Practical steps

  • A focus on furlough and suspending 3rd party relationships

It is fair to say that COVID-19 has affected every part of our lives, from how we connect with family and friends to how we work. Staff being placed on furlough has become commonplace and so too has businesses suspending 3rd party relationships with vendors.

Although it feels like life will never return to normal, trust me it will eventually, and as the saying goes:

‘things will be alright in the end, if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!’

This pandemic has forced lots of businesses to make very difficult decisions.  Only a few weeks ago most people had not heard of the term “furlough” yet now it is part of the common narrative. Similarly, terminating or suspending relationships with 3rd party vendors (such as Virtual Assistants (VAs) and other suppliers) was likely not on anyone’s roadmap for 2020. The repercussions of having to take such action are still to be fully understood.

As well as the legal and HR processes which must be followed when furloughing employees or terminating or suspending supplier contracts, there are a number of other more practical steps which should be considered. This will help to ensure the customer / client experience is maintained and the business survives this crisis in as good a position as is possible.  Many businesses have furloughed employees or terminated contracts and unwittingly found themselves unable to operate or meet contractual commitments to their own customers and clients.  Before taking important decisions, it is essential to understand the affected tasks and their importance to the business.

What are the affected tasks?

Ahead of taking any action, it is important to understand the following.

  • What tasks do the employee or service provider perform?
  • Where do these activities sit in the business?
  • Are these tasks business critical, do the enable value creation, or do they add value to the business?

The key question is what is the effect of non-performance of the task on the business?  In the worst case, relationships with customers could be damaged which could have both short and long term impacts on the business and its cashflow.

How are these tasks performed?

It is often easy to understand what tasks employees and suppliers perform.  However, as a business grows it becomes increasingly difficult keep track of how they do it.

When establishing “how”, key questions to ask and to understand are as follows.

  • What steps are taken to perform these tasks?
  • What are the expected outcomes from the task?
  • How often is the task performed and how long should it take?
  • What checks and balances are needed to ensure quality of delivery.

In answering these questions it is critical to understand in detail the process, i.e. each step which needs to be taken to perform the task.

Which tasks are live or ‘in flight’?

The impact of COVID-19 on the global economy is unprecedented. It has affected businesses in ways unimaginable just a few weeks ago.  This rapidly developing situation has resulted in many businesses taking important decisions very quickly, often without the luxury of time to fully assess and understand the consequences.

With all this pressure it is important that tasks which are ‘in-flight’ are not forgotten.

  • What are the live / in-flight tasks being worked on?
  • How close to completion is the task; is it nearly completed or just started?
  • When is the completion date?
  • Who is the customer / client and have they been advised of the impact this may have on their order / deliverable?

It is essential that businesses consider the risk of suddenly suspending tasks which may impact on customer and client orders / deliverables.  Is there a risk that by dropping these ‘in-flight’ tasks future customer and client relationships will be adversely affected, which may slow down recovery and impact on future cashflow.

Are all the right systems in place?

Businesses now rely hugely on IT systems to perform all manner of tasks, from bringing in new customers and clients to issuing invoices – and in many cases even delivering the product to the customer / client.

A clear understanding of the systems used within the business is needed.

  • What system access rights (if any) are needed to perform the tasks?
  • Does the person performing the task have access to the necessary systems?
  • Does someone active in the business (i.e. not furloughed or a third party) have administrator-level privileges for the critical systems?

COVID-19 is a hugely fluid situation. The key is to step back, think, do not panic and think logically about the customer / client and their needs before taking action which may have a huge (and perhaps unexpected) impact on your business.

Green Robin Solutions is a business optimisation and process improvement consultancy, specialising in business resilience by ensuring clients have the right processes in place.  

We offer a no obligation 30-minute consultation to discuss resilience, continuity and disaster planning, and more widely how problem processes within your business can be dealt with.



Mobile: 07486864804