In just a few months, the pandemic has turned a lot of conventional wisdom on its ear. Many of the rules that were once taken for granted in the business world no longer apply when your company may be partially or completely shut down. This situation is completely unprecedented, so it’s not surprising that businesses are having a hard time figuring out how to handle it.
However, as you contemplate reopening or bringing your business to full time, there are a number of things to keep in mind—both those you must do immediately and others you should decide at a later date.
Now more than ever, I recommend that you set SMART goals for yourself.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Communication is important in any organization, but it is even more vital when employees are stuck at home and everything is uncertain. Now, more than ever, it is important to pay attention to everything: your numbers, your employees, your customers, etc. Critical information may come from unexpected sources.
It is particularly important to stay in touch with your finance and accounting teams—whether they are in-house or outsourced. The new normal in finance and accounting is financial transparency. Build trust with your employees by sharing your budgetary concerns, reopening plans, and contingency plans.
In addition, remember that you have multiple stakeholders. Ensure there are established paths for receiving feedback not only from employees but also from vendors/suppliers and customers using online project management tools that make it easier to stay in touch. You may find that the usual ways you delivered your products or services need to be modified. Embrace a "yes, and" philosophy to stay flexible in your thinking.
Make sure you are documenting in a smart and flexible manner. Of course, the top priority is figuring out how everyone will be paid during the reopening process.
But good documentation goes beyond keeping accurate financial records. Safety should be your number one priority. Customers, employees, and other stakeholders will want to know that your workplace, products, and services are safe. Document—and be prepared to publicize—employee training and safety measures (such as mask-wearing), sanitizing of your workspace, and other measures you take to ensure safety.
Pay particular attention to the needs of front-line workers who are dealing with the public or otherwise exposing themselves to risks. Ensure that they are treated in a non-discriminatory manner and given the resources they need to protect themselves—and document the measures you take. This isn’t just the right thing to do; it also shields your company from liability.
SMART and Flexible Financial Planning
It’s understandable that your attention has been focused on survival and how to keep the lights on. And now you are busy trying to think of all the details of how to get up and running. Real financial planning and looking into the future may seem impossible—particularly when the future is so uncertain. But it’s important to do some kind of financial planning, particularly since the pandemic probably blew your previous plans out of the water.
Seek out simple financial models that allow you to think ahead. You don’t have to get detailed and complicated; in fact, it’s probably better if you don’t since everything is uncertain. Flexibility is the name of the game. You want to be prepared to pivot and move in a new direction as circumstances change.
SMART Personnel Operations
You may need to operate your business with a skeleton crew at first as you prepare for re-opening or even afterward if a business is slow. Many employees will be wearing multiple hats and taking on unaccustomed tasks—from cleaning counters to reconciling deposits. Try to build a set of checks and balances into the skeleton crew to protect against employee errors, fraud, or theft.
Be sure to hire (or hire back) smart as well. If you need to hire employees, tools like Asana, Teamwork, or Wrike allow you to build a virtual interview system that is effective and nimble. Companies that are receiving funds from the Paycheck Protection Program must keep in mind its employment restrictions—which compel employers to break the rule of “hire slow, fire fast.” Firing or laying off workers can hurt your chances for loan forgiveness.
Everything may seem bleak right now, but remember that crises also create opportunities. Even if you make a mistake, you should view it as an opportunity to learn. Your competitors are likely suffering as much or more than you are—and that may be to your benefit. One organization’s obstacle is another organization’s opportunity. Now might be a time that you can hire someone else’s talent or capture another company’s customers. Always keep your eyes open for opportunities.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.