COVID-19 Temperature Check: Is Your Company in Good Health?
From day one of the coronavirus pandemic, companies across the country have been struck with some of the fiercest business challenges to date. Nearly three months into this new normal of social distancing and choppy economic waters, company leaders must ask themselves: is my organization rooted in structural success to weather the foreseeable storm?
To ensure business leaders are equipped with the adequate weaponry, our team at 7wireVentures crafted a COVID-19 business action plan consisting of a set of questions and proactive measures managers can follow. Through this framework, we believe the time is ripe for a midpoint temperature check, highlighting successes, identifying challenges, and addressing gaps. Leaders will inevitably be faced with complexities over the next couple months so proactive evaluation can ensure preparedness for inherent obstacles that come.
Business Action Plan Framework
At this point, nearly most (if not all) employers have shifted to a remote work model if feasible. If not yet completed, a firm-wide policy and protocol should be well established regarding work from home, paid sick leave, travel, health prevention tactics, and incident responses. While many companies have “successfully” transitioned to a work from home environment, leaders should consider what metrics define success. It has recently been reported that many employees do not feel adequately supported or confident in their ability to do their jobs remotely. Therefore, now is the time for management teams to evaluate and support their employee’s individual work environments and productivity in the COVID-19 world.
To ensure a strong employee action plan, leaders should ask themselves:
- Have I clearly communicated the company’s COVID-19 strategy to my employees?
- Am I sharing appropriate information with regular cadence through email updates, blog posts, virtual town-halls, etc.?
- Have I adequately assessed my employee’s work from home environment through a data driven method (e.g., company-wide survey)?
- Have I addressed all imminent needs of my employees that may be impacting productivity such as broadband quality, IT, childcare availability, or augmented work hours?
- If my employees are located in different geographies, am I receiving consistent communication from local / health authorities to ensure my employees have the latest necessary information?
- Am I well positioned to make opportunistic moves for newly available talent? If so, is my team being fair and methodical in hiring practices?
- Are there compensation changes I should consider (e.g., sales plans tied to meeting-based metrics)
- Is my organization doing what it can to maintain culture and morale during this time such as hosting virtual team events (e.g., lunch and learns, yoga) or company-wide competitions?
Customers are the lifeblood of your business. They too are likely facing their own unique challenges and business disruptions. We encourage companies to maintain an open dialogue with customers, empathizing with their challenges and identifying opportunities to meet new COVID-19 related needs. In doing so, companies may uncover additional ways to expand the existing relationship and service their customers.
To ensure you are best supporting your customers, leaders should ask:
- Have I conducted a detailed customer assessment to determine which customers may be at risk for contract renewal or contract termination?
- Have I assessed implications of COVID-19 on product delivery, product roadmap, and timelines? Have I communicated any projected future delays to my customers?
- Are there acute needs that we are willing (and able) to support for customers in need (e.g., extend receivable terms)?
- Have I created a communication game plan for customer outreach and assigned dedicated representatives and timelines for execution?
- For prospects, can I revisit lost opportunities whose priorities and needs may have shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Have I adjusted sales team’s approach and materials to facilitate closing sales virtually?
- Are we as an organization conducting daily monitoring of customer service performance or social media monitoring of consumers?
- Do I need to ramp up customer support staff to ensure near-term retention?
Naturally, COVID-19 will create immediate and long-term changes in in daily business operations. While some will be obvious, other operational shifts may be unexpected and not yet revealed. Company-wide changes such as work from home environments and new organizational structures may result in downstream operational consequences.
To ensure your organization has considered all operational implications, leaders should ask:
- Have I conducted a technology evaluation to ensure systems are robust, scalable and can withstand an elongated work from home timeframe?
- Have I implemented cybersecurity protocols to protect against increased threats of a mobile workforce?
- Externally, have I assessed contracts with vendors, suppliers, partners and consultants to determine if contracts need to be changed
- Do I need to initiate conversations with new vendors / suppliers given the recent changes to the business from COVID-19?
- Do I have a clear contingency plan in place in the event a vendor is unable to meet obligations? Have you located alternative suppliers?
For many companies, the coronavirus initially created a reduction in revenue generation and an acceleration of cash burn. As a result, leaders are re-imagining future cash and financial needs amidst the pandemic. It is imperative that leaders take learnings from the last month and apply that information to develop a structured and quality financial management plan moving forward. Nuanced considerations such as government funding should also be closely monitored. For example, companies that have applied or successfully secured PPP loan funding, should consider new guidance regarding loan necessity and discuss any implications with legal counsel. The 7wireVentures Regulatory Policy and Resource Guide is a tool our team created to help leaders stay up to date.
To ensure financial soundness, companies should consider:
- Can I reduce or further reduce broad and non-critical expenses such as general branding or recruitment costs?
- Have I stress tested my existing financial model (e.g., if revenue drops 0%/20%/40%) and re-forecasted projections? What happens during a potential recession?
- Have I assessed current cash burn and runway to determine if fundraising timelines need to be adjusted or accelerated?
- Can I open a dialogue with current investors about potential bridge financing options?
- If I happen to be in a fortunate situation with excess cash, are there opportunistic ways I can deploy that cash today (e.g., M&A)?
- Have I evaluated and applied for all relevant government financial resources and loan programs with the advice of counsel?
- Have I established a clear communication cadence for ongoing updates with existing and potential investors within my network? Am I regularly providing my board detailed updates?
COVID-19 has likely changed the strategic landscape for an organization. While having a focused strategic vision is recommended, successful organizations will be those that can think creatively and adapt quickly. Remember, some of the most innovative companies were born during great recessions, such as Apple or Microsoft in the 1970’s or Airbnb in the global financial crisis of 2008.
To ensure your organization has studied all strategic opportunities, consider the following:
- Do I have a clear understanding of regulatory and (for healthcare) reimbursement changes and how those changes impact my business?
- Can I accelerate product development timelines to meet evolving customer needs?
- Are there new potentially accretive partnership opportunities I should consider, particularly if environmental shifts have created favorable terms for my organization?
- Have I thoroughly assessed how my competitors are operating in the current environment? If so, do the circumstances present an opportunity to make inroads with a customer or market segment?
Throughout the pandemic, communication remains more important than ever, both internally within an organization and externally with key stakeholders. The rule of thumb in crisis management is to communicate early and often. As a result, every action plan must be designed with a communication strategy alongside it.
To ensure a structured communication strategy, leaders should ask themselves:
- Do I have a designated communication team or committee in place?
- Have I provided timely information and communicated in a proactive manner thus far during the pandemic?
- Do business lines have a clear sense of messaging to external stakeholders?
- If I do not have a dedicated public relations or communications lead, is there an individual who can be appointed to take on this responsibility?
As the country prepares to reopen in phases, management should stay up to date on both federal and state-level local guidance when considering return to work. Leaders should begin to prepare a tentative timeline, outline considerations triggering a physical return to work, and any phased approaches they may consider (i.e. white and blue team days). As always, leaders should provide transparent communication regarding any plans or updates to employees so they can prepare accordingly.
While “life as we know it” has been indefinitely suspended and many questions remain left unanswered, we remain optimistic given the proactive measures we have seen across the U.S. and globally. We firmly believe companies that can be proactive, diligent, creative, and flexible in developing and executing on a plan of action will not only survive but shine.