While we all deal with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting travel restrictions and social distancing recommendations from governments around the globe, we must keep perspective. The health and well-being of yourself, your family, your teams at work and their families are of utmost importance. I sincerely hope you are in good health as you read this.
At Withum, we have been consulting businesses on how to navigate disruptions for more than 45 years. By promoting cash conservation and proactive remote working technologies, our clients have been ahead of the curve when it comes to facing worldwide turmoil.
During times of disruption, such as this, when you may come to the realization that you and your business were not quite as prepared as you thought. Take a moment in the coming weeks to discuss “scenario planning” and business continuity with a trusted advisor. It will be a worthwhile investment of time to help your company come through the other side of this pandemic, and better prepare for future disruptions.
We see three pressing areas of focus that we direct our clients to consider.
Many industries are experiencing a disturbance in regular business, facing challenges related to supply chain hiccups and lack of inventory, or resulting from public area closures and travel restrictions.
Actionable recommendations to address these issues immediately include:
• Look for alternate sourcing beyond your current vendors if they are unable to deliver goods at this time.
• Conserve cash, planning for varying lengths of time of reduced revenue flow.
• Speak with your bank about increasing lines of credit to use as a safety net during a cash crunch.
• Extend payment terms with vendors through transparent discussions between both parties.
• Cut or delay non-essential expenses such as travel, entertainment and marketing.
• Review your insurance policies for business interruption coverage. Withum’s Forensics & Valuation Services team members understand the complexities associated with business interruption claims and recently published this article about it if you are interested in reading more.
• Keep team morale up. It is during times like this when effective leadership is required most. Your teams will look to you for an optimistic, yet realistic, outlook. They need to feel assured that you have a plan which will keep them and the business healthy.
Remote Work Environments
At Withum, we’ve invested heavily over the years in technologies that allow our team members to work remotely. Jim Bourke, Withum’s managing director of advisory services and HLB International’s global advisory and technology leader, is widely recognized in our profession as being at the forefront of technology in the workplace. Jim shares about the applications that can help get you and your teams set up rather quickly.
Microsoft Office 365 subscribers have access to Teams. Many aren’t even aware they have this tool included in their software suite, which can quickly make your remote working situation implementable. Teams allows you to create channels, which organize conversations and collaboration around specific topics. Additional capabilities include video meetings, instant messaging-style conversations, and file sharing.
Stay present by leveraging videoconferencing applications like WebEx, Zoom or Teams to continue office conversations and meetings. Our Digital Advisory team shares more about leveraging your Microsoft tools for the remote workplace in this piece. The article also offers practical tips regarding workingfrom home if you and your employees are not used to teleworking.
Having a plan in place for moving your business to remote-only workers will reduce disruption time and allow you to shift seamlessly out of the office. If you find yourself frantic to put these processes in place, don’t panic. The video conferencing apps and programs mentioned above are user-friendly and will be easily picked up by your team.
If you find that your team takes to certain remote programs, like Teams or Zoom meetings, don’t abandon them once the dust clears. Having video conferences over in-person meetings in the office can be more convenient for employees, and even more productive. Never fix things that are not broken.
Realistically, this pandemic and the resulting decline in business performance, stock markets and consumer confidence could lead us into a global recession. Nonetheless, keep an optimistic, long-term perspective and prepare for when you can restore optimal operations.
If we do have a recession, revisit how your business was affected during the last downturn in late 2008, and plan your recovery timeline accordingly. If you have a newer company, all of the above points apply. Either way, consider future investments in marketing to grab market share ahead of your competitors.
At the time of this writing, news channels are reporting that the novel coronavirus spread is seemingly peaking in countries where it was first identified. In the U.S., we may have a couple of months to go before we are through this. In the meantime, use these tips to prepare accordingly, in case of prolonged impact. Always remember to observe regular health and safety precautions to protect your people.
Feel free to visit Withum’s COVID-19 Resource Center to stay informed on the latest tax updates by state that may impact your business. Together, we can get through these challenging times.
Bill Hagaman is managing partner and CEO at Withum.