In 2014, the year I got married, the Zika virus dominated headlines, and I remember receiving many warnings about traveling abroad for our honeymoon. The next year, it was Ebola. And let’s not forget Y2K and the time Oprah got mad at beef. In 2020, we have Coronavirus, now named COVID-19. Let me be clear, I am not an expert on COVID-19, nor am I claiming to be. Likewise, I am not downplaying or discounting the severity this virus could have on us and our family and friends. After all, there are some groups of people who seem to be extra vulnerable to this virus – especially people over 60 and those with weakened immune systems. It is my personal belief that the outbreak of COVID-19 does not call for panic, but it does justify contingency planning. As a business owner and the one with the ultimate responsibility for 20+ individuals on my payroll, these global events do impact our jobs. Therefore, it’s important to be proactive and stay ahead of these events as much as possible. Below are five practical things I am putting into practice at Secure Records Solutions as we prepare for COVID-19.
- Control Fear First. As the leader, you set the tone and therefore control the energy level at your organization. Hitendra Chaturvedi, a supply chain professor at ASU, told Yahoo Finance, “panic will spread faster than coronavirus,” and I think he’s exactly right. If you are calm and rational, your employees will feed off of that. Likewise, if you are a nervous wreck, your employees will be too. Stay calm and collected but be prudent – or at least appear that way to your staff!
- Avoid Misinformation – A good way to control the fear is to avoid misinformation. Arm yourself in fact, not fearmongering. To get the most accurate, least alarmist information, go straight to the source. I suggest the CDC website, and your state’s public health department (here is a link to Georgia’s). This will help you control the fear and get the facts related to COVID-19.
- The best offense is a good defense. From what we’ve heard, the best protocol right now is practicing good hygiene – washing hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and getting care if you’re sick. As a company, provide plenty of supplies to ensure it’s easy for employees to stay healthy. It may also be necessary to relax leave and PTO policies to ensure employees stay home if they or a family member get sick and to accommodate any disruptions such as school closings. Otherwise, some employees may come in anyway and put more employees at risk.
- Look at your business continuity plan. Look at your technology and telecommuting options for those roles that can work from home. As a service business, there are certain jobs at SRS that cannot be performed remotely. In these cases, ensure that the team is protected as much as possible through using hand sanitizer and frequent handwashing and other healthy habits. This is also a good time to cross train employees in the event of an extended absences so any critical job functions can still be performed.
- Don’t forget your values. Stores are running out of essential supplies, and we’ve heard of people stocking up on a year’s worth of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes. This goes against our philosophy of practicing sustainability. Our aim is to have enough supplies to protect ourselves and our team but to be a good neighbor and leave some for others. We also believe in innovation, so when all stores were out of hand sanitizer, we learned how to make our own so our drivers could stay protected.
Despite having a largely domestic footprint and a 100-mile shred radius, we felt firsthand the impact of the global economy when China stopped taking paper in 2019. And it’s safe to expect that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an impact on small businesses, both in terms of a potential for a more extensive economic slowdown and supply chain disruption for those who may rely on products made in China. I love this quote from Author Carlos Rodriguez that says, “tough times don’t define you; they refine you,” and I’ve seen some of the best business pivots come from challenging environments. Above all, remember to stay prudent, stay informed, and stay adaptable.