“The Coronavirus outbreak has escalated quickly, from something that seemed further away for many, and a distant risk, whilst the epicentre was in Asia, to something that is now close to home, and rapidly changing the way we live, work and travel. Running a training and consultancy business that focuses on international clients, the impact is significant, at least in the short term.
Fortunately, my expertise and a large part of my consulting work is on strategy and risk, as well as leadership. Having come from a background in technology, where security and business continuity was essential for our major clients with operations across the globe, serving consumers in retail, brands and logistics, this is not the first time we’ve seen business disruption on a global scale.
The risk has now already impacted, the immediate challenge for businesses to continue operations is how to mitigate the risk.
A good immediate place to start is “3 C’s - Cashflow, Clients, Continuity.”
Do you know your current position, what the position of your debtors is for any payments owed to your company, have you collected due debts, or do you need to extend credit terms, and have you checked whether any creditors will extend forbearance in this period?
Is there sufficient cover to pay staff and essential outgoings to be able to continue to trade?
Can staff work flexibly, or will they accept a move to reduced hours, annualised contracts or other more flexible arrangements?
Is unpaid holiday an option that staff may find acceptable, and what arrangements do they have in place for children, and other dependents such as elderly relatives?
Have you communicated with your clients about impact on existing orders or projects, or on future work?
Do your clients still require your products and services in the period, or will you be prepared to waive contract terms if your services are non-essential? This will depend on the overhead profile of your business and fixed costs, as to whether this is an option.
Does the change to working and commuting practices mean your clients will need to be serviced in a different way? The online grocery industry is now going to grow sharply, after years of relatively slow uptake. Webinars and online working are an option in the training and consulting areas, especially where urgent skills transfer is required, on a one to one basis.
Have you relied on a pool of clients for a long time? Does the break in normal business activity offer an opportunity to sit back, review strategy and marketing and identify new clients and revenue streams? Use the suspension of normal business wisely.
Do you have the IT systems and access in place to facilitate teleworking?
Are key processes understood, and documented, and are staff able to work with lower supervision?
Do you have collaborative business relationships in place to enable you to request co-operation from suppliers, or even businesses in the same field to enable committed work to be delivered?
How are you going to keep communicating with the stakeholders in your business through uncertain times?
In summary, handled well, the biggest crisis can become an opportunity to refocus, respond, innovate and learn. The single most effective piece of advice that I can give is to stay calm, and respond as situations emerge, rather than taking reactive decisions under pressure.