How Do I Prepare My Business for the Coronavirus?

As the CEO of a growing business, you likely spend most of your time thinking about your products, customers, and staff, as well as how to keep growth on track.

But soon enough, you may have a new priority – how to keep your business running when threatened by coronavirus.

We certainly don’t believe that the end of the world is near. But we do see the possibility of disruption due to illness or quarantine. You may have employees looking after sick relatives, or school closings to limit infection risks.

(For up-to-date coronavirus information and guidelines, see this link from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The good news is that there is a relatively simple way to prepare your business for disruption – telecommuting (or home-working), meaning providing your employees with the flexibility and equipment they need to work remotely.

Preparing your business and staff for remote work provides a robust means to handle health scares, as well as most other disaster scenarios like power failures, bad weather, or public transport problems.

As an example, a long-standing Freeman Clarke client provides a 24/7 business-critical service. They can’t afford an outage, so they have spent a lot of time and money preparing for emergencies, including ensuring they can deliver their service uninterrupted with everyone working from home. They’ve tested it and it works.

Emergencies aside, enabling your staff to work remotely is a great way to attract and retain the best talent. Many businesses employ “knowledge workers” who can function effectively from home or the coffee shop with management, processes, and facilities set up accordingly.

Planning for remote work in the event of coronavirus goes beyond prudence. It’s a step in the right direction for your business.

How to Get Started

The good news is that even if you’re considering this scenario for the first time, it’s not too late. Our advice is to gather the senior management team and ask two questions:

  1. Which members of your team are critical to the ongoing survival of the business? Also: who can cover a colleague’s job in case they’re not available?
  2. What processes are absolutely critical to running the business? These processes might include taking payments, getting product to your customers, answering customer calls, and so on.

You can then plan out how these critical people and processes could continue to work remotely.

The first focus should be on the people. Ensure all critical team members are properly equipped to work from anywhere. That mean at the very least a mobile phone, a laptop, and possibly a VPN (virtual private network).

Then work out the simple details, like ensuring that everyone has their colleagues’ cell numbers.

Finally, all your people should be confident with using voice (or video) conferencing so they can organize themselves without needing to be in the same place.

The next task is to review the highlighted critical processes and discuss whether they would work if you and your team were out of the office.

Don’t assume that everything has been digitized! Ask your critical staff to look over what’s currently only in paper files, notebooks, or Post-it notes. All this must be available to them online. Fortunately, these days the tech is inexpensive or even free, products like Trello, Teams, and even Whatsapp can be effective ways to support remote work, including exchanging documents.

Don’t forget documentation such as customer contact details need storing somewhere accessible, as do the tools people use, such as PIN pads.

Cloud-based services excel in these circumstances because all you need is an internet connection. System such as Office365 and online accounting systems such as Xero make planning for a disaster far easier. If your business has a lot of its processes based on servers in the office, this is a great opportunity to kick off a project to migrate to the cloud. Aside from protecting you from emergencies, it will ultimately be cheaper, more secure, and more flexible.

Don’t Wait for Disaster

You’ll need to invest time and money to make all this happen. Consider it insurance against disaster and an opportunity to make your business better.

We recommend that you immediately organize a senior management team to focus on the questions above. Don’t leave the room until you’ve agreed on the necessary actions, the owners and timescales for completion, and the follow-up. Consider having this meeting by video to get the ball rolling!

Visit our COVID-19 knowledge center, which have more useful content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke regularly helps businesses plan for emergency and growth. If you’d like to talk to us about how to make your technology more robust, feel free to get in touch. We’re always up for a chat.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.