How to Create a Pandemic Plan for Business Continuity

Many business owners are reacting to the challenges of the pandemic, rather than planning. The COVID-19 pandemic started quickly, and you may be surviving by putting out fires as they occur. You’ve made it so far, but the process is exhausting.

You need to create a plan for business continuity, and that plan should include both short-term and long-term planning. The next six to nine months are important, as the country provides a vaccine, and the crisis subsides.

But what if another pandemic occurs?

Business owners need a crisis plan in place, should another catastrophic event occur. How will you do business and interact with your customers? Can you keep your doors open if there is another shutdown? If you invest the time to plan now, managing through another crisis will be achievable.

Raincatcher created an assessment that helps you to evaluate your risks and provides helpful tips on how-to work on decreasing your business risks during a pandemic.

Serving Clients During a Pandemic

Many owners have pivoted and created a business model to serve customers during the pandemic. Much of this work has been through trial and error, and simply an effort to survive. This is particularly true for businesses that serve customers in person. Consider these examples:

  • Restaurants shifting to carryout and delivery business

  • Doctors and dentists who have introduced strict protocols to protect patients and staff, including partitions, mandatory mask use, and limited visitors

  • Retailers who have pivoted to online sales, and limit customers in the store

Start your short-term plan by documenting your current procedures for doing business. Write down each task you perform, who completes it, and how often. This is your starting point for getting through the remainder of the pandemic.

Next, analyze your financial results using the new business model.

The Financial Impact of the Pandemic

Let’s use a restaurant as an example. The owner can only use 25% of the tables in the restaurant, and the inside dining may be completely shut down if there is a spike in cases. Here are some of the financial issues:

  • Lease payment: The owner must continue to make monthly payments on a 3-year lease.

  • Payroll: The kitchen staff has worked through the pandemic, but 50% of the servers were let go. The remaining servers handle the smaller inside seating needs, put together carry-out orders, and make deliveries.

  • Technology: The restaurant invested in an improved website, and an app that allows people to place orders and pay using a mobile device.

  • Revenue and profit: Over the past three months, revenue has been at 50% of pre-pandemic levels. Even with payroll cuts, the restaurant is generating a small loss each month.

Does your current business model allow you to operate until the pandemic is over? Let’s assume that the owner has retained excess cash in the business over the years, and can absorb small losses for six more months. No one can predict the exact date, but if the country starts to get back to normal in six months, the business can survive.

How will you operate after the pandemic?

Getting Back to Normal

Given the personal and financial strain of the pandemic, you may conclude that your old way of doing business is too risky. A restaurant owner may decide to keep the carry- out and delivery business, and lease a smaller space for in-person dining when the current lease ends.

You need a written plan to make changes after the pandemic ends. Returning - at least in part - to the old way of doing business will be challenging.

  • You’ll have to hire and train staff, in order to serve a larger number of customers as they return to your business.

  • Owners need to talk with vendors and suppliers, so that the business can create more products as sales increase.

  • As your business model changes, so will your marketing. Clients need to know if your retail stores are open, and if you still offer online shopping options

These post-pandemic changes will also require a bigger investment in payroll costs, inventory, and in marketing expenses. You need a solid plan to finance these higher expenses, particularly if you’ve operated as a loss for months.

This is also an opportunity to pause and reflect on your business. If you pivoted and maintained sales and profitability, your business is valuable. You might consider retaining a business broker, who can help you complete a company sale.

Use What You’ve Learned

Managing during the pandemic may be the most difficult time you’ve experienced as a business owner, but consider what you’ve learned. Maybe you found a new way of doing business that is more profitable.

If an online approach is working, you can stick with it. Maybe you talked to customers during the pandemic far more than in the past, and you know more about their problems. Use that knowledge to provide customer solutions, and grow your sales.

Most importantly, give yourself credit for adapting to change, pivoting to new ideas, and making it through the pandemic. You’ve been resilient, and that trait will serve you well as you move forward.

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