Oakland Group

Managing your business through a pandemic – in 4 phases

When it comes to navigating the current COVID-19 crisis, we at Oakland are no different to our clients. We’re all working our way through a situation that we never fully prepared for.

Even with the most comprehensive business continuity plans in place, it would have been near-impossible to predict the true impact of this global pandemic; one that has effectively shut down the economy and is likely to impact the way we work forever.
It can be difficult to see the wood for the trees.

So, building on what we ourselves are going through, together with what we’re learning from working with our clients, we’ve identified four phases that businesses will experience and the questions and challenges that each throws up.

Phase 1: The crisis response

This is the first stage you encounter as your business world seemingly changes overnight. Maybe your core market has dramatically reduced or perhaps you experienced increased demand. One client in the B2C market saw sales drop 90% in the last two weeks of March. In April sales were 60% below expectation, and in May 50% below target. Whatever the trend, the challenge is always the same – how do you respond?

The strategies or plans you had in place may have been sound before the crisis, but require a speedy re-assessment given that every dimension of PESTLE / SWOT has changed. All businesses have had to react quickly to:

Phase 2: Managing during the pandemic

This is where many businesses currently find themselves. While still managing a quickly evolving situation, they are working out how to operate successfully with a hastily constructed interim operating model, and wondering how to use these unique circumstances to drive the business forward. Organisations of all shapes and sizes are having to:

Firm up the interim ways of working, knowing that we may need to operate this way for many months or beyond. This is not a quick fix, so it needs careful consideration. One of our clients, a government regulator, is looking beyond the short-term. They’re using the pandemic to trial completely novel ways of delivering. The crisis has provided the opportunity for their people and customers to think laterally and embrace the idea of testing – and failing – fast, without the fear of failure.

Fix any interim ways of working that are not delivering.

Re-draw budgets for the duration of the pandemic.

Phase 3: Recovery

This is when the game planning starts to become a reality:

Bring staff back from furlough on a measured basis. One of our clients has put in place a new detailed analysis of the business break-even points. This provides a clear understanding of the impact of changes to government support, and what conditions are right to ramp the business back up in a way that balances the risks with mitigating any losses incurred.

Phase 4: Future Business as Usual

All the insights you’ve gathered up until this point must now go into building a stronger business for the future.

Simon Vear is a Managing Consultant at The Oakland Group