updated - October 23, 2020 Friday EDT
As the coronavirus continues to spread, we sit in the midst of an unparalleled crisis. At the time of writing, over 350,000 cases have been officially recorded with 192 countries affected. These numbers come to us with most countries predicted to be in the infancy of the pandemic's impact, with a sharp bell curve increase expected, for many major countries around Europe in particular, over the next couple of weeks.
The social, environmental and economical ramifications of such a crisis are unprecedented. With the latter in mind, business owners are rightfully concerned about the welfare of their organisations - some of which have had to wind down their day to day activities significantly, others of which have had to cease operations completely. Over the course of the pandemic, Bloomberg Economics suggests the global economy could suffer from $2.7 trillion in losses.
There is no set protocol or manual in place for what to do as a business owner at a time like this. There are, however, a number of sensible steps you can undertake to protect your business as best as possible and improve your chances of a full recovery on the other side of the global pandemic.
Understand your local situation
The different approach of major governments in their coronavirus response has been well documented, but how does it affect you as an international business owner? Understanding the current state of play in each location you have a base in is imperative to ensure you're both following local guidelines and acting appropriately for each branch of your operation.
What laws have been put in place in each relevant location? How do they directly impact your business? What support, if any, are local governments offering for businesses that can help you?
Everywhere is handling the crisis differently, thus your response should be diversified according to the extent of your international reach.
Update and adapt on a daily, even hourly, basis
The speed at which the crisis is unfolding in front of us is staggering, with the global picture changing on an hourly basis, with laws, regulations and guidelines around the situation updating just as quickly.
Success in business has always been about the ability to adapt in a timely fashion - right now both proactive and reactive adaptation is key to your business's survival. Stay lucid on the current situation and the potential threats to your business and respond accordingly.
It's difficult to find a news story at the moment that doesn't involve the coronavirus. With a constantly changing situation being reported on by virtually every news network in existence, it's difficult to know what reports and what advice to trust and act upon.
When approaching new reports, be sure to think critically about their source and reliability before acting.
Follow the experts
Finding trusted sources during this time is absolutely paramount. Your business is trying to navigate through uncharted waters, so you'll need all the help you can get to make the correct decisions over the next few months.
On a basic level, look to follow the general advice from those with expertise in public health and epidemiology, then look more specifically to the likes of logistics and industry specific knowledge. What are the leaders in your field doing? What are your competitors doing? Most importantly, how can you apply this knowledge?
Look after your employees
At this stage for many countries, all but essential service workers have been advised to work from home where possible. As a business owner, the safety and welfare of your staff should be paramount, and now more than ever is it important to practice what you preach.
Good staff are the building blocks of any successful business, and a commodity more valuable than any product within your organisation. During this turbulent time, staff may get sick, productivity may drop and priorities will likely be elsewhere than work.
If you can show understanding and look after your team through this period, it will pay dividends when it comes to the rebuilding process that follows the conclusion of the crisis.
Another foundational building block of any successful business, open and transparent communication with your staff, your stakeholders and your customers is essential during this time.
Open communication allows you to manage the expectations of those both in and out of your business, whether that's keeping your employee's informed of their expected workload or customers in the know on product delivery times.
Use today to plan for tomorrow and beyond
There are always lessons to be learnt from overcoming hurdles in the business life cycle, and the coronavirus is a hurdle like no other you've seen or are likely to experience again. The good news is if your business can survive this, you're unlikely to ever face anything as challenging again in the future, and the lessons you can take from this experience will be invaluable.
In the meantime, there are still major operations in place to help you negotiate this difficult time. RSM's expertise in audit and risk advisory could be priceless for your finance function, indeed outsourcing your key business operations, where possible, during this time could be key to how your business comes out of this period.
RSM have also created a coronavirus global resource centre, which business owners can use as an informational hub to keep up to speed with how the virus is impacting the international business and tax picture. Users can also find a country by country review in order to understand the domestic, as well as global, situation in front of the business world at this time.
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