This is a happy time for no one, least of all entrepreneurs and executives concerned for their companies’ futures.
At the same time, it would be inaccurate to describe the current economic and cultural environment as anything other than a time of great opportunity for leaders willing and able to take advantage.
In the not-too-distant future, we hope to live in a world that more or less resembles the one we all remember. By making strategic investments in your business right now, you can increase the chances that it will be around to take a leading role in whatever comes next.
1. Invest in an Industry-Leading Cyber Protection Solution for Your Entire Organization
Is your company really, truly protected against digital disruption? Or is your cyber protection strategy based around some combination of hoping and praying?
It doesn’t have to be. A comprehensive cyber protection solution is within reach for your team, and the present period of disruption presents the perfect opportunity to implement it. Be sure that whatever cyber protection solution you choose provides five core vectors of protection:
- Safety: ensuring that reliable copies of your data and systems are always available to those with permission to access them.
- Accessibility: ensuring that your data and systems are accessible from anywhere by anyone with authority to do so.
- Privacy: limiting who has access to which assets and elements of your digital footprint.
- Authenticity: creating undeniable and fully verifiable proof that every data copy is a faithful replica of the original.
- Security: providing ironclad protection for your applications, systems, and data against known and emerging cyber threats.
Don’t take cyber protection for granted. Don’t try to DIY it either. Invest in the solution you know your company needs today.
2. Develop and Implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy for Your Team
Juggling dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of work-issued computing devices is a major headache.
These days, it’s often not necessary. Most of your employees bring powerful personal devices to work every day. All you need to do to leverage this “bring your own device” (BYOD) ecosystem is to develop and implement a formal BYOD policy. Your policy should cover important issues like operating system compatibility, required apps, security protocols, system updates, access controls, and data-sharing practices. If you’ve invested in a comprehensive cyber protection solution, ensure that solution interfaces seamlessly with your BYOD policy.
3. Update Your Company Handbook to Reflect the New Remote Reality
If you’ve been operating without a company handbook thus far, take the opportunity to draw one up using these best practices.
Otherwise, update your existing company handbook to account for the pandemic’s new remote reality. This is your recognition that things aren’t likely to go back to normal anytime soon. Include the following:
- Policies related to remote work, such as which employees or roles are permitted to work remotely and on what basis (one day per week, three days per week, full-time, and so on)
- Policies related to family and medical leave, including policies related to self-quarantine or caring for relatives with coronavirus infections
- Communication practices and expectations between employees (including direct reports) working in different physical locations or fully remote
- Events and meetings for which attendance is mandatory, either in-person or virtually
4. Update Your Office Space to Accommodate Social Distancing Norms
Whether you’ve returned to the office in staggered capacity or remain all-remote at the moment, it’s not too late to renovate the space to accommodate new expectations and norms around social distancing.
This sounds like a bigger job than it’s likely to be. Obvious steps to take include moving meetings into bigger spaces where attendees can spread out at larger tables, installing plexiglass dividers in bullpen-style workspaces, and staggering breaks or meal times (if offered) to reduce congregation in office kitchens and cafeterias.
5. Develop a Company Newsletter Around the Issues That Matter to Your Team
Not a publishing company? Not a problem. Your marketing team is fully capable of producing a high-quality company newsletter that shows the softer side of your organization while giving your workforce the information it needs to manage the new normal.
Focus your newsletter on issues not directly related to your company’s core products and solutions, like successfully navigating the transition to remote work, juggling childcare and other family responsibilities in a pandemic environment, and understanding new or expanded company benefits. Use your newsletter as a channel to deliver important company news too.
6. Lean Into Business Lines and Relationships That Have Blossomed During the Pandemic
You don’t need any reminding that the pandemic has hit American businesses like nothing else in recent history. At the same time, you might have been surprised (and remain so) to observe some of your business lines and relationships doing well, even thriving, during this period of intense uncertainty. Don’t overthink what this means; instead, lean into whatever successes you’ve managed to achieve so far this year.
7. Take a Hard Look at Your Company’s Benefits and Invest in Those Likely to Be in Demand After the Pandemic
The most popular employee benefits change from year to year. After the pandemic, experts expect a thorough reordering of employees’ and employers’ priorities on this matter. Why not position yourself ahead of the curve and invest in the benefits that employees are most likely to want in the post-pandemic “new normal”? For example:
- Better short-term disability insurance coverage
- More flexible time-off policies based on work output, not time-off hours earned
- Health insurance coverage with lower out-of-pocket costs
- Longer paid family leave for illnesses and life events
- Sabbatical leave for longer-tenured employees
- Access to confidential mental health services
8. Have Your Employees Install New Anti-Malware Software on Their Home and Work Devices
If your company hasn’t yet been hit by a coordinated cyberattack or infected by a nasty piece of malware, consider yourself lucky. As we’ve already discussed, the threats get more complex and scary with each passing month.
While it doesn’t guarantee protection against every single threat, an enterprise-grade anti-malware solution is certainly worth the expense. Take this opportunity to find the solution that works best for your organization and mandate your employees use it on all work-issued devices and personal devices used for work.
9. Mandate VPN Usage on Company and Personal Devices Used for Work
Like anti-malware software, a virtual private network provides reliable, if not foolproof, protection against a variety of emerging and known digital threats. A VPN also improves online anonymity, which is important for reasons not directly related to digital security. You shouldn’t encounter much resistance to a companywide VPN mandate if you’re able to clearly and effectively communicate the importance of taking this step.
10. Go on a Freelancer Hiring Spree
Whether you are a true believer in the utility of contingent labor or you’ve sworn off working with freelancers after too many bad experiences in the past, there is no time like the present to take another look at the marketplace. Even the best freelancers and independent contractors are hurting right now even as newly laid off workers are reentering the market at a dizzying pace. As a prospective employer of contingent labor, your negotiating power is at a multi-year high, to say the least.
11. Determine Whether You Need to Right-Size Your Team (And Figure Out How Best to Do That)
Here’s to hoping that you can find a way to avoid making difficult decisions that impact your team’s careers and finances. But there’s no guarantee of this. If you anticipate needing to right-size your team at any point in the near future, best to begin planning for the fallout now. Plan to treat anyone you need to lay off as well as you possibly can — not just because it’s the right thing to do but because you’ll have a much better chance of hiring them again in the future if you do.
12. Take Another Look at Your Communal Space Needs
Perhaps it’s time to right-size your office as well. Use the downtime afforded by the pandemic to reexamine your coworking options — yes, even and perhaps especially if you’ve sworn off coworking or short-term leases for one reason or another.
Remember, many members of your team won’t want to work out of your office anytime soon if they can afford not to. Five years from now, you probably won’t need all the space you expected to need by then.
13. Migrate Any Lingering Legacy Processes to the Cloud
If you’re still using legacy processes like old-school tax preparers or accountants, now’s the time to navigate the transition to the cloud. Your team, and probably your profit and loss ledger, will be eternally grateful.
14. Review Your Company Travel Budget (And Figure Out What Really Constitutes Essential Travel)
This is a fairly obvious step to take in the aftermath of a pandemic that could permanently change business travel. Indeed, if you’re not taking a close look at your company travel budget and priorities, you’re probably not doing right by your company ledger. Cut out those unnecessary cross-country or international trips to meet clients or attend conventions that don’t earn you much in the way of new business and you might just be able to avoid a few rounds of layoffs.
15. If You Need to Hire Full-Timers, Consider Fully Remote Positions
Why hire a full-time tech to work out of your headquarters in an expensive coastal city when you can hire someone just as good in the next time zone? You’ve done the difficult part by managing a chaotic transition to remote work already. Now it’s time to reap the rewards.
16. Take Stock of What You’ve Achieved Since the Pandemic Began
This is certainly no time to rest. Yet some self-congratulation is in order. You’ve made it this far through the most severe economic disruption in your lifetime without dissolving your business, after all. Take stock of the pre-pandemic goals your team has achieved since lockdowns began and make a plan to cross more of them off your list by the end of the year.
17. Figure Out Where You’d Like Your Company to Be in Five Years
This is something you and your leadership team should do every year, at minimum. But this is a special year with vastly more surprises than usual. A mid-year status assessment (noted above) and multi-year projection is in order. You might well consider another status assessment and forward-looking projection later in the year, perhaps as the third quarter transitions into the fourth.
The point of this assessment is not to set unrealistic goals that aren’t likely to be met. It’s to develop a hard-nosed accounting of the state of your industry and competitive position within it to construct a range of scenarios for where your company is likely to stand in five years. Using this information, you and your team can then lay out the processes and near-term milestones that will help you reach the most optimistic of those scenarios.
Invest in Your Business Like There’s No Tomorrow
The above is quite the to-do list. It’s likely that you’ve begun thinking about, and perhaps actually implementing, a number of these action items. Don’t delay the others; although we all hope that the worst of the pandemic passes soon enough and we can get back to something resembling normalcy, most experts aren’t betting on it.
Anyway, for all the pain and suffering it entails, the current situation constitutes a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset your organization and invest in a future that’s sure to be very different from the present.
Put another way, you and every one of your entrepreneurial peers should invest in your businesses like there’s no tomorrow. The sun will rise tomorrow, of course, and the next day too, but each new day is sure to bring challenges unimaginable even a few short months ago. Those who put in the work to prepare for those challenges now stand a much better chance of overcoming them in an uncertain future, whatever it may bring.
One more thing. This list is certainly long and involved, but it makes no claim to be authoritative. As the captain of your own corporate ship, you can surely identify additional action items that would serve your company well if attended to sooner rather than later. Perhaps you’re working on one (or more than one) as you read this.
Whatever you do, don’t let off the gas. Too much is riding on your company’s future to sit back and admire how far you’ve come right now.