Pandemic Panic – Is There Time for Small Business to Plan?

Feb 28, 2020 10:25:23 AM

In several countries, the impact of coronavirus is considered epidemic but the likelihood of reaching pandemic status meaning “all of the people” is appearing very likely.

While New Zealand is doing its utmost to keep the potentially deadly virus out, expert commentators are talking about when, not if, it gets here.

If you are in business, this means you, your supply chain, your customers and your staff will be affected directly or indirectly, so you should be preparing for coronavirus-related disruption now.

The New Zealand export and tourism sectors were the first to see their revenue impacted as Chinese borders closed and subsequent travel and workforce habits had a flow-on affect.

The recent downturn in stock markets and business confidence signals hard times ahead. Other indicators include retailers not receiving replacement stock, large scale event cancellations and the inevitable stalling of spending as we collectively wait to see what is coming next.

A continued negative impact on global business for some time yet means our New Zealand small business community needs to be prepared for external and internal business disruption.

Planning for inevitable disruption means continuity or contingency plans should be dusted off and revisited.

Where to start – is contingency planning essential?

Proper planning should be relevant, not volumes of pointless rhetoric. Every small business owner is consumed with enough tasks without adding to their workload, so keep your planning simple but still make sure you do plan. Coronavirus impacts people, which reminds us that people are our most valuable resource.

As Richard Branson has stated: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.

As business owners (Officers), we have a legislated duty of care to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of our workers is a top priority.

Talking to them about the potential impact on business due to health-related disruption will help them address their concerns and provide feedback - turn these matters into your action list.

Business continuity or contingency planning differs from emergency planning. Emergency plans cover ‘in-the-moment’ procedures in a crisis, such as a natural disaster. Business continuity planning includes how you’ll get core parts of your business up and running again, so plan for the worst.

While a downturn in business confidence, reduced customer spending and a slowing or stalling economy are inevitable, they will recover. So, being able to survive hard times and speedily recover as things improve will set you apart from competitors.

Small business owners have the advantage of being able to make decisions and act on them immediately. Think what the impact would be if any of your key staff, including yourself, was not available for an extended period.

Is remote work an option?

We are seeing increased cases of coronavirus-affected communities implementing self or enforced isolation. With your continuity planning, adopt a when, not if, mindset. If employees have devices available at home and reliable internet access, you may be able to continue with some of your essential work functions. Data security and file access protocols need to be thought about in advance and tested.

From an employee wellbeing perspective, ensuring that ready meals or grocery supplies can be accessed using online services may eliminate considerable stress and anxiety for your team members should isolation be imposed.

A guide to business continuity planning

These steps will help guide you in your continuity planning process. Expanded details related to this guide are available on the website.

Step 1: Identify key products or services

Step 2: Identify key internal people

Step 3: Identify key connections

Step 4: Identify essential equipment and supplies

Step 5: Consider relocation options

Step 6: Consider insurance options

Step 7: Identify who can run the business in your absence

Step 8: Keep contact details handy

Step 9: Back up important data

Step 10: Put it into practice

Get more information and expanded descriptions of these steps at