Running a small start-up can be a balancing act at the best of times, but keeping your head above water during an unprecedented global pandemic is set to make life extremely challenging over the next few uncertain months. If your business is to survive in one piece until the coronavirus crisis blows over, the importance of having a comprehensive contingency plan cannot be overstated. Read on for some measures that you as a business owner should consider implementing straight away.

1. A Capable Second-in-Command

In the event that you are laid low with illness for an extended period of time, a capable number two will be worth their weight in gold. Providing you have not done so already, make sure that you appoint someone you trust to run things in your absence as soon as you can. This is a good precaution to put in place for the potential circumstance of you not being able to come into the office, either due to catching the virus yourself or if you have come in contact with someone and need to isolate. 

A good deputy will be someone that shares your own values and who strives for the success of the company. They need to be driven, and they also need to be well organized and adaptive. This is because taking them from their current role and making them in charge is a severe alteration of the norm, so you need to ensure that this person can deal with that and jump in and be effective. 

A second in command should also be a good communicator, as they’re going to be the person that the rest of your team will turn to. Thus, they need to be able to effectively give instructions and also listen to concerns and ideas. If you’re yet to delegate a second-in-command, do so swiftly, and be sure to inform them of this before they are needed, as this will help them prepare for this situation

2. Be Flexible with Sick Days

Encourage your employees to advise you at the first sign that they may be coming down with an illness. Let them know that they will not be persecuted for taking sick days. One member of the team getting ill will have a much smaller impact than if several are forced to self-isolate at the same time.

It’s important that you ensure that no one member of staff feels fear or is insecure about sharing their health status. This is because if they continue to work while infected, they could pass over the virus to your entire team and thus force your business to halt operations altogether, which can be extremely damaging. Staff can feel pressured to continue to work even if they’re poorly, so it’s vital that you communicate that it’s okay for them to prioritize their health, but it’s even more important to show that it’s okay. Snide remarks about staff who are off or a team going into disarray because they’ve lost one member will leave a bad impression and suggest to your workers that you’d rather them in the office than in bed recovering.

3. Prepare for Absences

Make sure that each member of your team is familiar enough with one another’s roles to fill in for each other in the event that the team is short of numbers for a while. Arrange a timetable where each member of staff gives a short presentation to the others detailing the essential skills and knowledge that allow them to perform their role.

It’s also a good idea to reduce your expectations when a team is short-staffed. A team of three where members are performing tasks that they might not be extremely comfortable with will not reach the same performance levels of a team of four where everyone is doing their specific roles. 

To ensure that you can continue to operate will with lower staff, it might be a good idea to provide additional training to aid the growth of your workers. By doing this, you can cover problem areas and ensure that there are no gaps in knowledge within your business, even if people fall ill and miss time off work. 
The best type of training to provide will be academic courses, as this will provide staff with the knowledge to perform a new role well. For example, if you operate a private medical facility, it might be a good idea to teach your nurses how to become a nurse practitioner, which is a more senior role.

4. Working from Home

One way to protect both your employees and your business is to allow your team to work remotely. Having a team that is not all in the same place may require communicating and working with the aid of remote team-working software.

Working from home has become the norm for many businesses and the preferred way to operate for many staff members. Be sure to offer this to your team, as some staff may become disgruntled if you’re forcing them into the workplace if they deem it unnecessary and irresponsible to do so. 

You also need to do what you can to provide the equipment everyone needs to perform their role as well at home as they did in the office. This might mean providing monitors, computers, laptops, headsets, as well as the software packages that your teams need to be effective. 

When your team is working from home, make sure to value communication, as people can begin to feel isolated via this work style. Hosting regular meetings can be a great way to ensure that there’s good communication between your staff, but you can also make use of various pieces of software that can allow you to better manage tasks when in a remote environment. Asana is a great example of that as it allows you to see what everyone is working on and then allocate tasks accordingly.

5. Stock Up On Hygiene Products

Do your best to get hold of bottles of hand sanitizer and place them around the workspace for everyone to use whenever they arrive at work. Make sure that surfaces are wiped down with antiseptic wipes on a regular basis to minimize the risk of the virus spreading.

This will help keep people safe and reduce the risk of your staff getting the virus, but the peace of mind this brings will also allow them to focus and better concentrate on their work. Adding in these precautions will also help your staff feel more valued too, as it demonstrates that you really care about their wellbeing, which will benefit staff retention rates. 

Furthermore, if your business is a commercial store, such as a retail or grocery store, then these hygiene measures are essential to ensure your customers feel safe as if they don’t, then fewer and fewer people will use your business. Cleanliness has now become a major factor when consumers choose who to purchase from, so ensure that you’re not disregarded due to not having these hygiene products and cleaning stations.

6. Take Measures to Combat Financial Uncertainty

If you are not familiar with the ins and outs of your insurance policy, it is a good idea to make sure that your employees are covered if they should fall ill while they are doing work-related travel. In the event of complete lock-down, check to see whether your business qualifies for any government-issues financial aid packages. 

Having a strong financial situation is going to really help you thrive and survive during the pandemic. There might be periods where your business will get no income due to potential lockdowns and restrictions, so make sure to budget around that and build contingency plans around this scenario. That’s why, if you can, it’s best to avoid financing your new start-up with loans and to instead do so with savings, as this will ensure that there are fewer expenses to pay, which can be crucial if you’re in a period where your business isn’t earning due to a lockdown or other restrictions.

7. Learn from the Experience

When this is all over, make sure that you remain vigilant in preparing your business for future crises. Devise a contingency plan for how you might temporarily deal without resources and manpower to help you pull through in the event of similar future occurrences.

It’s bad for businesses to make the same mistake twice, so ensure that you learn from what has worked during the pandemic and what hasn’t. It’s very rare that your business will not see any difficulties during its lifetime, so it’s important to plan for the next crisis and think about how you’re going to survive that.

If there is one thing that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us it is that our economy is on a more unstable footing than we had previously believed. Make sure you take the measures listed about and follow government advice. Hopefully, everything will be business as usual again before long.