As the Coronavirus rate rises around the country, localised lockdowns are likely to become more prevalent. Here the North East LEP’s Business Growth Director Colin Bell looks at what businesses can do to prepare.
While business owners may feel more confident about a localised lockdown having experienced a national one, it’s important to regularly review and update contingency plans. Let’s not forget, fines of up to £3200 can be levied for companies which don’t comply with the law and continuity is key to sustainability.
Here are five areas to help you mitigate risk:
1. Revisit your COVID-19 response and plan ahead
One of the most useful things that business leaders can do right now is revisit the company’s original response to the crisis and build lockdown scenarios into their business continuity planning. Seeing what worked and what didn’t enables contingency plans to be updated and improved.
A focus on cashflow is also critical. Reviewing payment terms, debtors, stock levels and more can all help place the business in a stronger position should tighter regulations be put in place. If you haven’t already done so, consider measures such as Bounce Back Loans or Crowdfunder North East as options to inject working capital into your business as well as negotiation time to pay your taxes with HMRC. You may also be eligible for the Government's lockdown grants available through Local Authorities in areas where local lockdowns occur.
And consider how you will operate, firming up the technology required to operate remotely and putting measures in place that will allow you to attract and service your customers in new ways.
2. Put your workforce first
A keen look at employment law is also required. Health and safety measures must remain a priority to keep staff and customers safe while infection levels are high.
Management teams should closely monitor the latest government advice, consider employees’ personal circumstances and if needed consult with unions and employee representative groups. Consider also the impact of COVID-19 on your own and team’s mental health and put ongoing support in place.
3. Check your supply chain
Earlier this year the global COVID-19 lockdown created lots of supply chain issues, halting production and increasing lead times. Right now business leaders have an opportunity to liaise with suppliers to understand their plans for continuity, consider alternative options and investigate whether products and services could potentially be developed inhouse. This work up front could keep your business ticking over later.
In addition, think about the potential effect on your capacity and how you can continue to operate and fulfil orders should some of your workforce show symptoms (which will naturally increase during winter months), test positive and be required to self isolate.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The importance of communication came to the fore when the national lockdown was first introduced. This hasn’t changed so have a comms plan ready to implement. This includes making sure you have the right technology, channels and messaging in place to keep staff, customers and third parties up to date at all times.
5. Keep real time data
As every business owner knows, there’s no substitute for real time data to inform decision making. Keeping an eye on the local infection rate will provide plenty of warning that a local lockdown might be imminent. This will then give you the time needed to put the appropriate measures in place, from remote working practices to furloughing, while the scheme remains in place.