The Wall Street Journal and every other major news service is reporting that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) expects the Coronavirus to spread in the United States. The agency expects “sustained spread” and calls for efforts to “prepare for diagnosing and treating a large number of cases.” They caution it’s not a matter of if, but when and how bad. US officials say a vaccine is 12-18 months away. It’s been a major topic for both federal and state lawmakers, and it must be one for you both individually and as a business owner or leader.
This article is meant to provide business owners with some immediate steps to take to best prepare your organization and employees. Please share with anyone you think might find it valuable.
To begin with, this concern cannot be taken lightly. While pandemics in the past have fallen short of predicted spread, we have to believe that this is a credible threat to our continent with huge personal and business ramifications. This morning, I read that the first confirmed case in Brazil occurred from a man traveling in Italy. The amount of global travel done by North Americans to Asia and Europe dramatically increases our risk, regardless of who the travelers are. Because of the ease of spread, you or an employee might just need to be sitting near someone in a movie theatre.
While this sounds frightening, we can only control what we can control. The duty of a business owner and leader is to best prepare their people and company to deal with a serious situation. To that end, I’m offering three immediate steps to take for that readiness and preparation:
First: Identify what products and services are most and least at risk. Create a spectrum of exposures around the issue with a prevention, response and recovery for each. The more “hands on” your business is (restaurant, hospitality, retail, medical practice, real estate, etc.), the higher the direct risk. This identification should be done as a leadership team to brainstorm the most risk. Example: A restaurant might say the biggest risk is having a local outbreak that keeps people at home and not going out to eat for an extended period of time. While that peril might be impossible to prevent, a response and recovery might be to create a delivery service planned (with appropriate prepared marketing), to keep some revenue coming in.
Second: Now is the time for employee education. Don’t ignore this issue; everyone knows about it. Talk with your employees about best practices surrounding personal hygiene and health, especially while traveling. This isn’t about generating fear; it can be part of an overall best practice of safety that includes CPR, First Aid, and other emergency training. Bottom line: The better you train your employees, the more reduced your risk becomes.
Third: Your Business Continuity Plan MUST contain a plan for a pandemic, or in this case the Coronavirus. The consequences of a population spread as predicted would be damaging for any business; employees can be adversely affected, events might be cancelled, and the financial marketplace can be influenced (as we saw on Monday).
If you don’t have a Business Continuity Plan, then now is a great time to create one. At the very least, you can start by creating an organizational plan around this current Coronavirus crisis. A Business Continuity Plan is your organizational guide to survival of a peril that threatens your ability to operate. This crisis has already had massive financial and impact due to reduction in travel alone. If it spreads here as feared, every business can and might be affected. Being ill-prepared is negligent.
I hope you find these three steps of value. If you have questions or if you’d like to discuss your situation, email or call me at (360) 271-1592. We can discuss how to create a robust Business Continuity or crisis plan to deal with this and any other crisis situation that threatens your company’s ability to operate and your financial risk. By assessing your company’s Daily Risk, we can prepare a plan to minimize any loss.
Final thought: I fervently hope the prognosticators are wrong. This is an incredibly frightening situation for people. Even if they are not, as business owners and leaders we must be ready to prevent, respond, and recover from any crisis event. We owe that to our employees, clients, and communities. Let’s be ready for anything.
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