Like you, I have been inundated with Coronavirus (nCovid-19, COVID-19 and many other acronyms) messages on email and websites, from retailers, manufacturers, travel companies, schools, clubs and the NHS. We are all grappling with the enormity of this virus and the Government’s response to it. And compared to the awful experiences, and, ultimately, the rising death toll shared daily on the news, keeping our business healthy during the crisis does pale into insignificance somewhat.
But small businesses are important, as is our service to clients, and of course, our impact on people's livelihoods. And for a smaller business, having a coordinated, considered and sophisticated response to Business Continuity Planning, Supply Chain Sustainability, new Government support and, quite frankly, a full-on review of cashflow and scenario planning in the face of adversity - isn’t easy!
But manage we have. Somehow.
Of enormous help was the guidance published by those that are supposed to know what they are doing. For example, when planning our response, we used McKinsey’s ‘COVID-19 Implications for Business’ guidance framework, especially Exhibit 3 'Immediate Actions Summary':
The beauty is in its simplicity, providing easy topics to run through and address. We used this in an extended full team meeting, seeking input from across the business and all disciplines. It's at times like these that a diverse and engaged team can make all the difference, throwing in different points of view and ensuring we look at things from all angles.
- So, we reviewed the impact of Coronavirus on our staff and partners, ensuring we help them keep safe and can work from home effectively.
- We appointed a ‘lead’ on Coronavirus, and agreed a structure around meetings and communications so we can keep everyone informed of our responses to new guidelines and business impacts.
- We assessed financial implications and focused on cashflow – so important for a smaller business but uber relevant for everyone – just ask FlyBe. And as new Government support packages were announced, we reviewed those too.
- Our review of stock identified a few areas where we needed a few more items and ordered them. Although we had already ensured our equipment levels were healthy just as soon as cities in China started experiencing lock downs.
- And of course we have revised the investment we make in marketing, because while our products and services have every relevance in a time of crisis, our view was that new sales would take a back seat while we all focused on planning and actions to mitigate the impact of the virus.
But there was one other section in the McKinsey framework, which I think wouldn’t have featured 20 or 30 years ago. That was section 7 ‘Demonstrate purpose: Support epidemic efforts where possible’.
For us, providing and supporting Access Control and Visitor Management services, means we have a very important and active role to play in helping clients respond to the impact of the virus and keep staff and visitors safe. So, we published a list of features in our software that can be used to tighten control over who is on your site and why, and crucially, how to add revised questions and criteria to ensure visitors are well briefed and safe to bring on site.
A bit like the cleaner at NASA whose job is to ‘put a man on the moon’, we really feel like we can make a difference and help organisations fight Coronavirus. Not just because we have clients at the front line, like the NHS and Public Sector, but also because we can help clients reiterate existing or new health and safety guidance, and take practical steps to protect visitors and staff, like these:
- Amend and manage extraordinary access rights and rules
- Amend data fields to include Coronavirus vetting questions
- Update inductions and site rules
- Add new messages (like hand washing) to badges and passes
- Bar companies and individuals
- Change visit confirmation emails with new instructions
- Add new alerts
It feels like we have an added purpose in the office, and so the Coronavirus crisis is both a risk and an opportunity. It's risky for all businesses as we head into more uncertainty and economic contraction, as well as rise to new challenges to meet our high service standards.
But its also an opportunity. To engage our staff and partners about the positive impact our products can have in times of danger and emergency. And, you never know, we might even have some enquiries from potential new customers too.
So, while the Coronavirus represents such an uncertain and concerning future, especially in the short term, it also offers us the chance to reframe what we are about as a business and why we are important.
As my team bed in at home, working normal hours and supporting clients remotely (which we are very used to doing), I’m proud to say, so far, my team and clients have coped admirably.
I wish every one of our clients and partners best wishes at this time, for their families and friends and for their colleagues at work.