There is a quote from Blackadder which sort of sums up how many people are feeling as we live through a world impacted by the COVID-19 virus.

“This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you got a moment, it's a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'. A large crisis requires a large plan. Get me two pencils and a pair of underpants”.

COVID-19 is a large crisis and you may decide to follow Black Adder’s advice but I’d argue you’d be better off with a large plan than two pencils up your nose and your underpants on your head!

It is essential every one of us has a plan of how we will survive and recover from this crisis. If you don’t have this plan already, here are some ideas to help you design your very own crisis management roadmap.

Read more: Irish in America must battle to keep communities alive despite COVID-19

Here’s how to get started:

Determine what your risks are

The first thing you need to do is not panic and calmly carry out a risk assessment for your business. You need to identify:

  • The threats your business will face
  • How will your business functions and processes be interrupted
  • The vulnerable elements of your business that will be impacted
  • The potential financial costs to your business
  • Who should be in your crisis management team?

Identify the business impact

A business impact analysis (BIA) is a way to quantify the potential impact of a business-disrupting crisis.

Working your way through a BIA can uncover a whole range of potential effects, including:

  • The products and services within each department that will be impacted
  • Understanding how those products and services are delivered and what the repercussions are if we were unable to deliver each of them
  • Agreeing the recovery times for resuming each product and service, i.e. during an operational disruption, how quickly we need to get that product or service back up and running.
  • Identifying the minimum resources required to continue the products and services during operational disruption.
  • Being clear about who your critical alliances are during this crisis and how you can work together with them to weather this storm.

It can also highlight:

  • Any possible negative customer feedback
  • Reputational damage
  • Reduced or delayed sales income
  • Increased expenses as a result of the impact the crisis

A BIA is an important step to make sure your business is not operating in a dark panic and is considering every angle of this threat. It can also help to make a business case to anyone who doesn’t see the value of crisis management plans.

Plan for action

Once you know the risks and the impact they have made or can make on your business it is time to plan to respond to these threats.

You should assemble a crisis management team even if it’s just another person this is a positive step. Responding to the impact of any crisis is no fun on your own.

Ideally, this team should include individuals from multiple disciplines within your business to develop your crisis management plan. Sales, financial and marketing people, often have differing viewpoints, yet a compromise resulting from these differing opinions can and should be represented in the final plan.

Create your plan – Write it down

Your BIA should help you identify an effective contingency for every risk your business faces or at least a course of action you can take.

Once you have these, write them down, allocate ownership, and set a timescale for completion.

For certain risks, you may also need input and support from outside parties, such as contractors and partners that work closely with your business.

As you work your way through the plan, keep in mind any relevant regulatory requirements, and determine how you will continue to meet them, even in the midst of a crisis.

Make sure everyone understands the plan and their role

Plans that fail or lie in a drawer are usually those that no one understands or believes in. Your crisis plan and roadmap to success out of Covid19 needs to be a document that is read and understood by all in your business.

Everyone needs to understand their role in the plan, what is required of them, and the ramifications if they fail in that responsibility.

Your Crisis action plan should be in plain English and readily available to everyone, this can help mitigate stress as you ensure everyone has the information they need and that they are trained to carry out their part in the plan.

Don’t let your plan sit in a drawer

Once your plan is written and approved and has been tested, be sure to revisit it frequently. It’s vital to keep the plan up to date, especially as employees join or leave the company, new technologies are implemented, and any other changes occur.

One final piece of advice I would give is not to forget your customers in this plan.

People remember those who kept in touch or helped them in difficult times. This is not the time to become insular, your company’s brand is directly dependent on timely communications with customers.

So talk to them in whatever medium is most suitable. Ask them how they are, stay in touch but more importantly tell them what you will do for them in this crisis.

I wish you luck in your efforts and remember no plan is perfect.

As Blackadder also said avoid the pitfalls of Olaf the King of all the Vikings,

“Who ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside."

Read more: Lockdown blues diaries - sanity and some seriously lazy cooking

* John Joe McGinley Glassagh Consulting April 2020.

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