Millions of business leaders are wondering how their companies can bounce back from the coronavirus crisis. The pandemic gave rise to a host of major business challenges, and your roadmap to recovery will have to account for all of them if your organization is to emerge thriving on the other side.
1. Extent and Status of the Crisis
At the time of writing this article, only 2.74 percent of the US population had been tested for COVID-19. More tests have since been conducted, but the numbers are still low, making it impossible to know the true extent of the crisis. Without current and reliable data, how the pandemic will play out is a matter of speculation. Until there are effective treatments and vaccines for the disease, it will be impossible to predict when and how the crisis will end.
Complicating matters further, the status of the crisis largely depends on where you are. As of publication, 20,000-25,000 new cases of COVID-19 — and about 1,000 new deaths —are reported every day across the US. While some states, counties, and cities are seeing encouraging declines, others are experiencing alarming spikes. Check regularly with your local or state health officials for the latest information about your area.
2. When and How to Recover
Determining the best and most appropriate way for your business to reopen its doors will require a bit of a balancing act. Open too soon, and you may expose employees and customers to the disease — and subject your company to public criticism for putting people in danger. Open too late, and you could put your business at a disadvantage against your competitors who opened up sooner.
3. Define Success
Establish your goals and objectives and define what “success” will mean for your company in terms of bouncing back from the pandemic. Heed the words of the Cheshire Cat form Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
4. Milestones and Timelines
It’s one thing to want to recover from a crisis, and it’s quite another to make it happen. As you prepare your recovery plan, be as specific as possible in describing what it will take for you to get back to normal and the milestones you must reach in order to achieve your goals. Then, set clear deadlines for reaching each milestone.
The resources you may need to recover from the pandemic — such as workers, access to capital, and product inventory — will depend on the nature of your business. You should also factor in the impact the crisis has had or is expected to have on the organization, as well as the resources that were available prior to the spread of the virus.
6. Actions, Policies, and Procedures
It’s important to ask two key questions in the aftermath of any crisis:
• Did we do anything that caused or contributed to the crisis or how the crisis impacted people?
• What steps can we take to mitigate the effect of another crisis on our company?
In answer to the first question: If you did not have or follow a crisis management plan when the pandemic first emerged, you may have made matters worse for your employees, customers, the public, or other key audiences. A plan could have saved you valuable time in responding to the crisis by providing a clear path forward.
The answer to the second question will depend on the nature of your business. If you operate a chain of supermarkets, for example, you’ll want to ensure you have policies and and protocols in place to help protect the healthy and safety of your workers. If all of your employees work in brick-and-mortar offices, then you’ll need to put in place procedures and technologies that enable them to work remotely when the need arises.
Pay attention to how other organizations — including your competition — are responding to and recovering from the pandemic. How can you apply the successes and mistakes of others to your own plan?
7. Contingency Plans
You will very likely encounter potholes and detours on your road to recovery. That’s why you should have one or more contingency plans to help deal with the unexpected. This will better position you to revise and update your plans dynamically and as needed.
8. Preventing a Relapse
After digging yourself out of one crisis, it can be all too easy to fall back into the same hole — or worse, dig yourself a new, deeper hole. The current pandemic is no exception. Unless you learn from the crisis and apply those lessons to your organization, you run the risk of reliving different versions of the same crisis over and over again.
To be blunt, the pandemic has created an unprecedentedly hellish situation for companies and organizations around the world. If you find your motivation to endure the challenges is beginning to flag, remember that old adage: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant, and the author of Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back From Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). Crisis Ahead is now available as an eBook from Amazon and will be released as a paperback on June 16.