COVID-19

Virginia and DC Business Preparedness

Latest News & Information for Local Businesses

Offering you the most important and relevant information about navigating this from a business perspective. You’ll find resources here on planning financially, working remotely, helping your employees cope, and leading with excellence during a crisis.

We will continue to update the resources found here as there are new developments and programs available.

To help local businesses we are offering remote access services to your office systems for free, contact us for details.

As always, I’m here to offer any guidance you need on concerns about your business and business continuity.

Amy Jones
President

HELPFUL TOOLS & RESOURCES

SBA Disaster Loans:

https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19

Apply for a loan as soon as its available. After they determine if you qualify, you will receive funds in 2-3 weeks. Apply even if you think you won't need it. You can always say NO.

MultiFunding has also put together a community site to help business owners navigate through the SBA loan process during these confusing times:  https://multifunding.tribe.so/

https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/023595_comm_corona_virus_smallbiz_loan_final_revised.pdf

Keeping The Office Safe - Boilerplate for Office Protocols:

If your facility is still operating and you have ANY staff coming onsite, you NEED to have clear protocols in place as to how and when people access the building.

Keeping Staff Safe When Going To A Client Site - Boilerplate for Onsite Protocols:

If your facility is still operating and you have the need to deploy your team into the field for any reason, you NEED to have clear protocols in place to keep them safe and assure everyone has the same level of diligence.

PODCAST: Mindsets for Scary Times

So, how is all of this affecting business?

And how will it affect YOUR business?

While many people are in a panic, Jay Abraham, Dean Jackson, and Joe Polish are NOT panicking at all, and you should know why. The three of them just had one of the most insightful, calm, and important conversations ever about succeeding in business in scary times such as what we’re experiencing right now.

They recorded the conversation and it is available for you to listen as I Love Marketing podcast Episode #362.

Of all the podcast episodes they've ever done, this will be one of the most important you’ll ever listen to.

https://ilovemarketing.com/safe-ideas-for-scary-times-entrepreneurship-amidst-chaos-with-jay-abraham-dean-jackson-and-joe-polish/

REMOTE COLLABORATION TOOLS:

Zoom Video Conferencing: www.zoom.us

We use this at InTech. We hold a daily huddle each morning at 8:30AM for 8 minutes to align for the day and we get to see each other. Then I stay on zoom at my workspace all day to be available if someone needs something.

Slack Instant Messaging: www.slack.com

We also use slack in house to communicate in real time about internal and client facing items. We keep our team communication OUT OF OUR INBOXES. There is enough going on in there!

Microsoft Teams for Instant Messaging and Video Conferencing:

This tool is Included in your Microsoft Office 365 Licensing a the Business Essentials, Business Premium, E1, and E3 levels.

Free Microsoft TEAMS Training

Bigger Brains has moved their Teams training over to YouTube as a resource for companies who need to learn collaboration in a hurry.

https://getbiggerbrains.com/coronavirus-help-free-microsoft-teams-training/

90 Day Financial Planning:

Meet with your CPA and/or Controller/Accountant and create a financial plan for the next 90 days. Re-evaluate this plan every 1-2 weeks to see if you need to adjust.

Stress test your cash! Alan Miltz’ SaaS tool for managing cash – no charge for 3 months – stress test your cash with just 6 numbers from your financials. www.cashflowstory.com/stresstest

Consider adding an expense line item called COVID-19 and dump off all expenses in there including your staff and personal time spent dealing with a crisis – this 30 second video by Ron Lovett, author of Outrageous Empowerment, will explain why it will make it easier to apply for government assistance if and when it comes available. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/ron-lovett_outrageousempowerment-activity-6646137020743761920-N9Uo

Stabilizing Your Business: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.

With constant changes brought on by the pandemic of COVID-19, your business may be presented with cash flow challenges and opportunities you may have never faced before. To respond to these changes, look no further than a motto with which you are familiar: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. The slogan used by the United States Marine Corps outlines steps you can take to combat the challenges you are facing as you make decisions that will be key to the survival of your business. Read details on this strategy here: https://www.cricpa.com/stabilizing-your-business/

Financial Crisis Management Templates from My CPA and Author, Greg Crabtree. Will you have the capital needed to get back to pre-Covid19 profitability levels (or better)? Resource here: https://simplenumbers.me/crisismgmt/

SANS Security Awareness Work-from-Home Deployment Kit - FREE

The SANS Institute put out a free deployment toolkit/security awareness for working from home.

https://www.sans.org/security-awareness-training/sans-security-awareness-work-home-deployment-kit?utm_content=121882391&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin&hss_channel=lcp-35509483

OPEN FOR BUSINESS - A BLUEPRINT FOR SHOPPING SAFE

LEARN MORE

Telecommuting & Working Remotely

Is my business ready for working remotely?

For many businesses that have operated in a traditional brick and mortar environment, the thought of getting the entire employee workforce transitioned into a remote environment can often feel daunting and expensive.

It doesn’t have to be this way—let our team help you transition to a remote setting to avoid costly downtime, interruption to productivity, and loss of revenue.

We are offering a complimentary Remote Readiness Assessment that will help you identify how you can transition your team to working remotely, without all the headache.

What’s the first thing that leaders and individual managers can do to help their employees get ready for working remotely??

Get the infrastructure right. Do people have the require specific technology or access to it? Who has a laptop? Will those who do [have laptops] be able to connect into their organizations easily?  Will they have the software they need to be able to do work, have conference calls, etc?  What about the employees who don’t have laptops or mobile devices? How do you make sure that they have access to the resources they need to do work? Managers and supervisors have to very quickly ensure that every employee has full access, so no one feels left behind.

If you need assistance, please contact us to help you with this.

What should people who aren’t accustomed to remote work do to get psychologically ready for it?

Develop rituals and have a disciplined way of managing the day. Schedule a start and an end time. Have a rhythm. Take a shower, get dressed, even if it’s not what you’d usually wear to work, then get started on the day’s activities. If you’re used to moving physically, make sure you build that into your day. If you’re an extrovert and accustomed to a lot of contact and collaboration with others, make sure that still happens. Ask yourself:  How will I protect yourself from feeling lonely or isolated and stay healthy, productive, and vibrant? Create that for yourself.

Remember, too, that you might actually enjoy working from home. You can play the music you like. You can think flexibly about your time. It can be fun. As for managers, they need to check in on people. Make sure they’re not only set up but also that they have that rhythm and contact. Ask: “What can I do to make sure that this sudden and quick transition is working for you?”

What are the top three things that leaders can do to create a good remote culture?

There are many books on Amazon on how to lead remotely or at a distance. Why is that? Because this is very difficult to do, and managers have to actively work on it. Number one, make sure that team members constantly feel like they know what’s going on. You need to communicate what’s happening at the organization level because when they’re at home, they feel like they’ve been extracted away from the mothership. They wonder what’s happening at the company, with our clients, with our common objective. The communication around that is extremely important.

During this period, people will also start to get nervous about revenue goals and other things, so you’ll have to make sure they feel like they’re going to be OK. Another thing is to ensure that no members feel like they have no less access to you than others. At home, people’s imaginations begin to go wild. You have to be accessible and available to everyone equally. Finally, when you run your group meetings, aim for inclusion and balance the airtime so everyone feels seen and heard.

How will these changes affect productivity?

Productivity does not have to go down at all. It can be maintained, even enhanced, because commutes and office distractions are gone. Of course, you might be at home with your partner or kids and those issues will need to be worked out. Another problem might be your ability to resolve problems quickly when you can’t meet in person, in real time. That might create delays. But other than that, I don’t see productivity going down. There’s robust evidence showing that it shouldn’t change.

How does working from home affect psychological health? What can employers do to make sure that people are staying focused, committed, and happy?

People get used to having these unplanned watercooler or cappuccino conversations with colleagues, and they are actually big, important parts of the workday that have a direct impact on performance. How do we create those virtually? For some groups and individuals, it’s will be constant instant messaging. For others, it will be live phone conversations or video conferences. Some people might want to use Microsoft Teams or Slack. A boss can encourage those types of contact points for psychological health. People are not going to be able to figure this out organically. You’ve got to coach them. Also, there’s one more thing:  Exercise. It’s critical for mental well-being.

How should those check-ins happen? As a group? In one-on-ones? Via phone calls? Or video chats?

First, you should have a group conversation about the new state of affairs. Say, “Hey, folks, it’s a different world. We don’t know how long this is going to last. But I want to make sure you all feel you have what you need.” This should be followed by a team launch to jump-start this new way of working. Figure out: How often should we communicate? Should it be video, phone, or Slack/Jive/Yammer. If you’re not using one of those instant messaging systems, should you? What’s the best way for us to work together? You’ve got to help people understand how to do this and give them confidence that it work.

Once that’s sorted out, meet with your group at least once a week. In a remote environment, frequency of contact cannot go down. If you’re used to having meetings, continue to do so. In fact, contact should probably go up for the whole team and its members. Newer employees, those working on critical projects and people who need more contact will require extra one-on-ones. Remember, too, that you can do fun things virtually: happy hour, coffee breaks, lunch together. All these things can continue the connection you had at the office. And there’s ample research showing that virtual teams can be completely equal to co-located ones in terms of trust and collaboration. It just requires discipline.

What are some best practices, beyond the general advice to clarify your purpose, circulate an agenda, prepare people to be called on and so forth?

First, you have to have some explicit ground rules. Say, “Folks, when we have these meetings, we do in a nice way, we turn off of phones, we don’t check emails or multitask.” I highly recommend video conferencing if you have the ability to do that. When people are able to see one another, it really makes a difference. And then you trust people to follow the ground rules.

Number two, because you no longer have watercooler conversations and people might be just learning how to work from home, spend the first six to seven minutes of a meeting checking in on people. Don’t go straight to your agenda items. Instead, go around and ask everyone, “How are you guys doing?” Start with whomever is the newest or lowest status person or the one who usually speaks the least. You should share as well, so that you’re modeling the behavior. After that, you introduce the key things you want to talk about, and again model what you want to see, whether it’s connecting, asking questions, or even just using your preferred technology, like Zoom or Skype for Business.

The last thing I’ll say is there, you have to follow up these virtual meetings with redundant communication to ensure that people have heard you and that they’re OK with the outcome. Say you have a video conference about a topic. You follow it up with an email or a Slack message. You should have multiple touchpoints through various media to continue the trail of conversation.

If you need assistance with setting your business up with these communication tools, contact our team for help!

If the social distancing policies go on for a while, how do you measure your employees’ productivity and eventually review them on that work?

I’ll say this to every manager out there: you have to trust your employees.  This is an era and a time in which we have to heed Ernest Hemingway’s advice: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”  You can’t see what people are doing. But equip them in the right ways, give them the tasks, check on them like you’ve always done, and hope they produce in the ways you want them to. You can’t monitor the process, so your review will have to be outcome-based. But there’s no reason to believe that, in this new environment, people won’t do the work that they’ve been assigned. Remote work has been around for a very long time. And today we have all of the technologies we need to not only do work but also collaborate. We have enterprise-wide social media tools that allow us to store and capture data, to have one-to-many conversations, to share best practices, to learn.

In light of various daycare and school closings, how do you discuss children and childcare?

Bosses should be prepared for that conversation and to help people think those issues through. The blurring of boundaries between work and home has suddenly come upon us, so managers have got to develop the skills and policies to support their teams. This might involve being more flexible about the hours in which employees work. You don’t have to eat lunch at 12pm. You might walk your dog at 2pm. Things are much more fluid, and managers just have to trust that employees will do their best to get their work done.

What advice do you have for people in client-facing functions?

We’ve been seeing virtual sales calls and client engagements. You do the exact same things. Here, it’s even more important to use visual media. Take whatever you would be doing face to face and keep doing it. Maybe you can’t wine and dine. But you can do a lot. Be creative.

What do you do in an organization where you have a mix of both blue- and white-collar workers? Or for those colleagues who aren’t properly equipped?

The organizations have to figure out a way to support those workers, some kind of collective action to help them because otherwise you’re completely isolating people who are critically important to your operation. I would put together a task force, and I would find solutions to keep them connected and ensure that they still feel valued. And include them in the planning.

If you sense that, despite your best efforts, an employee is struggling, not focused, lonely, what can you do?

When you see the signs — like fewer emails or more inhibition in group conversations — talk to them. Increase contact and encourage others to, as well. Understand where they are. And get them what they need. Organizations should also make sure to have employee assistance services at this time. When you’re suddenly taking away people’s regular routines and connection with other people and it’s open ended, some will struggle and need extra help. I’d add that every CEO of every organization needs to be much more visible right now — through video conferencing, or taped recording to give people confidence and calm them down and be healers- or hope-givers-in-chief.