Business Contingency Planning – Need Help?

Mar 12, 2020 | Consulting, Education

By Niki Tudge

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By now, we are all well aware of the impact of the coronavirus. Things are changing rapidly, on a daily, if not hourly, basis. First off, let’s not panic! But let’s also recognize that it may get a little rough and rocky for a while. No one knows for how long, but in the meantime, stay informed, review facts, verify information and then take action accordingly.

Depending on where you live and your operating business environment, you may not be impacted at all, or you may only experience some small inconveniences. Some small business owners, though, may find themselves having to rethink how they do business for a few weeks, or longer. As I said, no one knows.

Below, I have listed a few points for you to consider to help you plan for all contingencies:

  1. Stay in tune with your local authorities regarding the risk factor based on where you live and also on your personal situation in terms of health, vulnerability, etc.
  2. Gather information from your local, State and Federal governments so you can make the most informed and safe decisions.
  3. Follow recommended protocols for contact with other people. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published this document, Protect yourself and your community from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses like coronavirus disease 2019. Everyone has a role to play in getting ready and staying healthy, which gives recommendations on how to prepare and stay safe.
  4. Consider your business model and how you deliver services, so get remote- or virtual- friendly wherever possible. In other words, make use of technology to sustain your business services during these uncertain times. Here are some options:
    • If you run group classes and work in a small enclosed area, consider taking classes on the road where you can manage your exposure and proximity to people.
    • Consider conducting virtual lessons via webcam so you can continue to coach and provide feedback to clients. Coaching can be done on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. Software such as GoToMeeting, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Hangouts Meet, and even Facebook Messenger can be used. These all give you the ability to work remotely while interacting both audibly and visibly with clients.
    • If you are entering clients’ homes, prepare in advance how you intend to do this. Communicate your expectations to clients beforehand on how you plan to conduct your arrival, departure and interactions with them.
    • Communicate with your clients as to how the current situation will impact your business and your services. Thank them for their patience and ask for their support. Over communicate if necessary so you maintain contact with your clients, in particular those who may have prepaid.
    • Consider revising your refund policy if you have to postpone or cancel sessions.
  5. Batten down the hatches. If the business environment gets even more tough and you find yourself fraught with cancellations, you will have to look at how you fiscally conduct business. It is never a bad time to review all your expenditures and look at how you can tighten your expenses. When income levels drop, controlling and maintaining expenses can be the difference in the survival or failure of a business. Consider the following:
    • Be prepared to understand and take advantage of any stimulus package elements implemented by the government. Stay well informed and know what you can access, and how.
    • Review all your current expenses and be honest about what you are spending and why.
    • Stop purchasing or defer expenses if they are just not necessary.
    • Make monthly payments on larger expenses so your cash flow remains intact.
    • Review your employees’ and contractors’ roles. Meet with them and generate ideas on how you can sustain the business model during this challenging time. Be honest with them, solicit their feedback and input so they are part of the decision-making process and are committed to supporting you and the business until the situation improves.
      1. Understand what your fixed expenses are vs. your variable expenses:
        1. Fixed expenses are those that you have to pay irrespective of whether you have 1 client or 100. Items such as a mortgage, insurance etc. are considered fixed.
        2. Keep variable expenses in check. Buy smaller amounts and keep less stock on the shelf. You can even go to a “just in time” system where you only buy when you need it.
        3. Don’t purchase luxuries, e.g. new uniforms or branded apparel.
        4. Don’t stop marketing. Your marketing seeds sown today will bloom in several weeks and months. If you stop your marketing now your leads months down the line will dry up. But do look at how you market and what you are marketing. If you have more time but less income, then engage in marketing activities that require time and not money.
      2. Consider wider legal issues, such as whether:
        1. You have a right to require staff to work from home.
        2. Employees can be required to use annual leave for relevant absences.
        3. You will allow requests for time off if an employee has a family member who has contracted the coronavirus or is self-isolating.
        4. Will special leave for emergencies be paid or unpaid? What is your policy?
        5. You are eligible to apply for subsidies or financial support from national authorities if there is a business shutdown due to the virus, or a reduction in capacity due to sickness.

About the Author
Niki Tudge PCBC-A AABP-CDBT AAPB – CDT is founder and president of the Pet Professional Guild, The DogSmith, a national dog training and pet care license, and DogNostics Career Center, and president of Doggone Safe. She has business degrees from Oxford Brookes University, UK and has achieved her DipABT and DipCBST. Recently, she has published People Training Skills for Pet Professionals – Your essential guide to engaging, educating and empowering your human clients, Training Big for Small Businesses, and A Kid’s Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog, and co-authored Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and their People.