The current challenge with COVID-19 should remind all business owners and businesses everywhere that your employees, operations, supply chains and customer relations can all be affected during a crisis. That’s why every business needs a continuity plan to meet disruption with clarity, confidence and relative calm. At First United, we have our own plans, procedures and protocols, as well as tools and support, to continue to assist you and your business in a time of crisis or uncertainty and we believe that you should too. We’re here to help. Please use the guide and tools below to ensure you’re ready in a time of crisis.

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Steps Your Business Can Take Today

Keep Yourself and Your Employees Safe, Up-to-Date and Informed
Stay up to date by following credible, official sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)World Health Organization (WHO) and your local government health department so you can respond quickly to changes that could affect you or your customers.
Stay In Touch With Your Customers
Proactively share important information and updates with your customers using email, your website, your social media channels, or however you typically connect. You might include information about the measures you’re taking to make your premises or products safe, or how you will handle customer inquiries, or if there are expected delays in production, etc.
Talk to Other Business Owners and Resources
Reach out to other business owners or talk to your financial institutions, your local chamber of commerce, or other service providers (CPAs, Attorneys, etc) to learn how others are responding to a current crisis, such as a pandemic. Share tips and best practices so that you remain prepared and in stride with the overall community.
Prepare Your Customer Communications Plan
To be as responsive and transparent with your customers as possible during a challenging moment; prepare for incoming questions and requests. Consider drafting templated responses for your emails or talking points for yourself and your employees.
Provide Customers and Employees with Frequently Asked Questions
Prepare a list of responses for questions your customers are likely to ask during this uncertain time. Provide your customers and arm your employees with as much detail and reassurances as possible through your answers.

We’re here to help.

If your businesses is facing uncertainty, early communication with us is important, and we’re here to help! Reach out to us as soon as possible to discuss all the available programs, options and solutions that we can offer to help support you and your business. We have supported the local communities we serve, those that we call home, since 1900 and we will continue to deliver on our promise of uncommon service and solutions, through the good times and the challenging times.

Build Your Business Continuity Plan

A good business continuity plan should contain details regarding the following items:

  • What systems and processes will be affected?
  • Who must be notified during a time of crisis?
  • When do specific actions need to be taken, in order of priority?
  • Where will your business operate?
  • How will circumstances change the way your employees work?

Getting Started

Now that you’ve identified the likely disruptions, depending on those possibilities your response will need to vary. Work to develop a continuity plan for each possible scenario. In case of potential data breach or malware attacks, notify your financial institutions immediately, as well as your customers and vendors. In a situation where payment systems might be disrupted, have backup options in place if payments need to happen remotely.

Ultimately, you want to ensure that you are protecting your employees, stabilizing your supply chain and staying in close contact with your customers.

  • Put together scenario-specific health practices and evacuation plans.
  • Know your protocol for securing your facilities and data.
  • Analyze and adjust cash-flow budgets so that you will be able to pay employees and bills on time.
  • Establish alternatives for paycheck distribution.
  • Stay in close communication with existing vendors, financial institutions and external partners.
  • Make it clear which suppliers and vendors you need to pay, including how much and by when.
  • Consider keeping digital and printed copies of vendor-critical information.
  • Prioritize transactions—time-sensitive, urgent, scheduled.
  • Keep an eye on customer communication channels. Don’t overlook social media.

Locations

For some businesses, your physical location is essential for your business to continue ongoing operations. During a crisis, this might mean having alternate locations and backup facilities.

  • Keep payment solutions, such as card readers and point-of-sale equipment clean and disinfected.
  • Can you rapidly shift accounting operations to a different location during a crisis? Be sure you have access to the tools you need to make time-sensitive payments, such as payroll and taxes.
  • You might need WiFi access or additional supplies and equipment, such as computers and deposit slips.
  • Consider whether your business insurance provides coverage for a significant financial loss as the result of a closure or a disrupted supply chain.
  • If your business is heavily dependent on a physical storefront, consider investing in your digital presence to help customers find you online.
  • How will workflow be affected at backup locations or for employees working from home? Can they get to important resources, such as IDs, passwords and other important information?
  • Confirm that remote access and login credentials are current and that employees have remote access.

Communication

To make your business contingency plan effective, you will need clear and thorough communication to everyone impacted by your business, including employees, vendors, customers, and your community.

  • Assign a team to handle immediate response and employee safety.
  • Name specific roles and actions for your emergency chain of command.
  • Extend communication to include customers, vendors, financial institutions, public agencies and the community at large.
  • Run periodic training and Q&A sessions to ensure your plan remains up-to-date and your team is prepared.
  • Practice your plan periodically using a tabletop simulation.
  • Regularly update or confirm emergency and contact information.

Post-Disruption

Even after business has returned to relative normalcy, you will need to stay diligent with your plans to ensure your preparedness for the next time a disruption occurs.

  • Touch base with your bank and other financial service providers (CPAs, etc) to ensure order.
  • Stay alert. Cybercriminals and fraudsters may attempt to take advantage of you or your employees during a crisis.
  • Be empathetic to emotional needs. In some cases, your employees may need access to support resources.

No matter the disruption, remember, you’re not in this alone. We are committed to our communities, to you and to your business. Reach out to us anytime if you should need assistance.

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