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Coronavirus: business planning bootcamp

Even two weeks ago we would have thought the headlines that we’re seeing every day now were far-fetched and highly improbable. I’ve had to delete the news app on my phone now because it seems to flash up endlessly all day with frightening statistics and stories. But this is the new reality, so we need to be one step ahead.

Most of the people I work with own or work for SMEs, and it’s now inevitable that every business, large and small, will be impacted hugely by the coronavirus, in many different ways. I’ve been working with my clients over the last few weeks to put together strategies to deal with this and thought I’d share one tool I often use.

You’ve probably got policies* and thinking in place now around the obvious stuff like remote working, supply chains and controlling the spread of the virus around your workplace, but have you found the time yet to do some business planning for how you can respond effectively to this new world we all find ourselves in?

I know you’re busy, so I’m going to keep this simple. One of the best tools you have available for any kind of business planning is the humble SWOT analysis. So I’m going to give you some prompt questions to fill one of these out today. With some creative thinking, you can shore yourself up against the biggest threats and identify some opportunities that might just surprise you.

So, grab yourself some paper and pens, and work through the following, answering them for the next 3-6 months whilst imagining how behaviour will change.


What is your core purpose? Why do you run this business? Who do you run it for?

Think about your financial situation, the products and services that you offer, and the things that your organisation does really well. What are your biggest strengths?

Who are your most loyal customers and what do they love about you?


What are you not so good at? Where are the opportunities for you to improve?

Financially, what are your weakest areas?

What do customers normally criticise you for?

Structurally, where do you have weaknesses (staffing/physical sites etc.)?

What are your learning and growth weaknesses? For instance, what knowledge, skills or NPD are currently missing?


Thinking about how behaviour has and will change, what opportunities does this present for your business?

How could you take advantage of your staff having time to re-set?

What learning/development could you offer them if they’re quarantined? What opportunities are there for cross-training between staff?

What new products/services would benefit your customers now?

How could you communicate with your customers in a way that will add value to them and improve their trust of you?

How could you leverage social media, email and online to bring events/promotions to your customers where they are?

How could you reduce financial risk for the next 6 months?

How could you help your local community to get through this period?

What processes could you improve during this period?

What other businesses or organisations could you naturally partner with to benefit your customers?


After thinking about the obvious threats, zero in on the two or three aspects that will likely cause your business the most harm during the next 6 months.

How can you shore yourself up financially to deal with these threats?

How can you adapt your systems and processes?

What timelines will you need to change?

What are your competitors doing that you’re not?

Check back at your opportunities and see where you can use those to mitigate the threats.

Once you’ve completed the SWOT analysis, you’ll need to synthesise it into short and longer term goals and objectives for your business - so I’ll be sharing some techniques and prompts for doing this in my next piece. I hope this helps.

*If you need some help to get policies in place, the CIPD have some excellent free resources available.

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