The COVID-19 Business Survival Guide
It’s difficult to write something that doesn’t convey yet another “COVID-19” message that hasn’t already been heard. We are sure you have been inundated by information from business partners, airlines, credit cards, restaurants, and retailers, so we’d like to structure this as more of a “survival guide” to accumulate resources gathered from multiple recent business collaborations.
None of us really know what is coming or what the fallout from this will be. The one certainty is that you, as leaders, have a responsibility to your company to remain calm and remove as much of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often causes people to act with absence of logic and reason. This also requires businesses to adopt a level of “wartime” strategy to come out positive on the other side.
We will all suffer our bumps and bruises, but we are also staggeringly resilient. Here are just a few tips to keep you moving forward:
Be a First Responder. This digs deep into the Help First core value that our team truly subscribes to. It is a result of the to the “Go-Giver” mentality that drives every relationship we develop (if you have not read the book, we highly recommend it). This is also where, especially now, we can provide the most value. Do what you can to help your family, friends, clients, other businesses, and even strangers in need. First Responders also know when not to dive deeper into the fire. You can’t help if, by doing so, you put yourself in so much danger that you become one of those who needs to be rescued.
Adopt a Wartime Strategy This may not be the time to hold fast to rocks you set before this sudden change. Plan ahead to adopt a wartime accountability chart, a wartime scorecard, and wartime goals. If you have to make sudden changes, what does that mean for your leadership team? What metrics are critical NOW? What are the most important things to accomplish? Note this doesn’t change your 10-Year-Target. This is a change for the near-term to get you through this temporary crisis.
Stay the Course One of the most common questions I’ve been receiving is whether to continue with L10 meetings and quarterlies. Yes. And definitely yes. Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep your meeting pulse. The topics will change. The format may be adapted. You must allow logic, reason, and planning to prevail, and it will every time. If you have, like most, moved to a remote team environment you may wish to add a daily huddle to keep the circles connected. It will keep your focus in check and avoid chaotic and rash decisions. Don’t throw Hail Mary passes when you have time and discipline to develop better plays. You owe this to your company.
Beware of Scammers More than ever, there are those looking to pray on the vulnerabilities of others. Do not let your guard down. Some of these can be as innocuous as an email with a live virus map to click on. Be wary of phone calls offering information on Small Business Loans and other resources looking to turn the unsuspecting into a victim.
Make contingency and cash planning a priority EVERY WEEK Plan for the best but prepare for the worst. The only certainty is that we don’t know what next week holds let alone next month or next quarter. If sales completely stopped today, what would you need to do to weather the storm for the next 6-12 months? Plan for the where, when, what, and how you will operate. If you have not already done so, establish a 13-Week Cash Flow Report. This is not meant to be an exact cash balance, but rather a forecast of what your cash flow expectations are from week-to-week, capturing the next full quarter. This allows time for planning and strategic decision making.
Take care of your employees. Until you can’t. On December 11, 1995, the core buildings of the Malden Mills textile plant in Massachusetts burned to the ground, leaving 3000 jobs in jeopardy just two weeks before Christmas. The owner, Aaron Feuerstein, did the unimaginable and defied business logic by paying the workers left idle full salaries for the next three months as well as covering their health insurance for 180 days. Sadly, the high cost of rebuilding and a market turn forced Malden Mills into bankruptcy twice with thousands ultimately laid off. Sometimes trying to save everybody can subsequently cost everybody. If you can find a way to keep your staff, even part time, you will come out of this strong. If you must make layoffs or have furloughs, better to make the call early.
Manage your Payables This advice came from a fellow consultant who spent time doing corporate turnarounds. The advice was to categorize vendors as follows: Vendors you MUST PAY on time. These include employee wages and taxes as well as others who could essentially close your doors if they don’t sell to you. Strategic Vendors and Partners. Those who have a vested interest in your success. You can often negotiate terms and payment structure with these vendors so, long term, you maintain a good working relationship. Banks, for example, will often renegotiate payment terms on a loan or line of credit rather than have it suffer default (especially if it is unsecured). Non-essential Vendors. Sometimes you have to make the tough calls when cash is an issue and you are in survival mode. I’m certainly not recommending a default of debt, but rather that these vendors can be replaced if they cut you off and may have to fall lower on the priority list when the other option is closing doors.
Manage your Receivables Diligently You may well be a vendor who falls into one of the AP categories above and may not make the cut. If you have long-time clients who are struggling but still need your product/service, decide up front how must of a first responder you can be without putting yourself in jeopardy. How much credit can you extend and what is your communication strategy to those clients along the way? In times like this, cash is king. If you are not a bank, don’t act like one.
Know your resources Most states have provided websites, phone lines, and resources to help with everything from information about COVID-19 to enhanced unemployment. Most states are now covered under Presidential and SBA Agency Declared Disasters and Small Businesses may qualify for long-term, low-interest loans to assist. Take advantage of what you can! These resources are coming out daily so try to follow the new and stay on top of them, not just for yourself, but for your company, employees, and family.
Keep moving forward. Like Dory said in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming”. While we are in a fairly unprecedented time for many, this too shall pass. Do what you can and just keep swimming until we get through this challenge together.
Here are a few resources that may help you along the way:
The “Scary Times” Success Manual by Dan Sullivan Dan Sullivan is a renowned and highly regarded speaker, consultant, strategic planner, and coach to entrepreneurs.
COVID-19 Security Resource Library A compilation of links, tips and recommendations from NCSA (National Cyber Security Alliance) and its partners on ways to stay safe online, as well as how to avoid cyber threats and scams during this pandemic.
Bigger Brains Office 365 Training Library With so many moving to remote working, Bigger Brains has made most of their Office 365 training videos available for free to help workers make a quick pivot to remote productivity.
List of Free Software and Services During Coronavirus Outbreak Respected computer enthusiast web site Bleeping Computer has published a list of all the companies that are offering free software to help everyone get through this.
Coronavirus: Free Remote Work Technology Tools List From ChannelE2E, this is an even larger list of free tools available to help companies make it through the pandemic. There is some overlap with the previous list, but this adds to it.
Business Pandemic Planning Checklist This is a PDF from the CDC that was originally created for the influenza pandemic and is absolutely helpful for what we face today with COVID-19.
Take These 3 Steps to Protect Your Data from Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams Security company ID Agent offers advice on keeping your data safe from the bad actors trying to exploit the current crisis.
Risk Management for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) This PDF from CISA (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency) examines protecting your infrastructure, supply chain, organization, workforce and consumers during this time.