There is no global playbook to manage a situation like we’re experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic. While every business is different and is dealing with unique implications and repercussions, we are all facing some common challenges. There are certain things that every business needs to consider and address during a time like this. We’ve put together a few recommendations that we hope you find helpful as they may apply to your organization.
Continued Communication with Customers
No doubt you have already pushed out some type of message to the people who use your products and services about how COVID-19 is – or is not – affecting your business and your ability to deliver. (If you haven’t, get on that pronto!) However, continuing that line of communication is very important. This is not the time to go silent and assume that your key contacts know what you’re up to or how you may be pivoting over time. Consider these points:
- Don’t assume you had your contacts’ undivided attention when they reviewed your initial messaging. Chances are they are just as distracted as you are right now.
- The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve on a daily basis, and your communication should as well, requiring you to drive updated messaging to your most important audience.
As you consider your messaging to customers, be concise in your language and hit on the key points you want them to remember at each stop along the way – two or possibly three points max. Be straightforward and clearly address the ways in which your relationship with the customer may be changing, taking care to explain the rationale behind those changes.
Don’t Forget Vendor Partners
We all know it’s easy to focus on those who “pay the bill.” But it’s also very important to be in contact with those suppliers and vendors who help your business run. They need to know where you stand and what you are doing to manage your business during this time. As with clients, communication should be forthright and transparent. This will help your partners best plan for the days to come and continue to be valuable resources for you in the near-term.
Be Ready for Remote
Turning from external considerations to internal ones, most businesses have implemented some level of working from home (WFH) for at least part of their staff. This is not something for the faint of heart. In order to create an effective WFH environment, there are a lot of things that have to come together. Our team has moved to a remote plan now. And while we certainly are not experts, I believe we have arrived at some solutions that can lead to a successful WFH structure:
- Planning. Moving to WFH does not happen on the fly. It requires regular communication with the entire workforce to set expectations, consultation with IT support to weigh and establish tools, testing and, as mentioned above, appropriate messaging to stakeholders.
- Proper technology. This varies based on the requirements of your business, but some standard productivity tools apply in most situations. We’ve found the following tools to be helpful so far:
Conferencing/videoconferencing — Zoom (Works really well, but be sure to set an agenda ahead of time.)
Chat and project collaboration — MS Teams (Comes with Office, so you probably already have it.)
Filesharing — Dropbox (Great for sharing across platforms.)
Password management — TeamPassword
VPN/remote desktop — Cisco AnyConnect
Just keep in mind that most of these types of tools require licensing, and some require licensing for multiple users. To complicate things, every individual on your team may have different circumstances in their WFH environment – Mac vs PC, varying levels of internet speed access and router capabilities, and varying comfort levels using technology, not to mention your organization’s own online security policies and firewalls. Work with individual team members as much as possible to solve any issues.
- WFH environment. One thing that’s easy to overlook is the fact that many employees don’t have appropriate workspaces at their home, unless they’ve worked remotely or freelanced. Encourage carving out a dedicated space, even a small one, that can be used for computer equipment, paperwork, office supplies, notetaking, etc. Quiet space with a closed door is ideal, and an appropriate background for videoconferencing is important (folks prefer not to see your dirty laundry or kids playing video games behind you).
- Don’t forget about personal interaction. WFH can get lonely for some and can be very stressful for others. It is important for team members to be able to maintain a sense of interpersonal connection and enjoy the kind of banter and interaction with their colleagues that they do in the office. Regular team check-ins or meetings via videoconference can be very helpful to maintain a level of direct collaboration and problem-solving. But don’t forget about having fun together. Our group created an MS Teams chat channel called RR Water Cooler. This is a fun space for personal commentary only. No work chat allowed, just funny stories, family updates, or TP shortage memes. (Keep it clean and respectful, of course.)
- Flexibility. Yes, business must continue, but it may have to do so in new ways. Be open to creative solutions, admitting when something’s not working, and allowing some room for people to get comfortable with new standards. A little empathy and patience go a long way during stressful times – a good thing to keep in mind on both a professional and personal level.
Have ideas or input that would be helpful for others to know during a time of business crisis? We’d love to hear from you. The Reuben Rink team is ready to get back to “normal” arrangements, but in the meantime our continuity plan allows us to continue to deliver our services in full. Let us know how we can be of help to your business!