Planning For The Other Side Of A Pandemic
As we begin to see the first signs of the economy opening from the global pandemic meltdown of the last few months, it makes sense to look at your business through a different lens.
First, recognize that there are certain events in our lives over which we have no control, and the Covid-19 pandemic brings to light one of many "unknowns" that can derail a thriving business. Planning and positioning your business to respond to market needs allows you to weather any transitional (succession planning) event.
Now is the time to plan for the other side. If you wish to come out of this pandemic with a renewed vision and passion for your business, let's look at some things to consider.
- Communicate with your staff: While you may not be able to physically get your team together, you can certainly video conference on a weekly basis to encourage, review plans, and gain feedback from your managers. Provide continued encouragement to your team and if you are open and operating, include information concerning operating hours/schedules, staffing, precautions to take and procedures to follow, what temporary changes may be in place regarding services or products offered, how to handle customer flow, etc. If you laid off workers, consider filing with the proper agencies so that unemployment claims can be expedited. Your employees will remember that you cared when they return. Let employees know what to expect and when you may call them back to work.
- Communicate with your customers: The first emails I received from businesses were along the lines of, 'We are in this together', which was heart-warming. After the first couple of weeks, I began receiving emails that provided more information about closures. Customers want updates on what you are doing and how you are preparing to return to a business environment. People also want to hear good news during trying times. What is your company doing to support others both inside and outside of the company? What is the good news that captures something outstanding about your company culture or your community?
- Learning and development: Whether fully back to work yet or not, employees and managers generally want to improve their capabilities and standing within the company. What blind spots do they have where you might provide resources for online learning? Can you provide product or service training from suppliers or franchisors? What about enhancing leadership skills? Where can you make adjustments with training and teambuilding to create competent, high-performing teams? Use this time as an example of how a team can come together during a crisis and how that might apply to your operating environment going forward.
- Bring your management team together, virtually if not in person, to strategize about changes in the business and how you can best get ahead of the curve. Soliciting their input will make them feel more a part of the solution and the planning process going forward. Team contributions to a strategy allows a management team to claim ownership and ensure that visions are realized for both the owner and the company.
- Successor development: If you have a successor in mind, where are you in the development process? You may have some extra time to spend with them reviewing financials or other information which would be critical to their development. Are they working to develop leadership skills in addition to competency in their designated roles within the business? Perhaps this is a good time to initiate a 360-degree review which involves feedback from their peers, their direct reports, and their superiors. Many successor candidates have not managed through a crisis and this is an excellent time to review how they handled the pandemic.
- Facilities improvements: You may not have the cash to jump into huge projects but are there areas that need some minor facelifts, new signage, or updating? What about new or additional cleaning stations to ensure a germ-free environment for your employees and customers? Modifying the environment in small ways can add excitement in anticipation of returning customers and staff.
- Staffing: What has the pandemic taught you about staffing? Most are working with streamlined staffs. Is this a more sustainable model as business ramps back up? Are there lessons learned from using staggered shifts that were put in place as a precaution to deal with a possible infection in the workplace?
- Strategic Planning: This is a perfect time to dig back into strategic planning utilizing lessons learned and applying them to planning well beyond the pandemic.
Recovery may take many months, meaning your leadership is more important than ever. Perhaps more than anything, you can create a positive environment for your staff and customers which will pay dividends both now and in the future.
And finally, a note about family. You may have, at least for some period of time, been sequestered with family and I hope that proved to be a time of reflection on what is really important. For many, that included a return to more family activities, conversations around the dinner table, and a special appreciation for those they love. Looking back from the vantage point of next year is one thing. Looking back from the end of one's life is quite another. As Senator Paul Tsongas once said, "Nobody on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" Let's continue to work together to get business back in gear while planning for positive results in the future!
David Weaver is an associate of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm. David focuses his work with owners and management teams specializing in strategic planning, business performance, management synergy and teamwork. He helps identify areas that effect performance and culture - transforming managers into effective leaders. For additional information, visit www.rawlsgroup.com or call 407-578-4455.
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