The thing that struck me about the virus is that it doesn’t discriminate between people when it tries to infect someone.
In our normal world, as people we are used to identifying by age, sex, language, suburb where we live, car we drive, where we go on holiday ….. you get the idea! But this virus takes no notice of these factors and attacks at random.
It’s a disruptor and can infect anyone and everyone.
So in this post I want to share some thoughts on how you as a business owner can lead your response.
Its important that as a business owner you look after yourself at this time of increased stress.
Firstly as a business owner, CEO or leader in your enterprise I suggest you need to identify the assets that are vital to doing what you do. It may be equipment or software, but in every business there will be a reliance on people. Your staff. Your team. Be mindful they are getting information from multiple sources, social media, traditional media, family and friends. Their anxiety levels are increasing, resulting in a growing fear of an uncertain future.
As a kid, I remember going on car holidays. The question of ”are we there yet” is a common experience for all of us. You can answer that question because travel between point A and point B is determined by distance or time. But this virus doesn’t work to a set distance or time.
So with your team, try to be honest and transparent with them about how you plan to manage this journey. Share your action plan with them. You won’t be able to be definite, but you can set milestones for contact, such as “we’re ok for two weeks, then we’ll review and keep you posted”. And respect that each employee is at a different stage in their journey in understanding this Pandemic.
This will require a big uplift in effort in your relationships with your team. And you can’t expect to maintain the level of personal productivity on running the business or doing your normal tasks, so be prepared to delegate. Trust others in your business with selected tasks so that the load gets spread around to allow you time to focus on leading your team in these uncertain days.
Secondly, we see the discussion around the virus from a business perspective as focusing on three areas:
- Operational = how we keep doing what our business does
- Strategic = what is our action plan and how does that fit into our cash flows
- Business Continuity/Risk Strategy = what happens if….?
So to flesh this out, on the operational front our discussions this week with clients we detect that some employees remain in a state of denial, with comments like” it won’t happen to me”.
At the heart of limiting the spread of this virus is good personal hygiene. Take the opportunity to stress to staff the need for regular washing, personal distancing, not meeting in groups socially, using some common sense. Let them know the effect of not practising basic hygiene: for example: “if we have an incidence of COVID 19 in our workplace or on site: we close for 14 days isolation of everyone affected. This means loss of work, potential loss of pay, potential lost income to the business, brand damage. I’m not trying to be alarmist, but this is for real!”
And in our own experience we are finding that remote work is increasing efficiency while increasing social isolation. This week we started to have some staff with children at home. This affects the number of hours each employee can give which allows us to think creatively about how we share work around our team to “load share”.
The strategic plan should consider the key issues that could disrupt your business. Are there supply constraints resulting from the virus that will restrict income generation, are there additional costs you will incur from working remotely etc Factor these into your action plan and then push the impact into a cash flow. Consider whether this analysis needs to be done by function, contract or project if there are different factors impacting on each of these.
At Dry Kirkness we are forecasting our cash flow weekly so we can identify the points in our business cycle when we will have pressure. In this way we can prepare a plan to address this pressure.
Don’t forget to factor in the Government stimulus payments and if applicable the loan concession packages from our banks for SME’s. This assistance is helpful, but please don’t think it will save your business without your own actions. The packages are designed to help you keep as many people in work as possible. We’ve emailed you separately about the stimulus packages and are keen to help if you need it.
And we encourage you to think about your business continuity plan. If a key person in our business needs quarantining or worse still, succumbs to the virus: what is your fall back option. Who does the job of the affected worker and do the other employees know the strategy. Is there a clear line of authority that you have communicated to all.
This might require some hard decisions. The employee with the strongest technical skillset or the most experience/ age may not be the best person to lead your enterprise through this time. We suggest you need to choose a leader with strong people skills who is confident and self assured and most importantly can communicate with your team.
Stay safe and keep your physical distance but not your social distance, for the protection of all Australians please.