Ready … Steady … Go!
Well, almost. First, we need to get ready and we do this by diligently referring to the rule book. Below are some fool proof instructions.
1. Take rulebook, insert in fireplace.
2. Light it.
3. If no fireplace, check insurance policy.
4. If all else fails, blame someone else.
Right, now that we have that out of the way, we’re ready to continue. Hopefully you have now received some guidance on how Level 3 is going to impact on your business (and your customers). This will allow you to roll out your “Alert Level 3 Plan”.
Level 3 Plan
Being new at this ourselves, we don’t profess to be experts on what an “Alert Level 3 Plan” looks like. And, quite frankly, I would be reluctant to trust anyone that tried to say that they were (Sir David Skegg and (soon to be Sir) Dr Ashley Bloomfield notwithstanding – this also leads to an interesting honorifics question around whether it will be Sir Dr Ashley or Dr Sir Ashley – note to self, stop going down rabbit hole).
As you have no doubt found out over the past few weeks, not being an expert on a particular topic doesn’t prevent anyone from espousing their (usually biased, ill-informed and generally pig ignorant) opinion on the matter at hand to the rest of the world (e.g. injecting Dettol to cure Covid-19 – yes really). Here’s our penny’s worth (5/6ths of a cent for you post-decimal babies but it just doesn’t sound the same – silly rabbit holes). We think your alert level 3 plan should address at least the following as regards Covid-19:
· What reopening/start up risks need to be addressed e.g. did you empty the fridge before you left for lockdown? (Yuck). Is there going to be maintenance required on equipment prior to start up?
· How to maintain social distancing between staff, and between staff and customers. This may include physical barriers, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and modification to current standards and procedures. You need to look at the business not just in the eyes of your customers but also from the perspective of any other person that you may engage with (e.g. stock delivery drivers, couriers etc.). From there you can identify and modify procedures for any required interaction with your various business contacts.
· What training is required for staff on new procedures etc. prior to the doors opening?
· Soap and hand sanitiser wash stations.
· A contact register for anyone that enters your premises (date, time, name, business, cell phone number etc.). This is to enable contact tracing in case of contact with a Covid-19 infection – a “grim reaper register” if you will.
It’s not just a matter of putting on the recycled dust mask and cleaning the gardening gloves. You need to approach this the same way you would for managing any significant risk in the workplace.
Document your plan and obtain feedback from your staff on the potential risks and proposed solutions. The more heads together here the better (but not too close obviously). You not only need to address the risks of exposure and transmission, but also any new risks arising from the measures designed to reduce the risk e.g. restricted vision from now having to wear PPE. Then you need to look at the risks associated with implementing the measures to mitigate the risks that arose from the measures introduced to mitigate the original risk identified (mind the rabbit hole!). I would offer to help write your level 3 plan but based on the last sentence that’s probably not a good idea.
The aim here is to assess what is required to be done in order to operate safely at alert level 3. If you can’t operate safely at this level, you may need to wait until alert level 2. You will also need to make a judgment call as to whether the cost involved in setting up for level 3 (assuming you can) is worth it for the (hopefully) two weeks that we will be there. If you can’t operate effectively at level 2, refer our liquidation option in an earlier newsletter.
If you are unsure of the possible risks, have a look at the Worksafe website (www.worksafe.govt.nz) for some guidelines. These are the people that have that most wonderful of business tools that is not available to us mere mortals; the benefit of hindsight. So best you do more than just pay lip service to what is required (these people have an attitude and know how to use it). On the brighter side, some of the new measures you may bring in now can also be used when we drop to alert level 2.
A Brave New World
No doubt you have gone in and given work a bit of a clean-up in anticipation of the staff returning (don’t forget the fridge – there may be a cure for Covid-19 growing in there). You have also freshly printed off your updated Level 3 Plan on flash colour paper to make it look important (with clear plastic cover if you’re really flash). You have also remembered to tell the staff to turn up if you have been closed for the past four weeks (remember they may have just spent a month on Netflix and YouTube so may be a bit disorientated with this “real world” thing). They have also just spent a month getting paid for just waking up in the morning so may struggle to understand this “real work” thing and require some motivation – more on this later.
Right – lights, camera, action! I imagine that the first hour or three will involve re-engaging socially and catching up on who did what, whilst doing the required training per your flash new plan. Remember not to be judgmental when you do see your staff after a month away. Don’t tell Johnny that your twelve year old has a better scraggily beard of bum-fluff than his, or ask anyone if they have put on weight. Especially don’t ask someone if they are pregnant when they are not (trust me, this does not end well – although in my defence who would have thought that a month of excessive eating with no exercise could look so similar? – darn rabbit holes).
We predict that we will likely have two weeks of trading at alert level 3 and then hopefully drop to alert level 2 (don’t hoist me by my own petard if I’m wrong here – remember I haven’t got a rulebook anymore and I’m too busy talking to the insurance company to spend time arguing). We imagine that we will then remain at level 2 for a considerable time, perhaps even until a vaccine is developed. How each of these levels pan out sales or income wise once lockdown starts to ease remains to be seen.
Once the level 3 doors open you may not be able to gauge the likely ongoing level of customer activity with any degree of accuracy. Initially we expect there will be a mad rush as people go to get all the stuff they barely survived without (iced coffee and KFC potato and gravy according to my in-house millennial experts – not for me to be judgmental, but I am). After this initial tsunami recedes and we roll into level 2, we expect life will settle in to a new pattern. It is not until then that you will be in a position to judge the “normal” level of ongoing economic activity in your new world. Once you are confident about the level of activity you will be in a position to review the level of staffing. In an ideal world this won’t change. However, sometimes much to my chagrin and dismay, apparently we live in the real world.
The Horrible “R” word (again)
Now that you are ready to go, you need to “gee up” the staff and get them ready. Hugs are probably out of the question at present, but you can have an upfront discussion about what the future may hold. I was going to say that you are not expected to polish the crystal ball, but the reality is your staff will think otherwise. Your staff will be anxious about their jobs and will need whatever reassurance you can give them.
However, now is the time to be honest with them – you can’t promise everything will be fine when you just don’t know. If you do make such promises, they may prove to be unpleasant words to eat. Promising everything will be fine when it may not be may also put the business at risk further down the track if you feel you can’t break a promise you should never have made. Painting yourself into a corner always results in a messy exit. Perhaps a cynic (which I am) may be forgiven for thinking that even the laziest sod you employ will now be seen to be very productive (this was the motivation bit I referred to earlier – OK I accept I may not have a career as a “motivational” speaker – whoops, rabbit hole again).
If restructuring is an option to be considered then lay out the possibility in general terms, along with your proposed course of action and timeline (if known) for key waypoints on this journey. You don’t need to go into detail; in fact it’s probably better if you don’t if you don’t know with any certainty at this stage. You won’t be blamed if you change tack later due to some looming tempest – you are the captain of this particular ship and the decisions are ultimately yours to make. Provided you act on a principled, prudent and reasonable basis you will be fine. You also have the added advantage that mutiny is an unlikely option in the current economic climate.
As we said in an earlier newsletter, you may need to make some staff redundant in order for the business to survive. Remember, be brave, go early and go hard. It must be the position that is made redundant, not the person. You must consult in good faith with staff about any redundancy proposal and consider their feedback on any such proposal. You can’t just stroll through the office like the grim reaper handing out DCMs (Don’t Come Monday). It is vital that you follow a good process here so, given the complexities involved and the cost of getting it wrong, we suggest you seek professional guidance.
I’m sorry to keep harping on about such a terrible topic, but it is now part of our new reality and needs to be addressed. If you are not going to be impacted by the coming downturn and can get though without losing any staff, then well done you. However, many other businesses will not be so fortunate so will need to address this new economic climate. If your business will be impacted but you choose to ignore this new reality then I have a copy of another manual that may be of assistance – The Finer Art of Deck Chair Arranging by H.W. McElroy. Mr Hugh McElroy was the Chief Purser of HMS Titanic.
How you approach the next few months will directly influence the final success (or not) of your business. As Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” Having a positive attitude will mean the difference between thriving and surviving. Looking for opportunity where others see adversity is a mind set you need to wake up with every morning. If its lemons dished up to you, have the best lemonade in town. Remember, the harder you work the luckier you’ll get.
As the key person in your business, others will look to you for guidance, inspiration and leadership. In order to do this, you need to look after yourself, not just diet, exercise etc. but also your mental health. In order to help keep other people’s cheese on their cracker, you need your cheese firmly on yours. Make sure you have a “go to” happy place so that you can recharge your batteries and get up and go again. And again. And again. Be that annoying Energizer bunny (finally, a rabbit hole you should go down!).
Family and friends will also be important. A shoulder to cry on or someone to give you a kick in the pants when you need it will help you get through. As well as emotional support you also need the sounding board (i.e. someone that is a bit more independent) to discuss matters with. Although this person may not have skin in the game, the upside is that their judgment is not clouded by the million other things flying around inside your head.
But Wait, There’s More
Well, no there’s not actually. This will be the final newsletter for a while from your current scribe.
Thank you for accompanying me in my journey down the rabbit hole. From cash flows to captains, manufacturing to magicians, and depreciation to dead ducks, it’s been an interesting journey. No doubt all the musings of a somewhat deranged mind. In any event, I hope you have found it both informative and some light relief amongst all the doom and gloom over the past few weeks. But it’s time to climb out of the rabbit hole (or go back down it – depends on your viewpoint I guess) and stop corrupting fair minds apparently. Right, that’s enough ranting from me. Now get out there and do it! Safely, of course.