COVID-19: First steps in crisis management

The COVID-19 global pandemic is forcing businesses to adapt rapidly to provide continuity for employees and customers. This is a temporary situation. But how you manage your business now can make all the difference to how quickly you can return to normal operations and build resilience into your business.

In this article:

Put people first

You may find there are multiple competing priorities as you attempt to pivot business operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Employees and customers should be at the centre of all initial decision-making.

Manage concerns

Your employees and customers are feeling a lot of uncertainty during this global crisis. Manage their concerns and questions and make two-way communication a priority.

Keep people safe

The safety of your employees is imperative. Government regulations vary among regions and industries, but there are some consistent ways to keep your people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Allow and accommodate work-from-home options, when possible.
  • Mandate and communicate good hygiene, including hand washing.
  • Create workspaces that allow for physical distancing. Current guidelines recommend individuals maintain a distance of two metres apart.
  • Employees who must work in close proximity to one another or in essential services that require interactions with public should have access to industry-recommended personal protection equipment (PPE), where applicable.
  • Encourage sick employees or those who have risked exposure to COVID-19 to stay home.

Nurture your brand

How your company communicates its management of people—employees and customers—during a crisis is critical to your brand and reputation. Think of airlines that were quick to adapt cancellation policies or companies that were leaders in installing Plexiglas shields at checkouts.

  • People are looking to companies like yours to show common sense and compassion during this crisis.
  • A people-first mindset will help you and your team make decisions that nurture a positive brand image.

Make rational decisions

During a crisis, it’s normal for our brains to go into “flight or fight” mode. This can hinder good decision-making.

View the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis as a temporary situation. What can you do to calmly and logically carry your business during the disruption so you can rebound quickly when the crisis subsides?

Tip: Base decisions on facts, using planning tools and frameworks.

BDC’s Rational decision-making tool offers a series of questions that can help offer some clarity of thinking. Once you engage the logical side of your brain, you’ll start to come up with creative solutions.

Rational decision-making tool

Guided questions to clarify your next steps.

Identify essential functions

Start from the assumption that your business will survive the current COVID-19 crisis. For the purposes of big-picture planning:

  • Clarify the core activities of your business.
  • Who are your key customers, suppliers and employees?
  • Identify first steps of your continuity plan to survive and quickly rebound from the crisis.
  • For high-level risk management planning, create best and worst-case scenarios and models.
  • What are the impacts of the crisis on your cash flow, people, production and distribution?

Build capacity for rebound

Some industries will fundamentally change as the result of the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis can be the foundation for new opportunities.

Crisis can be the catalyst for change

  • Seek out new suppliers.
  • Try new ways of doing things.
  • Adapt your brand, products or services to serve customers in new ways.
  • Explore and maximize hidden talents and skills of your current employees.

Stay on top of innovations you can adopt now that can offer resilience and strengthen your future business.

Explore more

Cash-flow assessment

Forecast cash flow and burn rate.

Operations management

Create an action plan for your business and employees.

Employee communications

Reach out in a timely, relevant manner.