Hardening Your Business Against the Coronavirus Impact

March 1, 2020

Yesterday Trevor Bedford, a medical research scientist, published on Twitter some new findings on the Washington coronavirus (Covid-19) cases.

Here are some of his takeaways:

  • "This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks."
  • "I believe we're facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China."
  • "Our best current expectation is a few hundred current infections."

This multiplicative effect isn't surprising given the incubation period and the fact that some carriers can be asymptomatic.

The New England Complex Systems Institute describes the virus as an extreme fat tail process, adding that "conventional risk-management approaches are inadequate."

The collateral damage of the disease's spread, such as the stock market decline, is going to impact businesses and further disrupt supply chains.

So what can you do to mitigate the potential damage to your business? Here's a short list.

Shift to Remote Work For Eligible Employees

Remote work can cut down on the risk of infections spreading. In metropolitan areas, many workers commute via public transportation, which would heighten their risk.

Consider: an asymptomatic infected employee would remain functional for weeks, while spreading the virus. This can set off a chain reaction of additional infections, diminishing your workforce, denting productivity, and hitting revenue.

Also consider that if schools in your area close, some of your employees will need to be home anyway.

Immediately assess how many of your employees can do their job from home. Make sure employee contact information is updated (including home and cell numbers).

Secure WiFi Connections

Draft a policy for use of company desktops or laptops at home. For example, you can require that public wifi networks never be used. If an employee wants to work from, say, a coffee shop, one day a week, they can obtain a mifi unit (such as Verizon's Jetpack) to access the internet securely.

Tools For Remote Work

If you're not already set up with video confercing try Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Slack can be a useful tool for communicating short, urgent messages with staff. But take care not to overpopulate your Slack account with too many channels, otherwise you'll be injecting inefficiency and unnecessary complexity into your communications, which will worsen rather than improve them.

Explore Krisp.ai, an app to remove background noise from calls. That's useful if your employees have background noise in their home or if they plan on ocassionally working outdoors or at another location, like a cafe.

Prepare For Supply Chain Disruptions and Diminished Demand

Business owners need to consider the potential knock-on effects of the virus. You'll be making decisions in a complex environment that presents a high level of uncertainty and requires rapid adaptation.

The coronavirus may cause supply chain disruptions "unlike anything we have seen in the past 70 years," says MIT's Yossi Sheffi, one of the world's foremost experts on logistics.

He points out that previous crises like the SARS epidemic and the Fukushima meltdown triggered supply chain disruptions that did not co-occur with reduced demand.

Read his recommendations.

Protect Yourself From Insolvencies: Get Set Up With Invoice Factoring

Before supply chain disruptions mount, start managing for cash flow rather than for profit.

If you sell B2B or B2G (business to government) on 30-, 60-, or 90-day terms, you can sell your invoices for immediate cash. This process is called invoice factoring and it doesn't add any debt to your business.

My other business, Spearfish, provides invoice factoring services for businesses earning a minimum of roughly $20k in average monthly revenue.

Non-Recourse Factoring

We only provide non-recourse factoring: this means that credit risk insurance is added to your factoring account so that if your customer/vendor goes bankrupt within the factoring period you are not on the hook for the cash that was advanced to you.

The credit risk insurance is obtained by our financial partner, who leverages their excellent credit rating to get the coverage at negligble cost. Protecting yourself with this type of insurance is smart move in periods before or during a recession.

If you'd like to get set up with invoice factoring, book a phone meeting with me here.

Supply Chain Financing: Get Paid Upfront For Large, Emergency Orders

If you get a bump in orders due to higher demand (e.g., medical supplies, federal government orders) invoice factoring and supply chain financing can enable you to get paid in advance so that you can purchase the materials you need to fulfill those orders.

Contact me for more information.

Look for E-Commerce Opportunities and Shift In-Person Events Online

If you've been providing in-person seminars and workshops, create an immediate plan to deliver these online.

If your in-person seminars are part of a sales funnel, shift the entirety of your funnel online and use a free webinar instead to attract customers.

Consider using tools like ClickFunnels and Webinar Jam.

Note: providers of local one-on-one services like music lessons can also take their services online.

If your business provides in-person business consultations, make video consultations an option.

If you sell retail and have a minimal (or no) online presence, get up and running immediately with an e-commerce solution. Many, like Shopify, are cheap and can be set up and populated with products within a few days. Also look at investing in online ads to attract digital foot traffic.

Co-Working and Commercial Real Estate

Co-working will be a loser for at least the next several months at minimum.

Once the virus emergency subsides, some business owners may decide that they'd prefer to have their employees continue to work remotely in order to save on office expenses and/or to recover from any revenue impact incurred from the virus.

Come Monday, if we continue to have additional significant declines in the markets, we may be in for a deep recession and possibly deflation. All of these factors can impact commercial real estate rentals and sales. The potential downstream effects are numerous.

Personal Preparation

Summary

No one can predict the future impact the coronavirus will have on the markets, supply chains, or demand. But that hasn't stopped some economists from predicting a slow-down lasting several months followed by a "sharp rebound."

Other analysts contemplate the possibility of a Chernobyl-like pricking of the credit bubble.

Prioritize your actions and adapt quickly.


Stopping the Coronavirus Pandemic

This resource page from the New England Complex Systems Institute includes a position paper and updates. Contributors include Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Yaneer Bar-Yam.

For a quick take, watch this Bloomberg interview with Yossi Sheffi, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation and Logistics.

Coronavirus Is Different. It’s Rapidly Hitting Supply and Demand

From the Wall St. Journal: "Economists have struggled to project the extent of the economic fallout, which they say depends on whether the epidemic continues to spread—and on public reaction if it does."