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Business Recovery: Defining Your New Normal – MNP


See the MNP COVID-19 Business Advice Centre  MNP Website

Introduction

COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge for business owners in Canada and around the world.

Practically overnight, commerce has slowed, restaurants and shops have closed and those who can are working from home. In the face of this challenge, organizations look to implement policies and practices to mitigate risks to their employees and their businesses.

While details of federal and provincial government guidance are sparse as they work to design, build and deliver new programs across the country, there are steps small- to medium-sized business owners can take now to secure their future.

With a pandemic situation that continues to evolve, it can be difficult to think about anything besides the immediate response and just “getting through.” However, all businesses must remain vigilant in their immediate response to managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to building a new future.

This crisis will eventually end, as all crises do. For the health of the Canadian economy, businesses will need to start the journey to recovery now. The key to recovery will be defining your new normal and taking near-term action to ensure you achieve it.

Actions & Considerations

Three Actions Small Businesses Should Take

Start Now to Define your New Normal

Response to recovery is a continuum and waiting for the “dust to clear” will be too late.

It is prudent for business owners to think through their crisis plans and ensure they continue to respond to existing, but more importantly, emerging risks. As this pandemic continues to evolve, businesses will experience disruption and will have to respond to challenges they may not have anticipated. For example, the transition to delivering goods or services via online models and rampant and aggressive phishing and cyber attacks exploiting vulnerable organizations.

Organizations must adapt – changing how your business operates is not a matter of “if” – the question is rather how quickly can you adapt and respond to remain relevant and profitable. Begin to position your business for recovery now while balancing the demands of crisis management. Create the vision for your “new normal” and how your business will function, grow and be profitable in this new environment.

To reposition your organization for a new future, consider the following:

  • How your business has changed and how must you adapt your internal processes and practices to both generate and deliver goods and services under a new business model.
  • Evaluate your markets and identify new customer segments. Then establish a plan for entering those markets and interacting with those customers.
  • Assess your workforce and if there is a need to bring on new and different skill sets or leverage other resourcing models such as contractors.
  • Understand the technology requirements associated with your new / evolving business. These include as e-commerce platforms, collaboration technologies to support virtual customer or team interaction, etc.
  • Determine compliance with changing government legislation and guidance related to COVID-19 and the impacts to your business (e.g. social distancing, limits on capacity and group sizes, etc.).
  • As you adapt, determine your financial needs, available government support programs or any (interim) financing you might require. Reach out to your trusted advisors to help you in making decisions to support the sustainability of your business.
  • Risk-proof your organization on an ongoing basis by regularly identifying emerging risks and developing strategies to manage those risk – you will continue to experience change and new risks so be ready to respond quickly.

Building on these considerations, define the vision for your evolving business and begin to chart a course of action to implement the necessary changes to your people, processes and technology to achieve that vision.

Access Reliable Information

Separating fact from fiction, and the news from the noise can be a significant challenge.

During a crisis, it is critical to ensure you are receiving your information from official sources such as local, provincial and federal authorities. When in doubt, wait. News agencies can err as they seek to get information out quickly.

Staying abreast of the latest official announcements can help you assess what they mean for your business, who can help, and how to act. Information changes rapidly during times of crisis. If you are unsure of how a government announcement will impact you, consult with your business advisor to ensure the information is accurate, complete, and considered in the right context.

The decisions you make today can have long-term implications: due diligence is critical in determining your next steps.

Build Your Team

The road to recovery will be uncharted territory for most businesses. Seek advice where you need it.

The first two actions help define a clear vision for the future of your business, understanding the world within which you are operating. Once that is defined, it is prudent to identify and build a team of specialists to support you and your business.

Data Governance

Issue:

Finances (Including Cash Management, and Tax Filings)

Considerations:

Review and maintaining cash management needs, loan payments, financing, etc.

Determine if you qualify for payment deferrals or government programs.

Government and financial institution recovery programs will likely require accurate financial statements and records.

Getting this prepared in advance can make the application process easier.

Specialist Team Support: 

  • Accountant
  • Business Advisor
  • Banker

Issue:

Insurance

Considerations: 

Review your insurance policies, including any endorsements and exclusions, with your broker and claims consultant to discuss anticipated loss exposures and relevant coverages.

Possible areas of coverage you should review for include:

  • Business interruption: Disruption at insured location causing loss of income
  • Contingent business interruption: Disruption to customers or suppliers causing loss of income
  • Extra expense: Loss mitigation costs related to disruption (e.g. Increased telecommuting costs)
  • Civil authority: Civil authorities prohibit access to insured location causing loss of income
  • Ingress / egress: Denial of access to insured location causing loss of income

 Specialist Team Support:

  • Insurance Broker
  • Insurance Advisor

Issue:

Accessing Various Government Support Programs

Considerations: 

A significant number of programs and support are being rolled out by all orders of government. Determine if you are eligible for any government assistance being offered and look to your business advisor to help navigate the various programs being offered.

Specialist Team Support:

  • Business Advisor
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Government

Issue:

Workforce and Employment Issues

Considerations: 

It is critical all employee matters are handled prudently to mitigate further financial liabilities and legal challenges.

Do you have a communications process in place to keep employees informed as the event evolves? This can be difficult as staff may be working remotely.

As you define your new normal, do you have the right skillsets around you? Are there existing employees you can re-deploy or re-train and are there other skills, such as IT, that you may need to bolster?

Should you need to layoff employees, it must be done carefully to remain compliant – governments have changed or amended employment standards and labour codes in response to COVID-19. Seek assistance from your legal advisor to work through your decisions and ensure you are not creating the potential for legal challenges or additional liability.

While many businesses are struggling, some critical and essential services and related industries are busier than normal. Any hiring must be done prudently to ensure long-term commitments are managed as the business normalizes. This might be an opportunity to explore models your business might not be used to, such as temporary contracts.

It is important to determine what supports are in place for employee assistance, including guidance on how to help employees navigate employment insurance and leverage available mental health support programs.

Determine how to stay in touch with employees, including the use of team collaboration tools to hold virtual meetings.

Where appropriate, maintain communications and contact with employees who may have been laid off and keep them apprised of programs and supports that are available to them. As the economy recovers, there may be an opportunity for them to return.

Specialist Team Support:

  • Labour Lawyer
  • Workforce Advisor

Issue:
Business Operations – Current, Short- and Longer-Term

Considerations: 

As you move from response to recovery, it is best to re-evaluate your current situation, with an eye to short-term and long-term steps you must take to position your business for the new normal.

Understand how your business has changed and what further changes are required to remain relevant in the market and profitable. Changes to the following might indicate broader shifts in your business requiring you to examine your business model and whether longer-term shifts are required to achieve your vision:

  • Customer-base and new or evolving markets, including moving into new jurisdictions or product / service offerings.
  • Network for delivering / distributing your products/services.
  • Adoption of technologies whether they are to support e-commerce or virtual collaboration amongst team members and with your customers.
  • Supply chain networks.
  • Workforce requirements, including both the required staff complement and the skill sets necessary to deliver under a new business model.

Undertake financial modelling to review your product mix, pricing, expenses and overall profitability.

Evaluate your discretionary spending with a focus on containing costs by reducing or eliminating discretionary expenditures and conserving cash.

Implement cash-flow planning that includes regularly monitoring collections and staying abreast of aging receivables and sales to customers struggling to pay on a timely basis. Evaluate opportunities to offer payment options to your customers, while still protecting the value of the receivable.

Model your workforce costs and burn rate by developing scenario projections based on short- and long-term opportunities and challenges.

Stay attuned to your customer needs throughout this period of disruption so you understand any challenges they are experiencing with your product / service and how you may need to evolve.

Reconnect with your suppliers to review their supply chain projections and whether they anticipate any further disruptions. Build the results of these discussions into your financial model to anticipate any additional adjustments you may be required to make. For example, consider whether you will have interruptions in your supply chain and for how long or whether you will have the ability to build up inventory to sustain any supply interruptions. Begin exploring alternative supply chains.Review your business’ physical and cyber security protocols in light of the sustained nature of the crisis. Remain vigilant in managing your cyber security and ensure your employees are: monitoring for suspicious requests, emails, texts, etc. being sure not to disclose critical or sensitive information; authorizing payments only with confirmation from an appropriate authority; not clicking on potential ransomware links. Uncertainty increases both your vulnerability to and the likelihood of cyber attacks. Don’t lose sight of also maintaining the physical security of your business and your workforce, as well.

Financial pressures can motivate employees and your business partners to perpetrate fraud. In a similar vein, ensure you regularly review transactions for accuracy and authenticity to ensure that only valid transactions are processed and complete billings and deposits are made.

Specialist Team Support:

  • Performance improvement consultants
  • Business Advisor
  • IT service providers


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