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5 Business Continuity Strategies for Challenging Times (Specific to COVID-19)

KC See 0

Now, as we get used to living differently, choosing differently, and behaving differently, that change will be the ‘new norm’. The world will never be the same again, so we have to think about how we’re going to continue our businesses in a very changed environment.

With the current pandemic outbreak that has spread all over the world, businesses and lives are turned upside down. And a global recession is expected. For many of us, this may be the first time that we’ll be experiencing such a global crisis.

According to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), it is estimated that 2.5 mil Malaysians are going to be left unemployed while the global economy is going to deteriorate by 25-30%. All over the world people are going to lose their jobs and livelihoods, while businesses are going to be hit hard, unless you prepare yourself ahead of time.

In business and in life, it is all about preparing ahead. When you know that something bad is bound to happen, you prepare ahead by planning out a strategy to navigate the crisis so that when it happens, you are fully equipped to take charge of the situation. But in this case, most businesses are totally unprepared for this crisis.

Some are still in crisis stage, lost and unsure of what to do while some businesses are moving towards keeping the business running. I am suggesting we go past this panic stage quickly and get down to taking action. And so here, I’ve come up with 5 Business Continuity Strategies that you can use immediately to navigate the current crisis so that you come out stronger and more prepared for a very changed world.

Strategies that are proven to work

These strategies are based on my own 36 years of experience in business. I myself have been through two recessions before and I managed to navigate the challenges faced during those tough times, fortunately. My group of over 12 companies – Quest MasteryAsia Group (started in 1984) – has been running for over 30 years now.

No doubt that our organization is facing challenges now due to the current economic situation, but we have it somewhat under control all thanks to two things; one is having had the experience of going through catastrophes in the past, although nothing of this magnitude. Secondly, having a great team behind me.

We went quickly into action mode following the 5 Business Continuity Strategies that I have pinned down the day after the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced. This helped us to even launch two new online products in the first ten days of the MCO itself.

These strategies are specific to the COVID-19 situation and I would like to share them here so that all business owners who are struggling can survive through this period. And for those of you who already have a clear plan in place to face the challenges, I hope this will give you some extra valuable insights to pull through the impending crisis.

Your “warrior” team

But before I dive into the strategies, I would like to talk about something that is important to do first before applying the strategies and it is none other than assembling a “warrior team” or “Business Continuity Strategy” team to be the backbone of your efforts. Now, some of you may have already done this, but I would just like to highlight on it as this is a very crucial step to ensure that the strategies are implemented successfully.

In choosing this main team, you will need to pick your employees/managers who are essential to the strategic redirection, have the ability to bring in revenue, those that will maintain your backroom operations & delivery and those that will help you keep your essential workforce together.

Always remember that the No. 1 Rule is to put your people first as business continuity is only possible if you have your essential employees to fight the battle with you. Provide leadership and involve your team by creating confidence, showing your love and care as a leader, setting clear and consistent directions, setting up teams for specific tasks, leading the way and continuously encouraging them.

In the end, your team’s determination to follow through on your strategies would prove to be your biggest value.

Strategy #1 : Re-strategising your direction for a new world

With what is going on currently, everything is changing. Businesses are changing, the way we work and communicate is changing, lifestyles are changing and looking at the great impact that COVID-19 has had (and still has) on us, things will not go back to normal again once it subsides, at least not entirely.

Therefore, there’s a need to re-strategise our business directions. And to do this efficiently, you will need your entire “warrior” team to restrategise with you so that they are aligned to where the company is moving towards and how you are going to take them there –  a step that is especially essential now that all employees would be working remotely.

Establishing clarity in direction and trust among your employees is extremely crucial now as you cannot work based on an instructional mode anymore but based on inspiration. And inspiring your staff to follow you requires clarity in direction.

You will need to determine what needs to be changed from your pre-crisis strategies and plans. And if you never had a proper strategic planning process in the first place, now’s a great time to have one. This will include your company’s vision and mission and your critical success factors.

You will need the bigger picture put in place first before going into specific steps. Also, remember that this direction should be for the long-term because as mentioned, the market and environment may never be the same again moving forward.

The strategic direction that you plan out will basically be influenced by cashflow requirements. So, this will require you to determine the areas of business that would be obsolete or reduced in view of future changes in consumer habits or client behaviour.

Then, determine the possible growth areas and what needs to be changed. For instance, you may consider transforming interactions with clients to tele-services, reducing face-to-face front-line transactions to online channels and delivery, reducing branches and focusing more on online delivery instead etc.

Other possible strategies that you can consider include steps to reduce vulnerability to further business disruptions, protect assets (both intellectual assets and contracts), reduce reliance on frontline personnel and maintain or gain competitive advantage through possible collaborations or even takeovers. And yes, I’m serious about the takeover part.

In this case, you basically source for a competitor that is in a more difficult situation than you and ask them to let you take over management of their customers. In return, you offer them say 25-35% of the revenue generated. This strategy is even more workable especially if you have some capital to invest.

Having said that, it can be more complex than that and requires some expertise to carry that through.

Strategy #2 : Identify the critical factors and prioritise

You will need to identify the critical factors during this period to ensure business continuity – basically immediate things you need to look into. One factor to consider is which products or services you should leave aside at the moment and which ones you should focus on. This is so that you can relaunch or accelerate those that are relevant under the current circumstances.

Next, you need to consider revenue priorities. Relook at it to determine alternative streams that you can create to weather your business through this period. I had to do the same for my company as we largely depended on onsite premise activities and events since our focus is mainly on education, training, coaching and consulting. So, we had to immediately shift our focus on that to online revenue generation instead.

Other critical factors that you may need to consider include cashflow management, staff redeployment, communication with clients/customers and creditors, continuity of essential functions, renegotiation with critical suppliers/vendors to ensure alternative arrangements are made, and all other important details.

Then, once these critical factors have been identified, you may come up with your detailed action plan listing the tasks that need to be done and by whom. Also bear in mind that each critical factor should have its own continuity strategy in case of further escalation of the MCO or the COVID-19 pandemic itself.

Strategy #3 : Reallocate your resources for better results

Reallocate your resources to ensure continuous productivity for your employees. In doing this, two things need to be determined, that is their essentiality and ensuring effective communication channels are put in place. For determining essentiality, I have created a Staff Redeployment Matrix based on my own experience so that you can easily decide on what to do with each employee.

Using this matrix, you first divide your staff into four groups – using four criteria; contracted, permanent, essential and not essential. The first two are facts. The second two is a decision. This decision as to which staff are essential and which are not is based on your strategic directions. So if you have not done that part you will have difficulties making a good decision.

You then look at the intersections between the groups to decide. For instance, those who are permanent staff and essential are the ones you will need to keep. For those staff who are on contract but essential for your company’s redirection, then you might want to keep the staff but may need to renegotiate terms.

Your challenge will be what you need to do with those that are permanent but no longer essential to your future direction. Doing this, you can also identify those who may be essential but are not fully required. For this group of staff, you may make arrangements for them to do partial work e.g. work two to three days per week. Whatever you do you need to ensure that you do not infringe any employment laws.

Here you can also decide on transferring some employees to new functions. For instance, your salespeople can be converted to a tele-sales team. You may also minimise negative cash flow by seeking your employee’s understanding to defer their salaries for a few months until business gets better.

When it comes to communication between your staff, you need to ensure that there are common communication tools in place such as WhatsApp and Zoom (video-conferencing tool).

Now, the most pertinent point when planning resource reallocation – fast tracking your online/off-site revenue generation. With the movement restrictions currently in place in many countries, now’s a great opportunity to shift your dependency from on-site revenue generation to off-site digital transformation (if you haven’t already done so).

In fact, moving forward, digital transformation is a must, and no longer a choice. So, start identifying which parts of your business can be transferred to online mode, work out a fast track plan for this and redeploy your manpower to cover these new online functions.

If your organization does not have the internal resources to do that, you might want to consider outsourcing that function as speed is the biggest issue. You don’t have the luxury of time to attend a Facebook marketing course to do that if you have not started any online marketing efforts of any sorts. That is something which should have happened much earlier.

Strategy #4 : Set the stage for productive remote work

This strategy is very essential to ensure that your staff’s productivity is maintained when they are working from home. As the leader, you must maintain the momentum and the energy in your team. This is especially important if working from home has not been the norm in your company. Now more than ever, you will need to make your expectations clear by providing guidelines to follow as well as clarity in directions and goals.

Another key thing to practise is clear and constant communication. Since all your employees will be scattered around in different places, you will need to decide on how you will communicate with your workforce. Make sure there are clear communication channels in place such as WhatsApp and video conferencing tools.

It will be good practice to arrange for constant communication within teams as well as between team leaders and the management. It’s also good to decide on a channel where you can keep your whole workforce informed on relevant updates not just on work but also on the current situation.

Next, there is a need to look into resources required to enable the staff to work from home including equipment such as computers and access to company files and data. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the equipment is well taken care of by the staff, and rules and confidentiality are maintained when it comes to access to the server and company information.

Besides that, take care of your staff by equipping them with channels to receive help and support when needed. Always bear in mind that your staff, just like you, may not be used to working from home, so they may face some challenges especially when you first start out.

Have trust that most of your team will rise to your expectations. Try not to assume that they are slacking at home. Manage their results rather than how they spend their hours. If there should be any shortfall, give them the benefit of the doubt and help them to manage their stress and personal well-being where necessary.

Even for my own group of companies, now’s the first time ever the whole workforce is working from home. So, I set some basic work-from-home rules to maintain the staff’s sense of responsibility and accountability.

These include daily reporting at 10am and 5pm, daily briefing by leaders and teams via WhatsApp/ video conferencing, weekly team meetings with my “warrior team”, a maximum response timeframe of 30 minutes (failing which staff may be considered as taking unpaid leave on that day unless they can substantiate for it) and so on. So, these are just some examples you can also use as guidelines.

Strategy #5 : Manage your cashflow better

This may be one of the most challenging steps as you’ll be required to make tough decisions. During challenging times, effective cash flow management becomes imperative as you’ll still need to fund your staff’s payroll and other essential services. You may find that some things must be given up as you’re not able to support it, but that’s a difficult decision you will have to make as long as you can “live to fight another day”, right?

For cash flow management, the two key efforts are to reduce your cost and overheads or delay the outflow and secondly, to keep your inflow through diligent collection efforts or to replace lost revenue with new sources, Quickly.

As mentioned earlier, your staff’s payroll can be managed through staff redeployment. When it comes to your clients, communicate with them to maintain “business as usual” and make new arrangements as to how you’ll be delivering your products/services to them. Also, get a dedicated team to focus on collections and renegotiate with all suppliers for terms and continuity of services.

This also includes applying for bank moratorium if you have bank loans, exploring all government financial support as well as exploring quick revenue sources. Some ways you can do this are by off-loading stocks at cost or giving great offers for them, getting loans at affordable interest rates and so on. Your focus should be on turning everything into cash.

Towards a brave new world ahead

Finally, I would like to stress once again that moving forward, all business owners should not just make preparations for the current looming crisis, but to prepare ahead for future transformation. I suggest that this is the ‘opportunity’ in the ‘crisis’. As we get used to living differently, choosing differently, and behaving differently, that change will be the ‘new norm’.

The world will never be the same again, so we have to think about how we’re going to continue our businesses in a very changed environment.

What I’ve given you here was quite an overview of my five Business Continuity Strategies which you can use immediately to sustain your business during these trying times. If you would like to find out more from me personally, join me in my upcoming Live Webinars where you can also ask me specific questions pertaining to your business challenges.

During the webinars, I’ll also be sharing more about a Business Continuity Toolkit which I prepared for my clients and students that basically consists of essential documents, checklists, worksheets and more, that can help you to speedily implement the Business Continuity Strategies and prepare your business for future transformation. I’ll also be sharing with you other ways that my team and I will be able to assist you in your business. So, don’t miss out on it!

The webinars have so far received great response, so we are even expanding our reach globally. Stay tuned for our upcoming sessions. Visit this link to register: www.businesscontinuity.asia/bcs-webinar/?utm_source=pr

For further enquiries regarding the webinars or the Business Continuity Toolkit, please contact 6014-639 6382 (Jefferson).

Relevant Posts:

How Businesses Should Respond To The Economic Downturn

Building The Right Team For Your Business

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