7 ways businesses can respond to the coronavirus

The coronavirus has caused unimaginable havoc all over the world. Help is at hand: here are steps business owners can take to shield themselves from long-term economic damage and come back stronger.

By Darren Thackeray

This article from the World Economic Forum website (used with permission from the UK journalist who wrote it) was written when other countries were in lockdown. There are majors lessons for us here, lessons that we should take heed of, especially if it comes from those who have walked this journey before us. And we can take comfort in the fact that we are not alone.

The coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly a story of human tragedy. But it will cause significant harm to the economy, too – and the true scale of this cost has only just started to emerge.

The spread of the virus is impacting countries at different rates, with each appearing to go through a similar pattern of “disease phases”. Governments around the world are having to act quickly and decisively to protect vulnerable citizens and limit the damage to their economies.

New research published by McKinsey on 16 March outlines current perspectives on the outbreak, and what steps businesses of all shapes and sizes can take to shield themselves from long-term economic damage.

Here are 7 measures businesses can take in the wake of the outbreak:

1. PROTECT YOUR EMPLOYEES

The WHO is updating their guidelines frequently. Businesses should ensure these are followed and that staff are aware of them. It’s also a good idea to restrict contact and non-essential travel.

2. SET UP A CROSS-FUNCTIONAL RESPONSE TEAM

Businesses should establish a dedicated team to ensure a simple but well-managed set of processes that maximise the health and safety of colleagues and customers. This team should be led by a CEO or someone at a similar senior level. The focus of the team should be broken down into five distinct workstreams:

  • Employee management and wellbeing

  • Financial stress-testing and contingency planning

  • Supply chain monitoring

  • Marketing and sales

  • Any other business

Specific goals should be outlined for each of these workstreams on a 48-hour and one-week rolling schedule. Minimum viable products should be established, with a calendar of events and milestones that constantly look six weeks ahead.

3. TEST FOR STRESS, ENSURE LIQUIDITY AND BUILD A CONTINGENCY PLAN

Defining scenarios can be difficult, but businesses are advised to try to identify trigger variables that will affect revenue and cost. These triggers can then be applied to established scenarios so that cash flow, profit and loss and balance sheets can be modelled.

Contingency plans can then be drafted for varying outcomes, such as portfolio optimisation through divestments, cost reduction etc.

4. STABILISE THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Geographic areas experiencing high levels of community transition should be established, factoring in suppliers and inventory levels. In order to immediately stabilise the supply chain, businesses should then turn their attention to pre-booking rail and air freight capacity and using after-sales stock as a bridge.

For longer-term stabilisation, businesses should seek to plan for consumer demand more thoroughly and make their supply network more resilient.

5. STAY “CLOSE” TO CUSTOMERS

Businesses will need to make a concerted effort to keep customers engaged and reassured in the short term. Inventory planning, discounts and special offers will all help to incentivise current customers. For longer-term stability, firms should start assessing and targeting other market segments and identify opportunities for growth.

6. ENGAGE IN TABLE-TOP “PRACTICE PLANNING”

The research also advises that the response team get together for regular “table-top meetings” to play out various scenarios. Define activation protocols for different phases of the response. Key decision makers and workstream owners should also be identified.

7. DEMONSTRATE PURPOSE

Businesses of all shapes and sizes should endeavour to support efforts to contain the spread of the virus wherever possible. Demonstrating this sense of purpose will have a positive knock-on effect to colleagues, clients and the wider business community.

Read the full article here.

For more information and resources for businesses, visit the Fetola COVID-19 resources page here.

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About the Author

Darren Thackeray is a freelance writer and brand journalist.

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