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COVID Business Planning

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the effects of the pandemic on most all aspects of our lives -- personal and professional. But we can't forget to keep our focus on the principals of smart business management. This is true even if we don't have a pandemic playbook to go by as a guide to help drive direction. We need to keep in mind that the purpose of a business plan is to guide the business and its team forward. At its core should be sound decisions made in advance of 'in the moment' pressures. If you fail to do this during COVID and instead assume you can go day by day in your decision making, you will likely wind up far away from where you could have been. Hindsight will not reveal pleasing conclusions to you.

  1. Don't underestimate the time your business will be on a COVID affected path - a safe assumption is it will impact all of us for far longer than we can anticipate. There are still many unknowns ahead and the 'in the moment' decisions made during the first six months will create down stream impact we may not recover from. Decisions that would be different if based on experiences we could have drawn on. Said differently, if you think a return to 'normal' is around the corner, you will talk yourself out of thinking through any pivoting or replanning. You should be thinking of the things that make sure your business is not harmed more than it needed to be.
  2. Innovate your product or service or messaging with something pandemic related - Don't be shy to step into the shadows of the many companies taking advantage of this time period to gain benefit. If you feel you have something genuine to offer, offer it, even if it is a story to share with your user community. Don't hold back and then find yourself saying 'should have, could have, ...'. Look adjacent to your core areas of excellence if needed to find something that can fill some gaps created by other aspects of your business that may be underperforming their original plans.
  3. Make working environment adjustments to accomodate the human factors - everyone has now likely experienced some form of work-at-home time at least for most non-physical labor jobs. Evaluate carefully whether or not you want to continue with work-at-home options even after the pandemic has subsided. BUT, in the meantime, assume more of this is going to be needed, so invest properly in getting the most out of work-at-home resources. You can find lots of examples of companies investing small budgets in improving the equipment and office support for work-at-home experiences. Some sample things include:
    • High def web cameras that sit on desk or clip to monitor.
    • Headset or high quality microphones so that communication is effective without garble.
    • Provide tips on video backdrops so nothing personal is seen.
    • Issue, practice and validate conference standards suitable for tools used.
    • Schedule limited office access so staff can come to their day time 'home'.
    • If you are planning any physical face time, practice prescribed health guidelines.
  4. Stay in touch with the team - don't let days or weeks go by without having some 'live' contact with your team. Everyone is impacted by the pandemic, we're sharing this experience all over the world. The concerns you have are the same concerns your team has plus a few more. The team wants to know you are taking care of the future. They want to know you are aware they have concerns. If you need to, hire a guidance councellor or HR specialist to track the health and productivity of the team. You may find you want to continue with this human factors service the pandemic as it will only provide benefits affecting productivity.
  5. Update your Investors or Board members - don't wait for the next meeting to provide an update filled with missed or changed plans and uncertainties. Be proactive with the people who support the longenvity of the business by sharing with them what you are doing to stay focused on upside opportunities. Even if you are totally off plan, have no method to recover until the pandemic subsides, communicate that now and show them what you have been considering. People who support a business are supposed to support a business, give them a chance to demonstrate that. Their job is to make sure alternatives are always explored and the right steps are being taken in the moment and your job is to do this.
  6. Document more - Consider keeping a business journal where you capture key points from the 'here and now'. You may find it useful later when some form of normalcy returns. A work journal lets you recall why things are they way they became. The facts are helpful so don't rely on what will no doubt become a blurred memory. Don't force yourself to remember what you can write down so you have mental space to focus on true business priorities.
  7. Treat COVID seriously - Professionalism means many things. Don't be that person who feels wearing a mask is for everyone else or hand shakes are more important than virus exchange and possible death. Set the tone properly within your organization, employee health is an important aspect of corporate culture, show you are professional and everyone else will be. Leaders create followers, your role is one of leadership.

If you are one of the fortunate businesses not negatively impacted by the pandemic, you should still see what you can do to enhance your levels of success. Go back and revisit the business plan, see if strategic or tactical investments can boost something you already do to get even more out of it. Every moment is a once in a lifetime moment, so don't take your eye off what could be.

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