The business sector has been re-awakened on the announcement that lockdown restrictions will be eased. For sure, we are after a peak, but the current situation with the coronavirus disease is still not the best one (in Scotland the current number of new daily cases is very similar to the number just before the lockdown). Also, in the case of coronavirus itself, there are still more questions than answers; the virus has unknown properties and we still don’t know what will happen in the future. However, specialists say that the second wave of the disease is more than likely (and then we will probably have another lockdown).
One thing is very clear for me – we need to do everything to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 will be mitigated as much as possible. Now it is a time when we decide our future. And yes, this is a time to prepare our businesses for coming out from a lockdown.
“If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
Post-Lockdown Business Assessment Tool
Evidence based approach
Before I will share some thoughts about preparing for life after lockdown, I would like to offer an approach which can be very helpful in our circumstances: an “evidence based approach”. Let me describe it this way:
Don’t think negatively while you are forecasting the future, don’t fall into the bravado either – just try to see the facts and the impact of them on your business.
Always ask yourself, how do I know that “the X” or “the Y” is true, or will happen. What evidence supports this belief. How did I get the evidence? What is the quality of my evidence? Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t have evidence or if the quality of the evidence is not very good. Just ask yourself, what are the other potential scenarios if your guess is not true. Brake your assumptions into testable hypotheses and get evidence – make decisions based on evidence not ideas.
Preparing Your Business for Post-Lockdown Life
It’s not possible to make a simple checklist which will help all businesses come out of lockdown. I have prepared a list of practical questions which should help you to assess where you are. For sure, this list is not exhaustive, but it can be a good starting point. In my opinion, every entrepreneur should ask themselves these questions before coming out of lockdown.
There are 3 areas:
- Strategy – which will help you to assess if your strategy is still valid
- Culture – which aims to help you with the ‘people’ aspect of the business
- Health & Safety – just to be clear – I am not a H&S specialist, I just felt that I can bring a few points which are worth considering. This is also important in the process of preparation for business life after lockdown.
If you would like to discuss issues connected to COVID-19 and their impact of your business, you can use my free COVID-19 Brainstorm session
1a) Strategy: is your business model still valid?
Note: if you are not sure what a business model involves, you can watch my 12 minute video to familiarize yourself with the concept.
- Before lockdown, your company was delivering a value proposition to your customers. Is your value proposition still demanded by customers? Do the customer’s problems still exist? Are they the same? Is it possible that your customers have learned how to cope without your proposition? Do they still care about your value proposition? Are they still willing to pay for it?
- Have these last few months changed your customers? If yes, how much?
- What about your relationship with them? Are you able to maintain the current relationships? Do you need to build new relationships to be able to serve your customers?
- What about customer context? Is it still the same? Imagine: you are an owner of a chain of coffee shops. And let’s say, a significant portion of your customers were people who walked past and decided to walk in for a coffee. If the context of your customers has changed, (in this example they are not walking near your shops any more, or they have concerns about safety issues) they might not be able/not be interested to buy from you anymore.
- Are your current channels (distribution, marketing, information, sales, post sales care channels) sufficient?
- Let’s think about your partner and contractors? How did COVID-19 impact them? Are your partnership relations strong enough to enable you to do business?
- What about your resources? Do you have all that you need in place (think not only about your supply, but also about other resources are needed to do business – for example human skills).
- What about your processes? Probably, you will need to at least adjust it. But how much? What is the impact of it on other parts of your business model? What about productivity? Can your business be as productive as before?
- What about cost? How does your cost side look after the necessary changes have been made? Have you taken into account the different scenarios?
- What about your revenue streams? Do you analyze different scenarios? What about your pricing mechanism? Is your current one good enough?
1b) Strategy: Business environment – how did the world change for you?
- Technology trends have changed in front of our eyes: more frequent use of 3D technologies, extensive use of co-working tools
- Society & cultural trends: language is changing (how people speak), the business norms are changing as well. One of the trends is that clients who required face to face meetings before, are now accepting Zoom meetings. Where are you in relation to it (for example your brand)?
- Legal conditions are changing – do you have everything in place to be able to restart? Did you update all the policies and procedures to be sure that your business will operate legally, and will it be able to work under measurements?
- Industry forces: where are your suppliers? Are they still there? Are you still able to get what you need, or do you need to source what you need somewhere else? Where are other stakeholders? How did they change due to coronavirus? Competitors – are they still there? Are they stronger, or weaker? Did they close down, or are they working in the background so they are ready to fly high? Any new entrants? What about substitutes? Is it possible that when you were in lockdown, somebody else prepared a substitute for your proposition, and the sale will not be the same anymore?
- Macroeconomic forces: Where are we? What about capital availability? What about availability of commodities and other resources? Are we going to have a recession or V-shape restoration? What does it mean for your business? And so on (here you probably need to ask more questions (the questions about the big picture) which are related to your industry).
2) Organisational culture – Let’s talk about People, management, emotions, values, beliefs and behaviours
- How has the coronavirus situation impacted your organisational culture? What is the relation between your company and your employees? Are your employees more connected with the company? Do they trust your organisation more? Do they trust management more? How did you work with your employees? Did you use the lockdown time to deliver training and coaching? Did you work with your employees to adapt the company to the new circumstances? Are they aware about the changes which need to be done in your company, or you are going to organise a half hour catch up meeting before you start?
- If they work from home: are you going to ask them to come back to the office? What is the true reason to do that? In some cases the need to physically return is obvious, in other cases the reasons can be different. In some cases, for example, the reason is the worry about productivity and the need to control employees – which may be a warning signal related to the management system and inefficient organizational culture.
- How are you going to communicate with your employees? Will they have an impact on safety measures to feel safe? Do you consider working with them to adapt to the new reality?
The situation of each business is obviously different, in the worst case scenario, employees could be out of work for over a month. Let’s see what the potential issues are:
- Some people could have been dealing with isolation during lockdown, which could have had an impact on their mental health. They may have to deal with lonely, anxious or depressed or stress-related conditions.
- Some people could face the loss of loved ones and might need additional support.
- Some people might struggle to adapt to the new work environment.
- You might find some people’s skills eroded and they need new training.
- Some people could have developed some self-awareness processes and they might not want to work for the company anymore.
- Some people may be very afraid to return to work and be close to other people (customers or peers).
- Some people might not be able to come to work due to commuting problems (for example the worry about using busy public transport).
- You might face a motivation or productivity issue (with many different reasons behind it).
- Some people might be not able to come back, due to childcare responsibilities, if schools and nurseries are still closed.
- Some people could be more vulnerable than others (for example due to health conditions) – how are you going to protect them?
Are you and your management team able to deal with people’s challenges if they appear? If not, can you get support? Do you plan to provide your employees access to counselling?
3) Health & Safety of employees and customers
- How are you going to develop social distancing? How are you going to limit the number of customers in your physical premises? Are you going to set up a limit (for example 10 customers only at any time)? Are you going to allow access by appointment only? Do you have plans to maintain a proper distance between employees and between customers? How? Are you going to manage the queues?
- What about working time? You might need additional opening times to be able to serve all your customers. Are you going to be more flexible to help staff with childcare and other life responsibilities?
- Office work: do you really have to call people to the office? Can you maintain remote work? Can you develop a shift pattern to avoid bigger numbers of people at the same time and place?
- Are you going to rearrange the company space? What about the canteen (can you change break times to avoid bigger numbers of people in the same room)? Do your employees share canteen equipment? Have you considered limiting access to some parts of the company (for example to avoid people from one department, by walking around the company to the other department)? Have you taken into account the possibility of reducing touchpoints (electronic documents, scanners, contactless payments) or at least sanitise them between customers?
- Cleaning: can you increase the frequency of cleaning? Can you sanitise equipment between customers? Are you going to provide cleaning materials and encourage your staff to clean their own workspace regularly?
- Are you going to provide proper personal protection equipment?
- Will you have enough resources (e.g. PPE or cleaning materials) to maintain the rules all the time?
This is truly an interesting time. If you would like to know more about how to improve the adaptability of your company to the changing business environment, check this series of articles:
If you would like to discuss issues connected to COVID-19, and their impact on your business, simply book an appointment for your free COVID-19 Brainstorm session.
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