Prevent your business from slowing down

Mansoor Sarwar, Regional Director at Sage Middle East highlights the importance of contingency planning and shares top tips that would help businesses from slowing down

Mansoor Sarwar, Regional Director at Sage Middle East

Contingency planning has become a significant consideration across businesses worldwide to avoid facing economic recession or challenges. There will be times when you’ll have a drop in both your number of customers and revenue. While it may keep managers awake at night, there is much that businesses can do now to prepare for operational resilience.

To help your business, here’s some workplace advice focusing on four areas with actionable recommendations so your teams can continue operating no matter what’s happening in the world:

Work from home policy
If your business uses cloud technology, your employees can work from the comfort of their homes in the event of business disruptions, and you can rest assured that your people will stay productive. Your finance team, for example, will be able to stay on top of managing cash flow and invoicing by accessing accounting software even if they’re not physically in the office.

Amid global events, many businesses around the world recognise that flexible work systems are beneficial.

Some 82% of employees associated with organisations offering flexible work options say that they’re more productive, while 58% say it improves job satisfaction.

The best policy is one where a culture of working from home is acceptable for employees and is a practical alternative to keep your business going.

  • Implement remote working strategies: Consider the need for a work-from-home plan for those areas of your business that can provide support remotely. Part of this could be to adopt cloud computing – and it doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. Having your data stored in the cloud rather than individual devices means information can be accessed anywhere if you have an internet connection. Cloud computing enables your employees to work when and where they need to. You may also encourage employees to take their laptops home in case the business, office complex or business district has to close for whatever reason. Essentially, you need to equip your employees to work wherever they find themselves – in the office, at home, or even out on the road.
  • Put the right tools in place: Do you have the right tools to ensure all employees can continue to function if they cannot make it to the office? Do they have access to laptops, work phones and adequate internet connectivity?

Technology is essential to ensure your people stay connected in all situations – not only with the company but with your customers too. It will guarantee that work can continue in real-time and collaboration can take place across functions seamlessly. In the very short term, if you haven’t already adopted cloud computing, tools like shared file service Microsoft OneDrive or the chat/meeting tool Microsoft Teams are the best way to go. These will probably be part of your existing Microsoft Office subscription.

  • Business travel: Travel of any kind, including freight transport, can be affected. Due to various reasons, you may have considered travel bans within the business, which for sales teams, can be a severe blow. However, the same technology that enables remote working can support them to continue doing their jobs via virtual meetings. Unfortunately, there’s very little that can be done to get around freight transport and other logistics problems. Still, you can ease the situation by ensuring your suppliers and customers are in-sync with what’s feasible under the circumstances. Check your existing contracts for clauses that might deal with such issues to work out where you stand legally.

Work advice and communication
Keeping your people connected, engaged and updated is critical when it concerns business continuity. Having the right mechanisms in place and using them at the right time is crucial to ensuring employees are calm and confident about what they should do.

You also need to keep lines of communication open with your customers, partners and suppliers. Let them know what they can expect of you and vice versa.

  • Establish communication channels: Make sure you put in place channels that allow you to send written and mobile updates in time-critical emergencies. For your employees, consider introducing a teamwork hub that combines group chat software with collaboration tools to enable teams to work and stay updated. Again, tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack are useful for this purpose. Ensure that your employee database is always updated with the accurate email addresses and mobile numbers are accurate. Do you have a company newsletter or intranet that you can tap into?
  • Maintain regular updates: Send regular updates (establish what regular looks like) to reassure employees, partners, suppliers and customers.

Create a workplace plan for emergencies
Take the opportunity to build-out what has been discussed above to create a contingency plan that’s suitable for any event that might impact your business, employees, partners suppliers or customers.

Here are five suggestions on how to get started.

  • Assign an owner: All plans need a single point of contact and a single person who owns the plan and can delegate. A member of your leadership team or someone with a solid understanding of all your business processes is ideal. This person should be a critical sense-checker for the plan, someone who ensures the plan makes sense, and that nothing has been assumed.
  • Invite inputs from all sources: The scope and scale of the plan will depend on your needs. The plan should be comprehensive, and all functional and team plans should roll up into the overall business plan. All members of the leadership team should provide input to ensure the plan covers all areas of the business.
  • Consider your entire ecosystem – from supplier to customer: Work with your trusted suppliers to ensure they have a business continuity plan in place to ensure they can support you, should the need arise. Your plan might include a list of alternative suppliers for specific essential resources that can be called upon if your existing suppliers become unavailable. It may include specific plans on how to treat individual customers, especially larger and/or more important ones.
  • Make this a living document: Don’t create it and forget about it. Ensure your plan is reviewed periodically, and make changes and updates as and when they are needed.
  • Communicate: Once the plan is created, make it available to all – and make sure all leaders and employees know what it is, where it can be found, and what it means for them. A business continuity plan is not something to be scared of as it is an essential tool to guide your business through times of uncertainty.

Technology and communication
Reliable technology tools and proper communication processes mean your business can continue to operate effectively with minimum disruption, even when challenged with incidents out of your control. Couple this with a supportive, flexible working culture that empowers and enables colleagues to make the right decisions, and you’ll find that your company doesn’t have to slow down in a downturn.