ve been ready for the reboot, how it happens might seem just as uncertain; there’s no unified game plan and no checklist of steps for business owners to follow, especially considering the economic devastation that’s followed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news is that, even in a commercial climate where everything looks and feels different, a lot of traditional financial wisdom still applies. A combination of assessment, information tracking, adaptability, compassion, and both short-range and long-range planning — applied with the same kind of elbow grease you used to start your business in the first place — can help you get your company back up and running in a post-coronavirus world.
Consider your community
After pausing or reducing operations for the past few months, your clients or customers may need extra attention or expanded services to get through hard times. Here are some questions to ask yourself to figure out where your community is.
- Are they worried about supply-chain disruptions — either demand slowdowns or the effects of panic buying?
- Are they worried about travel restrictions, cash flow, general market uncertainty?
- What other concerns do they have? Ask and listen to learn what they need now, and determine what you can offer them.
These details will help you formulate action plans and provide you with the metrics you need to get started serving your markets again, although possibly in new and unforeseen ways.
Plan for social-distancing requirements
Nearly every workplace is undergoing massive changes to support social-distancing requirements and other restrictions for the post-pandemic era. Many of these changes will not be limited to the short term, so significant planning is needed. You’ll need to account for (and adapt to) current and future developments. Your workforce and resources will likely need to be redeployed and restructured.
Is it feasible or cost-effective to allow a portion of your staff to work remotely? If so, you’ll need to support them while they transition to long-term remote status. Assess what kinds of mission-critical work your employees can do remotely, realign your short-term company objectives accordingly, and provide the infrastructure and resources to help them succeed.
If long-term or permanent remote status isn’t feasible, your physical workplace may need an updated, flexible structure to stay functional and compliant as things evolve. This could include demolitions or major renovations. If you find your facilities needing to dispose of trash and debris, know that dumpsters can be delivered and picked up hands-free for as little as $250, depending on your location. This kind of outside help can expedite your transition to a newly compliant workplace.
Inventory your assets
Now’s the time to take an honest accounting of your organization’s assets. Appraise your infrastructure, inventory, contacts, capabilities, and other resources you still can leverage. This also includes your credit history; you’ll need to know whether you have room to borrow should you need to.
The results of this overall assessment will help you decide what’s lost temporarily, what’s permanent, what’s been rendered irrelevant and needs to be eliminated, and what needs to be transformed — as well as what you can reasonably hope to achieve in the future.
Train your employees for a ‘new normal’
Going forward post-pandemic, you’ll undoubtedly face a shifting set of federal, state, and local ordinances designed to help businesses operate safely. Essentially, you’ll need to plan for “the new normal” in the American workplace. This means employees need to be brought up to speed and their safety provided for.
- Your staff will need to know how to enforce social-distancing requirements. You’ll also need to have personal protective equipment (PPE) in place to ensure the safety of everyone working in or entering your place of business.
- You’ll likely have to install and maintain floor decals, tape, plexiglass barriers, or other social-distancing features.
- Your business will need to ensure it has enough PPE to provide employees, customers, and guests with adequate protection — invest in a stock of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and disposable masks and gloves for your employees to use or distribute.
Investigate new sales channels
Companies whose sales depend on a single model tend to fail quickly, which we saw as many brick-and-mortar businesses shuttered during the quarantine. Going forward, things will (or should) change. In this new climate, it’ll pay to diversify and broaden your marketing and sales techniques.
- Establish (or bolster) your electronic marketing and sales approaches to ensure you can survive if another pandemic or disaster disrupts your IRL operations.
- Build awareness of your brand online with social media posts and LinkedIn conversations.
- Set up your website to accommodate e-commerce operations. If you’ve never transacted e-commerce business, be aware that you might have to hire new staff with expertise in administering and monitoring online transactions.
Online retail orders have grown at a rate of 146% since the lockdown. Thousands of businesses have figured out how to take advantage of online retail opportunities. You want to be a part of this growth going forward.
Scrutinize your supply chain
Some businesses were equipped to continue sales during the pandemic, but couldn’t get the supplies they needed to keep operating. One thing is for sure: COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of the modern supply chain. Previously, businesses moved forward on lean manufacturing principles, but the pandemic has revealed the vulnerabilities inherent in this approach.
Another economic symptom of the coronavirus: As you begin to implement strategies for recovery and reopening, you’ll probably need to integrate increased demand into your short-term plans. Despite economic concerns, consumers will be eager to buy things that help them feel like things are “back to normal.” Even if you’ve cut costs by suspending production during the shutdown, prepare for a flood of demand, at least at first — then devise ways to build from there, even after demand stabilizes.
To survive going forward, businesses will need to evaluate and adapt to include amended supply chains in their business continuity plans. Solutions can include diversifying sourcing and embracing a higher level of digitization — in the long run, this will help to build stronger and smarter supply chains that can stand up to future disruptions.
Adapt policies for workforce recovery
Nothing is more vital to your business than your employees’ physical and mental health. Monitoring the well-being, viability, and needs of your workforce during recovery can reassure your staff, demonstrating support not only for them but also for national recovery planning efforts. Consider these measures:
- Track any COVID-19 cases or exposures in your workplace.
- Trace potential contacts.
- Keep your workers informed and updated on any related health changes.
These measures can help you adjust productivity assessments, set reasonable expectations, and establish scheduling for employees in all states of health. Additionally, experts are concerned about a second wave or a seasonal return of the coronavirus, so any data you aggregate can help detect the virus if it re-emerges.
Other policies will likely need to change as well to accommodate the effects and disruptions that COVID-19 has already inflicted on people’s lives. These might include amendments in paid leave and time-off policies, augmented provisions for child or elder care, supplemental programs for maintaining employees’ physical and mental health, and improved communication channels between HR, staff, and management.
Rebooting for a post-COVID-19 world isn’t going to be easy, and it will take significant strategic planning. However, if you approach the situation proactively and learn to expect the unexpected, you’ll strengthen your survivability and be prepared for whatever the future holds.