The coronavirus has taken the world by storm. And, as with any severe storm or natural disaster, companies should have a business continuity plan in place to ensure they can navigate their way through any associated challenges. While most natural disasters tend to have clearly defined start and end dates, the coronavirus is still in its early stages in the United States, so its end date is difficult to predict, leaving many business leaders wondering how they should prepare for this pandemic. However, this hasn't stopped some progressive construction industry pros from starting and implementing their business continuity plan for the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of their plans and efforts are below.

Communicate Early
If industry leaders don’t update employees on their coronavirus policies and plans, it can prompt a lot of anxiety, guesswork, and misinformation among the rank and file.

“People are…just looking for information that helps them feel better…or [offers] some kind of direction or some kind of virtual hug, if you will. In the absence of that leadership, we get a lot of things that aren’t necessarily healthy or productive,” said Brian Solis, an independent digital analyst, speaker, author, and strategic advisor, during a recent video podcast on Small Business Trends about the coronavirus.

If you’re stuck on what to write, consider something like the letter below that Maggie Hardy Knox, owner and president of 84 Lumber, based in Eighty Four, Pa., shared with her employees last week:

The health and safety of my 84 Lumber associates and their families is my number one priority right now. In response to the State of Emergency and the reported case of COVID-19 in Washington County, I wanted to make a few things clear for my Team Headquarters associates.

I will continue to support all of my associates financially during this time. I will stand behind all associates’ base pay and there will not be any lapse in medical benefits.

Given the recent school closures, children always come first. I want associates to do what is right and necessary for their families. Also, no sick time or paid time off (PTO) will be charged during this time period. I don’t want anyone to worry about whether or not they should come to work.

As a company, I am suspending all air travel. It’s important for associates to be safe and near family. We will continue to monitor the situation and on Monday we will communicate our plan to ensure our stores will continue to service our customers while protecting our associates.

I don’t want my associates worried about their jobs or getting their next paycheck. I want them to focus on their health, their safety and their family. At the end of the day, it’s really all about family and my 84 Lumber associates are my family.

God bless,

Finalize a Plan
Assemble a team with a representative from each group or department within your company to think about everyone (customers, partners, employees and their families) who might be affected by the coronavirus and how they might be affected. Then, come up with a plan to address these issues.

“We’re making plans to keep going, keep going with a skeleton crew, or simply shut down. But my guess is that if we shut down it will be a result of major events like government, school, and other shutdowns,” states Robb Wilson, owner and president of Wilson Lumber, based in Huntsville, Ala. “We hope it doesn’t happen, but we’re trying to plan for the worst.”

Wilson shared some of his company’s early coronavirus business continuity plans with ProSales:

1) Disinfect all high-traffic areas several times a day.
2) Post employee hygiene recommendation information at time clocks, restrooms, break areas, or high-traffic areas.
3) Encourage employees to stay home, if they are sick.
4) Conduct a safety meeting briefing on coronavirus for every employee in each department.
5) Survey employees to determine who has school-age children who would not be able to report to work in the event of a prolonged school shutdown.
6) Determine which employees will work from home and make sure they have remote access to the servers.
7) Communicate to all employee a quick overview of the action plan.
8) Create a list of the minimum amount of employees needed at each location in the event of a shutdown or slowdown.

In addition to the above action items, Wilson Lumber also plans to contact its temp agencies and the company’s top 10 customers and suppliers to find out what their plans are in case of a shutdown.

Check Your Financing Options
Because it’s difficult to predict how long and how heavily the coronavirus could weigh on society and businesses, it’s important to make sure your company has access to cash, if needed. This is where a low interest loan might help.

Andrew Meyerson, CFO at Axis Construction Corp., said he called the lending officer at his company’s bank on Friday to see if the bank anticipates a liquidity shortage during the coronavirus crisis. He wanted to make sure his Hauppauge, N.Y.-based construction company will have access to its existing line of credit with the bank, if it’s needed.

“Let’s say some customers are a little slower in paying because of the impact that the virus might have on their business. We wanted to make sure that we would have access to that line of credit to maintain the construction schedules. Being that we service clients in the healthcare field and that there is a heightened sense of urgency with these projects because of the coronavirus, it’s essential that they are not disrupted.”

Today, Meyerson followed up with the bank and learned that, since Friday, some companies have already started drawing down on their line of credit to prepare for the potential impact of the coronavirus.

Stay Optimistic
Mortgage rates recently hit historical lows, which sparked a recent surge in mortgage applications of more than 55%, according to sister publication Builder magazine. Naturally, this could present an opportunity for some homeowners to conduct a cash-out refinance for home improvements.

“This could just be the optimist in me, but I think people are going to be spending a lot more time in their homes over the next month and they’re going to be like, ‘I need to replace these windows…or ‘I need to turn this third bedroom into an office.’ So, I think there could potentially, in the long run, be a real pickup in our industry,” says Hunter Lansing, president of Lansing Building Products.

With so many unknowns about the coronavirus and how it might affect your people, processes, and overall business, it can be challenging to think of everything when coming up with your business continuity plan. Nonetheless, industry professionals agree that it's important to have a business continuity plan in place as soon as possible, share it with your employees, adhere to it, and update it when needed.