Posted: 08 May. 2020 5 min. read

Reopen for business? The complexities on the road to recovery

Across the globe, we’re starting to see a route to recovery after COVID-19. Inch by inch, restrictions are starting to unpeel, movement is easing, and lockdown is being lifted.

Australia is in an enviable position. Quick action has curtailed the growth of the virus in our community and allowed a vantage point from which we can look at the next step. Our government is now focusing on the economic – instead of the epidemic – curve and getting 1 million Australians back to work. Businesses will play a central role in this.

But reviving the economy is not like flicking a switch – opening up again is much harder than shutting down. And for many businesses, this recovery looks very different to the one they envisioned just weeks ago. How businesses approach this will be critical in ensuring Australia’s economic recovery is a successful one for them too. To achieve this, a plan to reopen will be key.

Download our Deloitte Small Business Roadmap for Recovery & Beyond Workbook

What do we mean by recovery?

Australia has had fantastic success dealing with the immediate health crisis, but we’re far from the finish line. Until there is a vaccine – in the works but still months away – what we’ll really be doing is learning to live with this virus.

It means reopening is likely to be an iterative process that comes in waves, rather than a staircase to normality or a reimagined ‘new norm’. As Professor Michael Wallach, an expert in infectious diseases from the University of Technology Sydney told the ABC, "I could almost say with some level of certainty, we're going to face future spikes. To me it would be a miracle if we didn't.” Australia is likely to pivot between economic, health and social focuses as contagion levels ramp up and down – and businesses will need to as well.

When businesses start to reopen their doors, it won’t be a return to the status quo. Not only will they need to manage their business recovery, they’ll need to prepare for ongoing uncertainty.

A workplan for recovery

This is a looming challenge. Already, I’ve had numerous clients tell me with surprise that shutting down was the easy part – opening back up in this uncertain environment is far more complex, with a myriad of decisions and considerations.

The way out of lockdown isn’t the same as the way into it. In times of uncertainty, planning becomes even more important. We recommend building a workplan for recovery to guide your organisation through this process.

For leaders, this encompasses more than just taking action. A shift from a ‘today’ to a ‘tomorrow’ mindset is key to managing this process. But part of this is acknowledging that you won’t be on the path of recovery the entire time. As restrictions ease and the virus spikes, there will be inevitable implications for businesses.

For this reason, your recovery strategy should retain elements of your immediate response plan and be able to flex when needed. This includes procedures for complying with evolving restrictions and if staff or customers come down with the virus.

Putting it into practice

Your recovery plan will need to span six key dimensions of your business that are critical to reopening: workforce, cashflow, workplace, digital, customers and suppliers. 

You should be mapping out your considerations for each of these across three key actions:

Reflect: Before you put the open sign back up, it’s important to take a moment to reflect – to take stock of where you are right now and what needs to change. This includes having a sense of what future success looks like and incorporating what has worked well, even though we will be continuing to operate in a very uncertain world. Larger businesses might consider holding a Recovery Lab, to formulate the programs of work needed to drive recovery and set the organisation to thrive in the long term, which you can execute in a set of sprints.

Restart: Consider the tactical set of actions you need to do in order to reopen the doors of your business. While this will vary across sectors, the key questions for any business will be: What can I sell and what is the best way to reach customers? How can I support and protect employees? What does revenue look like? How are we balancing supply and demand? It may also include considerations around JobKeeper and other stimulus and support programs you may be accessing.

Revitalise: Think about what you can do to thrive post-pandemic. Are there things that you implemented through the restrictions that you could use to reinvent your business and push it forward long term? The ongoing testing and refining of bigger decisions through this phase will help set you up for success.

The recovery process is a huge change of pace from the frantic energy of responding to the pandemic – and it requires a mindset shift to match. But planning your path to recovery will not only help your business reopen its doors but prepare for a better future. The difference between businesses that survive the COVID-19 crisis and those that thrive tomorrow will be set in the actions taken today.

More about the author

Andrew Culley

Andrew Culley

National Leader, Markets

Andrew has led Technology Strategy teams in both Adelaide and Sydney and specialises in the alignment of Business and IT Strategy, understanding the impact of Technology Disruption on organisations and how to maintain trust through good conduct. His career spans across the manufacturing and industrial sectors and his portfolio of clients has included private businesses through to large corporations and government entities.   Andrew specialises in reviewing businesses from both a commercial and operational perspective, and has a proven track record in developing and implementing information solutions that help businesses to compete in demanding and changing marketplaces. Over the last 3 years, he has focused on assisting B2C organisations understand the impact of Customer empowerment on technology strategy and the challenge of responding to the often-competing priorities of disruption and regulation. He also leads teams to work with clients on defining and embedding good conduct, as well as restoring and galvanising trust through remediation and has managed large scale, complex remediation projects. He was the co-author of Deloitte’s influential reports on SA “Make it Adelaide” and is a passionate advocate for advancement of the South Australian Economy.   Andrew has also previously held management responsibilities for supply chain management, sales and marketing, customer service, information technology and financial performance.