When the WHO declared the Coronavirus outbreak a global health crisis, my first response was for the health and safety of our employees, customers, suppliers, and brewing communities. Followed by a close second, what on earth do we do next? I have decided to summarise some of things we have done as a business to help get through this time.
Business planning and continuity is essential, so we started asking questions, can we model and forecast our sales? What are our customers going through? How long might it last? Do I have the cash flow to survive this time period?
Below are a few steps that I implemented that has helped calmed the situation so far:
- Let employees and customers know that you are monitoring the situation as it is quickly evolving – We have agreed to update staff daily.
- Create a cross-function leadership team of HR, operations, finance, customer service and to ensure coordination of initiatives to both mitigate negative impact to the company and to increase support to our staff and customers.
- Working with our employees on the ground to determine their greatest needs.
- We have spoken with the BBPA, SIBA and the BFBI all of whom have been lobbying government to determine what are the existing local/regional resources available to meet those needs, where are the gaps, and what is the timing of when those needs need to be met? These bodies have been a great source of support and have been communicating on a regular basis. I strongly recommend following them on Twitter and via email if you are not doing so already.
- We have looked at reducing staff on site with immediate effect. More than half our staff are now working from home. As a production site and laboratory testing facility within the food sector, we need to keep a skeletal group of staff working onsite to keep serving our customers. All the staff that are onsite are applying the social distancing rules laid out by government.
- We then tried determining what the company can do to be the most impactful within our industry. Firstly, we agreed to remain operational, as we appreciate that no matter how small, brewers need to keep producing beer in order survive. It has impressed me more than ever the versatility and ingenuity of our customers during the hardest of times. Home delivery, moving as much as possible to small pack, takeaway service, to name a few.
- If we can help in any way with the processes, please ask. Would you like Murphy and Son to stock beer storage vessels? If so, what? Growlers, mini keg, polypins? You tell us and we try and help.
- We then asked what product(s) will be needed? We are reducing our stocks of short shelf life products during this time. We are maintaining some stock but reduced by over 80% in order to reduce waste and keep additional costs down. However, we are ramping up the longer shelf lifelines. This keeps staff productive but also when things improve, we can focus on the short shelf lifelines to service all your needs, as quickly as possible. When this over we are going to need celebrate and we will be ready to serve you with our ingredients you need in order to ramp up the supply of beer in trade.
- Do your staff have expertise to help with the situation? We are looking at ways our laboratory can be of assistance during this crisis. If appropriate, could you get creative with nonstandard company products and services? I read this morning that the NHS are looking for 250,000 volunteers. While some of our staff are now having to be furloughed, for the short term, could this be considered?
- Other questions arose such as, when do you respond? What actions can I take? Who decides your firm’s response? The answer we have given to these is; go with your gut instinct. We are all in uncharted territory. Even during war time people were encouraged to go the cinema, club or pub. This is new to us all, we are going to make mistakes but let’s learn together, keep talking and hopefully we will see some green shoots soon.
- How do you engage with internal and external stakeholders? An epidemic, and especially one of global proportions like this one, takes on various components of a company’s disaster planning all at the same time. Preparedness, Prevention, Response, Recovery and Rebuilding will all need to happen at the same time.
Preparedness and Prevention.
We followed the government guidelines as early as we could by sending staff home arranging for them to work from home and letting them function remotely. Whilst those that remain onsite are to follow the strict policy of social distance of at least 2 meters and keeping up with good sanitation. We also enforced the strict 14-day rule of anyone showing symptoms to stay away.
The key thing for me here is to communicate with your team, your customers and suppliers. Let them know the decisions you’ve made and why you have made them. For HR purposes record everything and keep copies so that you have the paper trail of your decision making but above all else support your staff where you can.
Recovery and Rebuilding.
Restoring normalcy to our businesses and our daily lives, this aspect of a disaster is often underfunded and under supported. It is critical to get the economy moving forward quickly. Too often after disasters we see communities languishing, unable to regain their pre-disaster status. We know that the brewing industry was strong before this crisis and I am sure that it will be strong when it’s all over. People will be craving company and will need to socialise within their communities. I hope that all our companies will be here to see that happen. We will beat this disease. Facts, communication, collaboration and cooperation are key. We at Murphy and Son will do all we can to help.
Please do not hesitate to contact us during this difficult time and we will support where you where we can.