A Post First-Wave Planner for Small Businesses

1. Business Continuity

  • Identify the primary physical, economic and social impacts to your business that may occur over the next year and think about vulnerabilities and what the next three, six, and nine months are going to look like with this new landscape and these new challenges.
  • Determine the business functions that are critical to your operations.
  • List the resources needed to continue/protect those functions, including people, processes and technology.
  • Review or adopt a viable telework policy and evaluate your workforce to determine which roles can still be performed remotely via telework and which cannot, even in a restart.
  • Identify the specific employees in each of those roles who have demonstrated their ability to work productively while remote.
  • Create a stack ranking of roles/workers so that workforce can be brought back in stages, with those most comfortable and effective in remote working returning last.
  • If you don’t have one yet, establish appoint a Business Continuity Coordinator to assist you in planning. They can also help you plan for and weather a second or third wave should they occur.
  • Calculate the hard dollar losses (revenue, profits), comparing them to last year or the previous months. Also consider the soft dollars such as loss of workers and goodwill, increased absenteeism, customer migration, expired inventory or dated machinery. Document the information, as insurers, the SBA and other institutions will require paperwork to support your claims.
  • Determine what financial obligations need to be paid immediately to resume operations. Question all expenses to determine near-term necessity, even those have been institutionalized over time such as bottled water dispensers, publication subscriptions, etc. Conserve cash where possible.
  • Adjust your balance sheet and projections to create an emergency reserve cash fund when possible should another closure take place.
  • Document all extra expenses you incur in the process of resuming operations, including renting equipment (until yours is repaired or replaced), temporarily leasing another location, marketing and moving expenses.
  • Follow the state’s reopening guidelines for your specific industry/business.
  • Become familiar with local, state and federal programs and funding mechanisms that may have been put in place to address business issues that are specific to this particular crisis.
  • Prepare for the eventuality that your business operations could be disrupted again after reopening and plan accordingly (see our “Between Waves” Planner for specific steps).
  • Implement changes that can be made to your business model to add flexibility and increase the resiliency of your business should there be additional closures in the future. Where possible, transition to online models, expand into new markets, add new products or services that are more resistant to public health disruptions and be willing to think out of the box. A crisis can also be an opportunity in business.


Canlis, the upscale dining establishment in Seattle, pivoted within days to suspend normal operations and offered home delivery of family-style meals instead. Their goal was to keep their 140+ employees employed and the restaurant’s operations going.

Dick’s Drive-In not only changed their business model to accommodate social distancing at their physical locations, but also launched a campaign to feed healthcare workers at area hospitals with more than 48,000 hamburgers. Customers funded half of it in a Buy a Box drive that bolstered revenue and the company matched the donation with another 24,000 burgers.

Chambers Bay Distilling repurposed some of its raw materials for making whiskey and vodka to create hand sanitizer for the public. The state liquor and cannabis board later amended its policies to allow all distilleries to manufacture sanitizer.

Should a second wave strike, you want to be able to pivot to an alternate business plan as quickly as possible.