Learning from COVID: Building a Pandemic-Proof Business Plan for 2021

There’s no question 2020 has dealt us its share of curveballs. Since the spring, just about every aspect of our daily lives have changed—many of us are working from home, isolating ourselves from our social circles, and frankly, just trying to keep our heads above water. And if you’re a small business owner, you know better than anyone how hard it is to survive amid a global pandemic.

In this post, we’ll take a look at what we can learn from COVID-19 and how we can turn that insight into preparedness in the future.

Take note of 2020’s impact

If there’s one positive thing 2020 does have to offer us, it’s the opportunity to learn from how the hardships played out. When it comes to pandemic-proofing your business plan, or disaster planning in general, it’s always a good idea to look at history’s impact over the years.

Make it a point to reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business and the global economy throughout the year as you draft up your new plan. What parts of your business were hit the hardest? What did you do right and what went wrong? How did your competitors hold up and how did they handle the COVID crisis?

Once you’ve had the chance to take a look at local impact, take it the extra mile by doing some research on how businesses like yours got creative in other cities and states across the country. You may be surprised what you can learn!

Rethink your budget

There’s no question finances faced a substantial impact following the onset of the pandemic, so rethinking your budget is a must. Using the insight you gathered from the previous section, take a look at how your budget changed throughout the pandemic. In general, it’s a good idea to be conservative with your spending so that you have adequate savings to back you up if and when the unexpected occurs.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate emergency business budgeting during COVID-19 and into the future as you need:

  • Cut back on non-essential expenses (i.e. travel, subscriptions that are no longer necessary)
  • Minimize utility expenses
  • Reassess your monthly expenses, such as software subscriptions and company perks
  • Buy refurbished rather than new
  • Pay your invoices early to take advantage of early-payment discounts
  • Find alternative funding
  • Negotiate with vendors
  • Downsize your office, or go fully remote

In addition to saving and increasing your access to capital, it’s a good idea to be extra communicative with vendors and lenders when you’re having financial challenges. Being up front will avoid any surprises later on down the road and could open the door for negotiations and savings.

Finally, take a minute to talk with your tax advisor to see if you qualify for tax savings or extensions on any outstanding balances you may have with the IRS.

Outline remote work options

In order to maintain social distancing and public health orders directed as a result of the pandemic, many businesses have turned to remote work options. Not only does remote work help keep your workforce healthy and safe, but it also gives you the opportunity to save on big costs, like commercial rent, utilities, and parking expenses. However, if you do want to initiate such a big change, it’s important to have a process in place.

Here are a few guidelines you can use to start streamlining your WFH process:

  • Set regular business hours, such as, 8AM-4PM or 9AM-5PM
  • Use reliable communications channels to facilitate collaboration between departments
  • Invest in project management tools to ensure deadlines are on track
  • Come up with team bonding opportunities to preserve your company culture
  • If needed, make space for team members to use office facilities on certain days of the week
  • Create a remote work manual to make sure all employees are on the same page with your SOPs

Standardizing these processes ahead of time will help you avoid miscommunications later on down the road, and ultimately, help keep your workforce intact.

Play out scenarios

At this stage, we as individuals and employers, have learned how to navigate life in the midst of a pandemic. However, we don’t always know what’s around the corner. From natural disasters to financial struggles, there are several obstacles your business could face throughout its lifetime. So, it’s a good idea to have a game plan for a variety of possible scenarios.

To make a customized plan for your business, start by considering location-specific scenarios that could affect your customers, employees, and business location. If you live in California, for example, you might want to plan for earthquakes and wildfires, while it would make more sense for North Carolina business owners to plan for hurricanes instead.

In addition to location specific scenarios, it’s a good idea to consider more generalized situations, like theft and loss, as well.

Cover your bases with insurance

Insurance is designed to protect the financial and legal interests of your small business, so use it to your advantage! Every business has different coverage needs and every insurance company offers different policies, so make sure to shop around and weigh your options to find the plan that makes the most sense for your needs and budget.

Final notes

There’s a lot we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic; from caring for one another to making health and safety top priority, there’s no question 2020 will carve the path moving forward. As you look back on the year, take some time to learn from your wins and your downfalls so that you can better plan for the future.

To summarize, here are a few things small business owners can learn from COVID-19:

  1. Notate how 2020 impacted your business — what did you do right and what went wrong?
  2. Rethink and revamp your budget to withstand unexpected situations
  3. Create SOPs for changed work environments, such as remote work
  4. Play out scenarios to set yourself up for success no matter what lies ahead
  5. Cover your bases with insurance as needed

Use this post as a starting point toward improved business planning. Here’s to a better year ahead!


Guest article by Samantha Rupp

Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She is the managing editor for 365 Business Tips as well as runs a personal blog, Mixed Bits Media.

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