How to Navigate and Protect Your Business for a Smooth Transition
As Virginia starts a phased reopening by easing “stay at home restrictions,” businesses need a well-thought-out transition plan. Your plan should take into consideration not only your employees’ and customers’ health and safety, but also fiscal stability, strategic direction, and technology. This multi-layered plan must address regulations, the environment, and internal communications as well as the emotional well-being of your employees. Flexibility is critical, and your business will need to be positioned to respond to a changing landscape as the situation evolves.
When devising your plan, consider these pieces of advice.
Prepare for the Physical Workplace
Give your office a post-pandemic makeover! Normalize the “6 feet rule” in the office and consider providing the baseline of PPE such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
Regularly clean the worksite and follow the CDC guidelines. Consider hiring an industrial cleaning company or ask your existing professional cleaner about their standards.
When planning the return to the office, consider:
Flexible schedules to include part-time in the office and teleworking
Create odd/even workdays in the office
Stagger start and end times
Designate days for specific work to be completed
It is important to note that doing everything possible to make the workplace clean demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a safe environment. This will build confidence and reduce the tension employees may have about returning to the workplace while COVID-19 concerns continue.
Focus on Internal Communications
Communicate your organization’s policy explaining the protocol. Transparency is key; include the thought process of how and why you devised the policy.
Make sure the policy is easily and readily accessible both online and in the workplace.
Survey your employees regularly to understand their main concerns and that their voice is valued (i.e. survey monkey, calls, focus groups).
Build a desire for workers to return to work and explain why especially if employees are successful at teleworking.
Keep employees engaged and mentally healthy. An example could be collaborating with a local gym for virtual yoga classes.
Over communicate the safety protocols as the workforce re-enters the physical workplace. Employees will feel secure knowing management has considered federal guidance and is establishing procedures to develop a culture of safety.
Make sure internal controls continue to be practiced especially in the remote working environment.
Investigate new ways to accomplish signature and approval responsibilities.
Evaluate how receipts have been handled in light of “working-at-home.” Who is proofing cash receipts? How are deposits made and who makes them?
Continue to communicate the controls and review of policy requirements.
Review by-laws for borrowing/banking transactions requiring board involvement.
Ensure all bank reconciliations have been prepared and company credit card receipts have been documented.
Make sure all mail has been reviewed and time-sensitive items have been handled.
Determine a rotating schedule on personnel to ensure there is at least one person in the accounting department who can be physically present the majority of the week.
Take your ledger to the cloud (i.e. QuickBooks Online or remote access).
Establish Fiscal Stability
Continue to forecast cash flow and report out with your team weekly.
Run various forecasting scenarios to reflect potential best and worst-case scenarios.
Rebuild your operating cash reserve. If you recently took shortcuts, document where you mitigated risk. It is easier to remember now than when you are being audited.
Monitor PPP forgiveness and everchanging rules for new SBA loans.
Develop a strategy to: improve liquidity, build working capital reserves, and access credit facilities. There is no guarantee there will be an additional aggressive stimulus package.
Document Lessons Learned
Do your post mortems. What did you learn that would have been helpful had you put it in place beforehand? Can you do it now and be more prepared if/when we are forced back into lockdown?
Record your organization’s strengths and build action steps around weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
Position for Success
Evaluate business partnership and merger opportunities to ensure the relevancy and strength of your organization.
Consider potential alternative revenue streams. Work with your team and board to identify innovative and creative strategies that are mission-aligned to retain your organization’s relevancy and success.
Bring new thought leaders to the table to help reposition your organization in innovative ways.
Consider a mini-board retreat to reevalute and modifiy your strategic plan.
TECHNOLOGY & OPERATIONS
Understanding Your Technology
Survey management and staff to identify issues with technology and processes; record these issues (small or large – either may cause bigger problems).
Evaluate your relationships with your vendor partners. Ask yourself:
Can they support technology changes?
How will we be impacted if they go out of business?
Will my business have the rights to continue using software provided by the vendor?
Regularly review your information security and technical risks. With malicious activity on the rise, risks need to be addressed by a combination of policies, technology, manual controls, training, and knowledgeable support staff.
Plan for Change
Be prepared to address new customer and partner expectations.
Re-consider new technology that has been put off that may help stabilize operations. Evalute the short and long-term benefits of the technology changes. If choosing to upgrade, be patient when training employees and remember this is a huge change for all involved.
Think outside the box when resolving issues or ways to increase efficiencies. Even if you are not ready to make changes now, do the research so you are prepared to react when needed.
About the Author: Warren Whitney Warren Whitney is a results-oriented management consulting firm based in Richmond, Virginia who is dedicated to serving privately held and nonprofit organizations in four areas: Strategy, Finance/Accounting, HR, and IT.