The COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for entrepreneurs, most of whom have been forced to slow down, or stop entirely, their activities in response to the public health crisis.
Many of us are feeling cautious optimism towards the recovery that is beginning to take shape.
But that recovery will require preparation and needs to be managed carefully.
To help you successfully navigate the recovery, we have put together a five-step framework to help you think about the steps required and keys to success.
1. Health and safety: Go beyond social distancing
Now more than ever, providing a safe workplace is foundational to being able to serve our customers.
At this point we have all seen the tape on the floor, and the plexiglass in front of cashiers, at grocery stores.
It’s important to recognize that health and safety goes beyond these obvious efforts. It will affect every part of your business, for example:
- How will you ensure social distancing in common spaces? What about when employees arrive for work?
- How will you ensure that the fridge and microwave are sanitized between use?
- How will you deal with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID in your workplace?
- How will you communicate this information to your employees?
All of this needs to be determined before you can safely resume operations.
We have prepared a best practice document to help you get started with health and safety. You can download it by clicking here.
We would also encourage you to visit your provincial public health agency’s website to review region and industry specific recommendations.
2. Make production decisions
One of the main challenges for businesses in a crisis is to realign offerings to client needs.
Goods or services that may have sold before the pandemic, may no longer be top of mind, or customers may not need them in the quantity they did in the past.
As a result, your first priority is to try to understand customer demand over the short- and medium-term.
Once you estimate the market for various products, the next step is to prioritize products that you can deliver and that will most positively impact cash flow.
- Which of your customers will pay most quickly?
- What can be sold utilizing existing inventory?
- What product mix makes sense given the current environment?
You will likely want to limit your offering, at first, to ensure your cash doesn’t get tied up in unneeded inventory, finished goods or activities that may be slow to convert to cash.
3. Assess risks and develop contingencies
With a clear idea of what products or services you want to offer, your next step is to complete a risk assessment to identify any issues that could impact your delivery.
We suggest you make a list of the key resources you need, then determine the risks that could endanger your production or delivery of services.
- Are you dependent on a supplier that is in danger of closing?
- Do certain employees have skills that are essential to delivery?
- Do you have a piece of equipment that is required to service your customers?
The idea is to identify your risks, then, look for ways to mitigate them.
If you’re worried about supplies, consider identifying alternate suppliers who could be used in case of disruption.
Crosstrain employees so that operations will not be impacted if certain individuals can’t come in to work.
Having a plan in place for breakdown of essential equipment and technology is critical. It might be as simple as knowing who to call.
4. Restart your operations
When restarting your operations, as mentioned before, your priority should be implementing strong health and safety protocols. In addition to making sure employees are safe and comfortable coming in to work, they minimize chance of an outbreak that can further impact operations.
From there, you’ll be able to outline your operational plan.
- What will you produce/offer?
- What material and labour are required?
- What training is required to be able to operate and minimize risk due to absenteeism?
We’ve created several free tools to help you create your operational plan.
Finally, you’ll want to align your operational and financial plan. There is no sense having an operational plan that you can’t afford.
Aligning your operational and cash flow plans is likely to be an iterative process as you adjust your operating plan to reflect your financial constraints.
The key is to restart operations carefully with a focus on preserving cash wherever possible.
5. Execute, monitor and refine
A plan has no value unless it is properly implemented. To ensure proper execution, we suggest holding two types of meetings.
The first is a daily problem-solving meeting, that’s focused on fulfillment.
This meeting will answer questions such as:
- How did we do yesterday vs. plan?
- What actions are required to close gaps?
- What do we need to do today to be successful? (e.g., materials, logistics, etc.)
The second meeting, which would be held weekly, is to review results, identify improvement actions and update your operational and financial plans.
- How did we do this week vs. plan?
- What were the biggest issues impacting performance this week?
- Did we have repetitive downtime due to lack of materials?
- Did we have issues with customers waiting because we had problems finding stock in the back?
- Did we waste time because our installation team had to return from the field when they didn’t have the right materials?
The goal is to find solutions to these problems, so they don’t recur, and performance improves week over week.
We also want to take this opportunity to validate and update our plans as necessary.
- Do we need to update our forecast based on changes in demand or government announcements over what can open?
- Is our risk assessment still valid? Do we have additional suppliers or employee skills for which we should develop contingencies?
With strong follow up you’ll be able to ensure that you are executing to your plan, and that your plan remains appropriate, as the situation gradually recovers to the new normal.