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Contingency planning

23 Mar'20
Actions for businesses to consider during the current coronavirus pandemic.

At the beginning of this year we were all wondering where we were going with Brexit and what the impact would be on the business community. Would supply chains from mainland Europe remain strong and secure, would possible tariffs alter demand for our products and services? No one could have predicted that within a couple of months we would be in the grips of a world-wide pandemic due to coronavirus.

The impact of the virus on the business community is real. It will hit some business harder than others but everyone will need to take some actions to mitigate the impact on their products and services and indeed their cash flow.

Here are some actions to consider during this difficult period.
  1. Stay calm No one is to blame for current pandemic. If your business is impacted try and stay calm and logical and work through a strategy to see you through this difficult period. Involve others to see what they suggest can be done to support the business.

  2. Contingency Plan If you have a Contingency Plan now is the time to get it into operation. If like many business there may be little documentation in place you can follow some of the points below and check other information online. When this event is over do ensure you create and regularly update an appropriate Contingency Plan for your business.

  3. Business Basics Ensure your workplace follows the required hygiene rules. Soap, anti-bacterial gel, paper towels, tissues etc. should be available to your team and used. Follow the guidelines that apply to your business sector. Encourage all staff and customers to follow this discipline.

  4. Working from home In the likelihood that we will be encouraged to or indeed directed to work from home we need to ensure that staff can physically do this. Are laptops, mobiles set up to work away from the place of work? Is your IT network going to work via home broadband? Can staff dial into central resources? Can security be ensured? Does insurance cover home working?

    There are many questions that are raised by emergency homeworking. You need establish an understanding of what is feasible and what is not. There is no easy answer to this. Staff may need to be at home should schools and childcare provision close so some business operations may be feasible from home. It is unlikely to be perfect but it can be satisfactory.

  5. Timescales We don't know how long the pandemic will be with us so it will be important to consider the impact on your business over:
    • 24 hours
    • 1 week
    • 1 month
    • 3 months
    • 1-3 years
    Each time frame will require a differing response from you and your business. Start thinking and get planning.

  6. Stay connected and communicate With possible homeworking and business operations in a state of uncertainty it is important communication channels stay open amongst staff and customers. I know of some small businesses that have set up specific WhatsApp groups to brief all staff regularly on issues that are impacting on them and their businesses. This simple action can have considerable impact. It does, however, depend upon up to date mobile numbers etc. (a basic requirements in a Contingency Plan: all staff mobile and home telephone numbers, emails addresses, next of kin etc.). Create an emergency communication strategy. To reduce travel and contact consider alternatives like Zoom meetings, an effective communication tool that helps staff stay connected.

  7. Remaining calm If business operations become difficult it is important that we remain calm. We need to continue with key business operations like security, information, IT support, finance and importantly people. We have seen panic buying in supermarkets and people stock piling which to some extent is understandable but in our businesses we need to ensure calm and matter of fact approach is taken during this period of uncertainty.

  8. Official guidelines and information Scottish and UK Governments are updating the public and the business community with information on a regular daily business. Information is being released that may have immediate impact on your business. It may be a directive on your operations of a briefing of support that may be available to support you through this difficult period. We need to stay tuned in to their briefings, websites and direction to see if any of the announcements may have impact on our businesses.

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