The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how businesses operate worldwide, especially small businesses. According to Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), 61% of businesses have directly or indirectly been affected by COVID-19 and the measures such as lockdowns and curfews that have been imposed by the Kenyan government to contain it.
We are still unsure how long we’ll remain in this predicament. Even experts on the subject are at a loss for when the all-clear signal can be given. But, whether it ends in a month or two or stretches further out into the new year, business owners need to be ready to buckle down, reassess, make changes to their business plans and strategies so as to weather this unpredictable storm.
One way businesses can mitigate the effects of the pandemic is by ensuring they have a professional crisis management plan in place. This crisis management plan should cover issues such as brand reputation, employee well-being, finance management and any legal issues that the crisis might trigger.
Below are 5 steps we recommend you include in your crisis management plan to to better manage your business during the pandemic.
1.Keep an eye on the cash flows and have a solid backup incase of any deficits
Try to understand how the crisis will affect your business, as every industry has been affected differently. Due to the unpredictable nature of the business environment worldwide, your budget assumptions and business plans may no longer be relevant. Thus ensure you are agile, always revising your budgets and projections.
If your business has been severely impacted, consider minimum operating requirements such as workforce, technology and location of the business.
If operations have been severely affected by a cash flow crunch you may consider options such as policy support from the government and/or debt financing by seeking credit from financial institutions such as banks. Additionally, review your operational costs by cutting back non-essential spending.
2.Communicate promptly, simply and clearly
During a crisis, when information is untruthful, unavailable or inconsistent, and when stakeholders or employees are uncertain about what they know (or anyone knows), their commitment and loyalty to the business will suffer.
Therefore, the best lines of communication are the most clear, open, transparent and prompt especially if you need to secure ongoing support from stakeholders, employees, investors, customers and regulatory authorities.
Proactive communication will mitigate any misunderstandings, potential liabilities and punitive damages associated with unmet customer expectations or obligations.
3.Keep your employees safe in the workplace
COVID-19 has changed how we work. Regardless of the industry, there are various aspects that you should consider regarding workplace safety.
For instance, ensure you discuss with your staff the best protocols to take at the workplace for the safety of all employees. Provide resources that will educate your employees about social distancing, sanitation practices and protocols for isolation and quarantining in case of an outbreak. Additionally, provide them with masks and educate them on how to wear them.
Travelling increases the chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19. If possible, reduce travel for your employees and institute remote working protocols to reduce face to face interactions.
4.Be prepared for the unexpected and revise your crisis plans
Generic plans need to be adapted and tailored to cope with the specific challenges of a pandemic. For instance, if most of your employees have to work remotely, do they have the technology and other logistical resources to do so?
In addition, crises such as this epidemic can present unusual business scenarios including unforeseen business challenges. It is critical to constantly analyze any risks your business may face and proactively identify preventive or mitigating actions you can deploy in such a scenario.
5.Re-evaluate your supply chains
The covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented economic impacts and supply chain disruptions globally. As the world is grappling with broken supply chains, businesses need to maintain regular contact with suppliers regarding their capability to deliver goods and services, and work out recovery plans in case of potential vulnerabilities. Communicate with relevant stakeholders and consult with a lawyer for advice on potential liabilities especially regarding managing customer-supplier contract and employment contract disputes. When required, ensure you have a contingency plan in place by looking beyond the first- and second-tier suppliers. Also, consider alternative supply chain options, for example you could leverage digital or online ecosystems and market networks to work around disrupted supply chains.
In any major crisis, the highest priority for governments and businesses is the well-being of its citizens and employees respectively. Businesses can contribute and complement these efforts by proactively identifying and dealing with potential risks that may affect them.
A well thought crisis management plan can help businesses ensure the well-being of their employees, keep their resources protected and strengthen their ability to perform optimally when the odds are stacked against them especially during a pandemic.