What does all this mean for business?
While long-term effects cannot be predicted with certainty, it’s safe to assume the economy will be impacted considerably. Travel restrictions are sure to have a major impact on oil consumption, and as we know, that has long-reaching effects. We are already seeing panic buying in Australia, Germany, Austria, Singapore, Hong Kong, and most recently New York City, where people are wiping out the shelves in grocery stores in preparation for a potential quarantine order.
During the coming weeks, we are likely to witness a host of increasingly-restrictive preventative measures taken by governments and businesses around the world, to mitigate the spread of the virus. What will it look like?
Flight cancellations to high-risk areas. Delta and American Airlines, for example, have both recently suspended flights to Milan, Italy’s financial capital. British Airways has cancelled multiple flights, including those between Heathrow and New York.
Travel Restrictions. In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security has implemented a travel ban on non-citizens who have been anywhere in China recently. U.S. citizens, by contrast, cannot be turned away at the border, but they can be ordered into quarantine to be monitored, at present for up to two weeks.
Mandatory Quarantine. Generally, this means most everyone stays indoors. You are confined to your house (or cruise ship) for a period of a few days to two weeks, depending on your level of risk.
What can you do?
Regardless of the type of business you operate, the best thing you can do is prepare. In the event of a large-scale outbreak (which now seems a foregone conclusion), the U.S CDC’s Interim Guide for Businesses and Employers suggests companies assess their essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on their services or products. They also encourage companies to identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of their operations if needed.
For those business that can operate virtually, we suggest preparing to do so for the foreseeable future. A vaccine (and perhaps a cure) is forthcoming, but it will take months to gain approval and roll-out.
Develop and write a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Address issues such as employees working from home and what you expect from them during this time. Put it in writing and ensure everyone understands the plan.
Have a plan for your employees to access internet and phone from home. Will they use company devices or their own? Will they be reimbursed if they have to use their own devices?
Put important company files into the Cloud, if they aren’t there already. Ensure your employees can access these files from anywhere. Think Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
Cross-train employees to perform critical duties so business may continue even if certain employees are absent.
If you don’t utilize a video conferencing application yet, get one and set it up. Practice using the technology now and train your employees how to use it. You don’t want the first time you try to get an entire department on a video conference call to be the first time everyone is working from home. Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts are all viable options, depending on features required.
For anyone who might think it’s too complicated to run a company from numerous remote offices, I assure you - it’s not. We are completely virtual here at Kinetic Bridge, and only meet once a week because we like each other. We’ve transacted deals while in other countries and states; on planes, boats, in cars, and even on the beach. I’ve personally set-up and run business operations in the middle of the desert in a war zone. The technology to work remotely anywhere in the world is available. Take advantage of it and prepare now, before things get hectic.
Remember, you can’t control what happens out there, but chance favors the prepared.
If you’d like additional guidance on how to prepare your company for the pending Coronavirus outbreak, send us an email to schedule a consultation.