The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that even in volatile times, it’s possible to maintain business continuity, boost your competitive position and, for some, even grow. And while most businesses have adapted on early on this year, you can now turn to the good habits you adopted and lessons learned during the first wave to get your business through the second wave. Keep these five areas of your business in sharp focus as you navigate this ever-changing business environment.
Prioritize the health and safety of employees and customers.
Many companies introduced ad-hoc safety measures in response to the first wave of the pandemic. These new security measures are even more important for a second wave. To formalize these plans, start with a quick assessment to see what’s working now. Map the daily routines of employees and their interactions with clients to understand how to employ best practices to keep everyone safe. Think about your physical space, how clients and employees interact with one another and how to limit contact.
Assess sales and operations plans to secure cash flow.
The second wave will likely have important effects on customer demand and supplier availability. Monitor customers needs to quickly scale operations up or down, depending on market requirements. Your sales and operations teams need to work together. Hold daily meetings to assess performance, forecast demand and avoid overproduction. These meetings can be short check-ins that help you stay on-track and adjust quickly.
Maintain your focus on working capital.
If you haven’t already done so. This is a good time to get a handle on your working capital, money you need to maintain day-to-day operations. In normal times, there is a continuous flow of cash coming in from receivables, as payments flow out to suppliers for materials and inventory. This allows you to replenish inventory on a continuous basis to support sales. In disruptive times, however, that flow could suddenly be stopped or slowed. Although you may have taken on new debt to replenish stocks or rebuild working capital, now is not the time to overextend. Instead, think about how to create a comfortable “cash cushion” that can help you weather a second shutdown.
Embrace digital technology and e-commerce.
Businesses that invest in digital technology are more productive and typically see accelerated revenue and profit growth, according to BDC research. The pandemic has furthered this trend as customers flocked to online stores and service providers during the shutdown. Increasingly, people expect to conduct business online. Embracing digital technology will not only help you weather the second wave, it will also help you remain competitive in the long term. Going digital doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with a solid foundation. From there, you can build complexities into your digital strategy over time.
Stay agile and adapt your strategic plan.
It’s clear volatility is here to stay until a safe and efficient vaccine is rolled out. To help navigate the uncertainty, review your strategic plan with a special focus on various scenarios and risk assessments.
Understand changing customer needs: Consider offering a new product or service, or adapting what you already offer, in response to changes in customer demand, like the clothing and textile manufacturers that shifted to local mask production as global supply dwindled. Connect with customers regularly so you can stay on top of new requirements.
Build resiliency into your cost structure: The new ebb and flow may mean ups and downs in production. Consider how fixed costs can be shifted to variable costs to allow more flexibility. Examples include outsourcing or using contract employees rather than taking on new employees, renting equipment instead of buying, and choosing established distributors over new investments in your own sales channels.
Nurture your network: Partnering with other companies to share technology, create robust sales, marketing and post-purchase nurturing can help keep costs manageable and allow you to pivot quickly as the economy shifts.
Be agile: The new change management environment demands incremental changes. Establish daily, weekly, and monthly targets for business development or operational changes, and regularly assess progress, so you can change course without putting the business at risk.