LAS VEGAS — Recent headlines define the laundry list (pun intended) of major challenges for any business leader to contend with. Any single item would be concerning, but these challenges are all occurring at the same time in this pandemic economy.
How business owners and leaders are addressing these challenges will fill MBA courses for decades to come with what worked—and what did not.
The headlines are also affecting textile rental and professional laundry markets. Global supply and logistic problems are impacting all market sectors, from machine parts to textiles, finished goods, chemicals and more.
Labor shortages are affecting every market sector. Signing bonuses are being offered to hourly wage positions; minimum wages are rising 20%-30% or more in some areas. Business bankruptcies are at an all-time high, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Losses due to bad debt have had ripple effects for vendors.
The scale and scope of the combined issues facing businesses in this pandemic economy are challenging leaders. In fact, the subtext to the headline issues is the large number of leaders who are stepping down from their organizations. Historically, leaders in turbulent times are not the same as those in stable or high-growth markets.
Entrepreneurs or family business owners are the exceptions to that rule in most cases and the laundry industry is populated with family companies that are laundries and suppliers alike.
In Part 1, we examined how the pandemic changed business contingency planning. In the conclusion, we look at a case study and ways to deal with the challenges.
We helped one linen supply owner who saw 80% of his receivables disappear when his restaurant and hotel customers were forced to close due to COVID restrictions. He needed to focus on collections, retrieving inventory, deciding which employees he needed to retain, which he needed to lay off and how to shut down the plant to protect his assets (textiles and machinery).
He assembled his core team to have these very tough conversations which included legal, HR, senior managers in operations, sales and engineering. He also included his bank and insurance representatives.
Later he brought in his key vendors in textiles, chemicals and transportation to discuss what they were doing and how they would ride this out together. Lastly, he called major customers and started conversations about where they were and how they needed to work together.
He documented every meeting and directed everyone to take notes of any key conversation to keep confusion and misunderstandings to a minimum. Constant and candid conversations allowed the business to achieve a holding pattern awaiting the market to return.
Through this, he met with his team members to see how they were doing personally—finding out how their families were holding up and listening to their concerns. Keeping them reassured while others were being laid off was crucial.
As the first wave of COVID lifted and his customers started to return, he had the difficult task of re-hiring, but volumes were so low at first there was not enough work to turn on the plant.
Additionally, returning staff wanted reassurances that they could work safely and not be exposed to infection. Finally, the state restrictions were impacting return-to-work requirements, monitoring and reporting.
Once again, prior to re-opening, he convened an action team to address the challenges. He added department supervisors to the response team to develop protocols. By including supervisor and department leads, he was able to get their buy-in to the company’s commitment to a safe work program.
It is important to note that these protocols were adjusted weekly until the whole plant found a system that worked best for all.
Forced to contend with so many issues at the same time has tested companies of all sizes. Having a business interruption response program is essential to business continuation. Having a program and succeeding is dependent on practicing and updating that program to meet the issues foreseen and unforeseen.
Once you assemble your team in response to any event, meet often to see what is working and what is not. Be honest about why a strategy is not working, adjust your track or move away from the track decisively. If something is working, be realistic on how much you can expect from it. Be prepared to change again once that element plays out.
Here is the tough part, work hard to manage your bias. As a leader or team member, keep the focus on the goal and be ready to make room for different approaches. For example, this is a unique time in the labor market and old strategies for attracting workers just may not address the current environment.
You may need to highlight your essential business status, how you are protecting your workers with uniforms, cleaning protocols, and more. How does your business service or support your community, conserve resources, meet national or international standards or certification?
Keeping in mind you may be competing with your customers for the same workers, you may need to highlight limited exposure to the public.
Not having a plan is not really an option in this environment. Having a plan that is not a fit for your team can be catastrophic. There are written guides, consultants and peer groups who can help you develop a plan structure, but it is up to each company to find a program that works best for them.
Not practicing/reviewing your program on a scheduled basis is almost like not having a plan at all. Practicing can be time-consuming, expensive and exhausting to organizations. But drills, after-action review, modification and comprehension can make all the difference in how your business will contend with interruptions of any type, even global pandemics.
Miss Part 1 about at how business interruption planning changed when the pandemic happened? Click HERE now to read it!