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Not every business will survive Covid-19, how to avoid falling by the wayside.

Learning the lessons from previous crises – such as the Financial crash of 2008 – many UK SME’s have been deploying short term survival action plans to secure immediate survival. As in 2008, order books for many have collapsed, uncertainty reigns and the period of uncertainty is unknown. What really is unprecedented is the package of support from the UK Government designed to bank roll business (love it or not!), until we move beyond the peak and we can move in quick succession to recovery

By the 3rd week of lock down, businesses would have already put cash to the forefront of their action plans, as in 2008, and focusing on improving cash flow in these difficult times. An excellent summary, below, by Steve Norgrove of Warwick Manufacturing Group highlights key considerations – useful as a checklist!

What really is unprecedented is the package of support from the UK Government designed to bank roll business (love it or not!), until we move beyond the peak or the virus and we can move in quick succession to recovery.

Following the Government advice of home-working where possible, social distancing rules applied at work and the support of furlough for employees, applying for grants/support where possible will have been rapidly deployed.

So, what next?

Short term priorities are in place, it is time to focus on next steps and building on a strong base.

These would include building Opportunities to fill the pipeline in 2-3 months’ time and focusing your people on creating value within the business in the meantime.

1. Opportunity considerations

  • How do we get product/services to current or new customers within the current rules?

  • Many Customers and decision makers will be homeworking, with lap-top and phone by their sides – call them. They are more than likely ready to take your call, ask them what their issues are and how you could help.

  • Understand their status, the constraints they are under, how their supply chain has been impacted – and how you could help

  • Of course, the UK Government Ventilator Challenge and rapid sanitising technology challenges should also be considered.

  • Call competitors and share learning, you may need to lean on each other during recovery.

2. Creating Value

The simple model below demonstrates how Value can be systematically built in any business whilst building and enhancing capability and reach, driving efficiencies and creating Growth.

Focusing resources not just on the “urgent” but on the “Important” will provide your people an outlet for looking beyond the current challenges towards a sustainable future.

Culture/Talent/Capability i.e. People considerations

  • Look through last years Reviews (usually rushed?) and catch-up with your key individuals and build real development plans

  • Set-up regular one-to-one meetings (weekly), especially if they are homeworking to provide support

  • Review Team working communications are in place – for example regular 15 minutes morning catch-up will speed the process and potentially eliminate hundreds of e-mails within the business

  • Remember isolated working, working under non-routine and sub-optimal arrangements, and attempting to cover for absences will lead to anxiety and stress for some people. Buddy arrangements, regular updates, and a regular check-in regime, both individually and in teams using a team-talk facility like Skype or MS Teams, can help reassure people, make them feel more in touch and allow them to offload concerns

Business Systems / Review

  • Ensure your continuous improvement systems are still effective with the new working environment, see my post SME Productivity is the strategic challenge.

  • Review your KPI’s – are they still relevant. You may want to consider temporary KPI’s to manage the current situation

  • Request feedback on IT support and system performance, and fix it

  • Review “back burner” projects, that may make a difference. Such as Operational / Manufacturing sustainability and waste elimination, reuse/repurposing/recycling and disposal of products

  • Process improvement and waste elimination

  • Capital project review – back to the drawing board perhaps

Market/Channel Growth and product Extension/development

  • Given likely constraints on cash plans may need to be reviewed at this time.

Brand development

  • What are you and your business doing to support our nation to work through these current times – and how do your brand values reinforce your efforts?

  • Internally, are your actions and those of your employees consistent with your brand values – if not change now.

  • Ensure you reach out to all your stakeholders offering the support you can provide and build collaborative relationships of mutual support

Scalable growth / acquisitions

  • Developing your strategy in enhancing these Value creators with help protect your business and prepare for recovery

  • Establish communication channels with Customers and suppliers to understand the landscape in your industry and adjacent to you

  • Be prepared to move fast as and when market opportunities arise

Whilst it’s difficult to think about future timing in the present uncertain environment, driving “short term” actions, adapting your business to current circumstances and ensuring an on-going focus on Value Creation will help best position your business and your people for the future. Next step – plan for recovery….

Article by Mel Mula at ConsultAvila, first published in March 2020

At ConsultAvila we are a team of experienced professionals who work closely with our clients to solve complex business problems. We have a track record of delivering SUSTAINABLECHANGE at pace in manufacturing companies. Our principal offerings are: Business and Operations strategy - from design to delivery; Business turnaround and programme recovery; End to end supply chain restructuring and cost reduction; and, Integrated business planning and inventory optimisation.

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