This article, written by attorney John Perten, was originally published by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and can be found here.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced each of us to change how we have traditionally conducted our businesses. Many companies have been forced to reimagine how they operate and to develop new strategies for dealing with the challenges of a largely remote workforce and a virtual presence only. For almost two years, companies have had to deal with an ever changing environment and unprecedented issues. In so doing, we have all learned a lot – both good and bad. Now’s the time to take what you have learned, and use it to grow and sustain your business.
Here are some thoughts – some legal, some practical – for your consideration.
A. TAKE YOUR INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL TEMPERATURE
1. You are not alone. The issues that you faced while weathering the storm are likely similar to those faced by your clients and contacts. Might your insights be helpful? Might your contacts have learned something that can help you? Call your clients/contacts to check in. Ask them how they are doing. Ask how they navigated pandemic. This is not meant to hustle business – just let them know you are thinking of them, hope they are well, and share best practices which could be mutually beneficial. Too often we reach out to our clients/contacts only when there is a business reason to do so. Be the exception – the business will follow.
2. Check in with your employees. Let your employees know, on a personal level, that you are concerned with their well-being. Do they have any suggestions for improving the business and work environment moving forward in this post-pandemic world? A workforce that feels cared about by management is a stronger workforce.
B. REFRESH YOURSELF
3. Review and update your standard forms. Perhaps you have been using the same contracts for years. Now is the time to review and update your standard forms to ensure compliance with new laws and to incorporate lessons learned. For example, do you have a force majeure clause and does it cover public health emergencies? What rights do you have due to supply chain delays? What are your termination rights? Is your indemnification clause broad enough to cover problems to which you have been sensitized? What about your payment terms? Can you tack on attorneys’ fees if you have to sue to get paid? Your attorney will be glad to have these discussions with you.
4. Update your social media presence. As more and more companies rely on a virtual presence, your social media portfolio may be one of your most valuable assets. Many companies have websites which were developed years ago as an adjunct to the in-person way of doing business. Things have changed. Have you looked into new ways to optimize your presence on the web? Has someone done an SEO evaluation for you? Are there other social media opportunities that you should consider? Now’s the time to update your look and feel on the web.
5. Conduct an insurance audit. Do you have the necessary coverage? What about business interruption? Can you protect yourself against a future pandemic shut down?
C. GET WITH THE PROGRAM
6. More and more people work remotely and this is unlikely to change. Do you have the necessary protocols in place to ensure confidentiality and maximize data security as the volume of information that flows electronically increases? As our reliance on technology has increased, so too have the laws dealing with data security and privacy. Are you current?
7. What about your employee handbook? Do you have one? When was it last updated? As you move from a brick and mortar business to a virtual business, do your policies still make sense? Any business with more than just a handful of employees should consider adopting an employee handbook. These provide, among other things, policies on the use of employer equipment, i.e. computers, phones, tablets, and vacation and sick policies. Now is the time to get that in place, or updated. You want to ensure that all your employees, especially those who work remotely, understand your expectations.
D. LEVERAGE YOUR NETWORK
8. Who are your professionals, and are you taking advantage of the full complement of services that they provide? Many of you have had the same accountant, lawyer, insurance agent, etc. forever, and there certainly is nothing wrong with that! Take a step back – are you getting the best advice you can and are you maximizing these connections? What other services do the professionals offer? The law firm that you use for corporate matters may also have professionals who do employment law, estate planning, or real estate law. They may have connections with banks, investors, accountants, or insurance providers that can help you grow. Can you get a referral if you need one? Get to know the capabilities of those with whom you have a relationship and better understand their network. People are generally happy to talk about what they do and even happier to help. And, while you’re at it, let those people know the broad scope of products and services you have to offer them!
E. THINK ABOUT THAT NEXT GENERATION
9. Do you have an exit strategy? More and more people are retiring earlier or seeking different roles. How much longer do you want to work? Who is going to take over when you decide it is time to leave? It’s never too early to start thinking about your next chapter. We’ve had that discussion hundreds of times and would be glad to brainstorm with you.
10. While some find it uncomfortable to contemplate their own mortality, the pandemic has forced some difficult discussions. An estate plan allows you to decide what should happen in the event the worst happens. And, it really is a gift to those who you leave behind because they have a roadmap, written by you, as to what you want! And while you’re at it, offer your employees the opportunity to learn about estate planning, wills, and health care proxies. Many attorneys will be willing to work directly with your employees too. This is another way to show your employees that you care about them personally.
The pandemic has forced us to reimagine our business environment. Now is the perfect time to rethink who you are and what you want to be. With a little forethought, you can be ahead of the curve!