My June column for The Kitsap Sun. You can also listen to the article below (7 minutes, 46 seconds)

As we begin the varying phases of recovery from COVID-19, there’s one thing that is certain. The next calamity doesn’t care what you just went through. It will come when it wants, and without warning.

The Allstate television advertisement with the guy dressed up in a suit calling himself “Mayhem” is brilliant. While it’s probably meant mostly for humor, the concept is certainly true. Mayhem comes unannounced and uncaring. And that’s why you as a business owner or leader should care so much.

If you think dealing with a crisis like the one we are still grappling with is bad – and make no mistake, it is – then consider the consequences of having another peril hit. That fire, water damage, or cyber-attack on top of it might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. That’s why investing the time now to be prepared for everything else is so critical.

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Since there is no pause button on business or life, allow me to offer a balanced attack and defending your most important assets, both business and personal. This is 7-step checklist for your consideration. Your assignment is to identify the ones that are lacking in your business and life, assess the impact of a loss were it to happen tomorrow, and take action now to fix it.

  • Do you have a current will? I’m always surprised how many adults I talk to that don’t have one in place or it’s so outdated that the children the parents were going to be guardians for are now in their 30s! If you’d prefer to make decisions on your personal legacy for your loved ones rather than probate court, invest in getting a will done or updated.
  • Do you have a business will? These are most commonly known as Buy-Sell Agreements, but the name doesn’t really convey the importance. These agreements give guidance at the death, disability, or disengagement (think retirement) of an owner. How will the other partners deal with the ramifications of paying off the shares owed to survivors? What’s the expectation if the owner lives to retirement and now wants his or her money? Buy-Sell Agreements are funded by life and disability insurance, including the payment for living long enough. The best time to write and fund the Buy-Sell Agreement is before a bad thing occurs.
  • Do you have the correct insurance policies? Everyone buys fire insurance, even though that fire is one of the least likely perils to occur. In a new COVID-19 impacted world, a sound business insurance program needs to include Cyber, Employment Practices Liability, and Directors & Officers (even for-profits need this). I also see pandemic-specific insurance policies on the horizon. The need for an insurance agent or broker that does more than meet with you once a year to discuss your financing of risk is more than ever a necessity.
  • Do you have a Business Continuity Plan? That’s your roadmap to effectively and most profitably responding to any crisis that threatens your operations, revenues, and reputation. It must be written and practiced; however, it doesn’t have to be a burden. You can start small and build on it; noting that “start” is the most prominent word. Get help and get started. This one item can save your business in the event of a catastrophic event, especially as you’re dealing with one now.
  • Going Back to Work. While working from home can be done, many of you are looking forward to welcoming back employees and visitors to your offices and stores. That being said, you’d better know how to accomplish this safely for everyone. As part of a Business Continuity Plan, you must include a COVID-19 safety plan. Key issues to include are: disinfection protocols for offices, common areas, and restrooms; standards and expectations for wearing masks; temperature checks before entering the building; authority for managers and supervisors to send home employees who appear sick; visitor protocol in case they must be contacted subsequent to a COVID case; and how to deal with supply chain and strategic partners. This item goes much deeper than plucking a free template off the Internet shelf. You must tailor your plan to your industry, employees, business partners, and operations, both for now and the future.
  • What stays and what goes? You might have been very creative over the past 60 days. You may have innovated new intellectual property or services. Will you keep operating the same or will you go back to the way things were (e.g. virtual working)? Will that new idea that caught on be kept (e.g. delivery services)? Will you conceive a hybrid? It’s a great time to invest in innovation strategy. You will probably find some of the things you were forced to do improved your brand, revenues, and profitability.
  • Your health. As the leader, your presence is “essential” to say the least. Your mental and physical health is indispensable to your productivity as an asset to your company. How are you dealing with the stress, anxiety, and weight of this moment now? And importantly, how do you plan to continue that? This is no time for “tough guys and gals;” it’s time for savvy and astute business warriors that understand taking care of themselves is the equivalent of putting the oxygen mask on first in order to assist others. Make your health a priority with metrics for accountability and success.

It’s crazy to think that we are now about to hit the midway point of the year. Nobody had COVID-19, PPPs, or 14% unemployment in their 2020 business planning last December. As we begin to phase back safely, you as an organization must do the same. Protect your people, grow your business, and make decisions that impact both your profitability and reputation today, so you don’t have to deal with it tomorrow.

There’s another “mayhem” on the way? Are you prepared to defend and protect your company?

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