Are you on Plan B, Plan C or have you got all the way to Plan Z?Most businesses have some sort of “disaster recovery” plan, but this is usually for scenarios where, for example, the offices have flooded and you can’t get in, or the factory has burnt down so there are no production facilities.
In these cases, you can “camp out” in somebody else’s premises or subcontract your production to another supplier.
The current situation we find ourselves in is unlike any we have encountered in living memory, but it is something businesses can get through if they are nimble enough to change to a different plan.
Fundamentals to think about:
CASH IS KING is the most important thing to remember. There are a lot of things competing for priority but cashflow forecasting is probably the most important thing that a business can do right now. If you have never done a 13-week cashflow forecast before, now is a good time to start. This is not a one-off exercise either. As the situation evolves it should be done on a rolling 13-week basis and reviewed daily, to see where any gaps may appear
Collecting (and paying out) cash is important. At the end of the day if someone has sent goods or provided a service then they are owed the money for that. People and businesses cannot just refuse to pay, but it may be sensible to come to some arrangements with some customers who are struggling, as you may have to come to arrangement with your suppliers.
Keep communicating with your key customers and suppliers, but also don’t forget the “little guys”. We will all remember who treated us well and who didn’t at the end of this, so we must remember to treat all customers and suppliers fairly.
HELP. Look to see what help is out there. Things like the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Small Business Rates Relief, Government Furlough Scheme etc. There is also your own business insurance, is loss of business in this situation covered by your policies? This will then impact on:
BUSINESS PLANNING. If your sales pipeline has drastically reduced or disappeared overnight, then you need to have a radical think about how you can trade through the period. Do you downsize or is there something that you can do differently (Restaurants becoming Take-aways for example)? You then have to plan out the best way to support that. Concentrate on the products and services that will generate you the most cash.
What products and services do you need to buy in, what level of staff do you require?
Don’t buy in stuff you don’t need right now.
If you can keep going, you may need people on site, remember to keep them safe adhering to government guidelines. If you don’t need people on site and you can get them to work from home, then do it. Any remaining staff should be Furloughed. Treat your staff well and keep key staff onside, you will need their enthusiasm, skills and expertise when this is all over and you are in the recovery period.
The business planning will feed into your cashflow forecast, which in turn will feed back into the business plan
MARKETING is something that you will need to continue as well. Market through the crisis, but don’t exploit the crisis as part of your marketing campaign (again people will remember).
IT - If you have got staff working from home then this is going to place demands on IT. If it is possible to improve your IT infrastructure then do it, but it may be a case of muddling through for now.
Having information based in the Cloud and using things like Zoom for Video conferencing are coming into their own right now.
IT security is still important, ensure that this doesn’t become a hacker’s paradise by making sure your systems are as secure as possible. There are plenty of companies out there that can help (they may just be a little overloaded at the moment though).
GDPR is also still relevant. The Information Commissioner may be a little more lenient in these extraordinary times, but the privacy of people’s data is still important.
LINE OF COMMAND – Do people within the organisation know what they are doing, and if there is a situation where somebody cannot work within the business, at whatever level, who is going to take over?
As I publish this the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is in an Intensive Care Unit with the Foreign Secretary acting as the nominated deputy.
There are a lot of things that businesses need to think about, and I have probably missed some important points. But if business leaders take a calm approach to what is happening, think about all the things above and remember that everybody else is trying to get through this too, then we will all be in a better position when the recovery period starts.
27th March 2020