Apple Growth Partners

We Are in This Together Business Leaders: Rapidly Strengthen Your Organization for COVID-19 in 11 Steps

“Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill

So how was your week? No, that’s not a tone-deaf question on my part, it’s actually my subtle attempt at sarcasm. But here we are, and we will all get through this together. And we will be stronger for it. I loathe discussing problems and LOVE discussing solutions. There is so much we can all do right now to support each other, from our loved ones to our employees to our clients and customers and stakeholders.

One could say disaster preparedness is in our DNA at Apple Growth Partners. We’ve been around so long (since 1943) that we’ve lived through floods, a fire, a prolonged power outage, just about everything, and now we’re adding “pandemic” to the list. This crisis will force every business to deeply think through how to be nimble for situations whereby “coming together to work in person” is neither a possibility nor recommended. Also, after learning how COVID-19 allegedly began, I’ve reached the sobering conclusion this is possibly not the last pandemic I’ll see in my lifetime. So, let’s all discover what we can do right now to be “as ready as possible” for the next many weeks/months of COVID-19, and maybe more importantly, the next “curveball” of life. We can make improvements that prepare us for….well….just about anything:

Things you can do right now:

  1. All Employee contact tests: Do you have every employee’s cell phone number and email address? If yes, do you have that contact information sorted by working groups where communication to one group may be different than communication to another group? In times like these, group texts are a must, even a little better than email, for urgent messaging.
  2. Internal messaging to employees: Communicate, communicate, communicate, and safely assume employees are incredibly frightened. If ever there was a time to take charge and show employees how much they are loved, this is it. Be authentic about the situation, but also be positive and let the employees feel your permanent vigilance toward the situation. The employees are afraid for theirs and loved ones’ health, so find ways to ease their concerns over things over which you have control. Consider “not counting” Sick Days for a while, and compensating employees if out sick (or not sick but caring for loved ones) for prolonged periods, and communicating that as such, right now!  Most importantly, communicate to your staff RIGHT NOW any plans you have for the “if/then” scenarios. Remember, they are worried beyond belief right now. Be sure to inform employees to stay home if they are feeling sick—communicate that message companywide, no exceptions here.
  3. Brainstorm “if/then” scenarios and develop a simple plan with clear authority and roles. Be proactive, have automatic responses to “if” scenarios. What will you do if an employee becomes infected and goes home? Hopefully you will disinfect. Who will disinfect? How large of an area? Close down for a day? What does the current law require? Remember, you must keep the affected employee’s health condition private. Develop a plan for cleanliness with lots of “if/thens” and then…#2 above….COMMUNICATE IT TO THE EMPLOYEES.
  4. Contact your attorney: There are lots and lots of legal risks and implications with every facet of this—have your legal counsel be a part of your “if/then” plan.
  5. Review your insurance policy with your agent to determine what remedies may be available to you for economic harm from the pandemic. AGP stands ready to help you navigate your policy and communicate with your insurance provider.
  6. Any important documents that are still in paper form should be scanned into the main network.  If your employees do not have tools to operate remotely (laptops, dual monitors, etc.), consider purchasing these immediately (if supplies are available, if not, purchase when you can). Pretend that the government will force everyone to stay home. Think from that mindset. Begin using a collaboration application like Slack or Microsoft Teams to bring your company together in virtual groups (something beyond just email).
  7. Allow employees the option to work remotely, if that is possible for your business. Remote work brings about other “hackworthy” challenges to your IT network, so be sure to work closely with your internal and external IT sources to be sure your IT risk is managed for remote work. 
  8. Have backup plans in place for both people and supply. What will you do if half of your employees cannot perform work for a prolonged period of time? Do you have a backup plan if important suppliers and vendors cannot perform? Take a close look at your supply chain allocation and aim to manage supply constraints by group (we can help).
  9. Consider prohibiting employee air travel, both domestic and international, for a set time.
  10. Hand washing, of course. But practice social distancing, and cutoff risk of spread by staggering lunch breaks, splitting up shifts, splitting up departments. These are physical separations only, leverage technology where you can to continue collaboration.
  11. And now that you’ve communicated internally (#2), now it’s time to communicate your plan of action EXTERNALLY to your stakeholders, customers, vendors, everyone affected. They want to hear from you and know you are boldly confronting this challenge.

And let’s all take a deep breath and remember that employee and employee family health is the priority. Everything else can wait, everything else is secondary. And truth be told, everything else will fall into place, but only if we are courageous, calm, and work our plan.

Let’s do this!

All my best,

Chuck Mullen