The last few months have been unprecedented. Every industry and individual has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot ignore those who have passed and the pain felt by families who have lost loved ones. We hope the pandemic will end soon and usher in healing and prosperity. It is helpful to reflect on some of the lessons we can learn from this pandemic, and I have gained the following insight through my representation of businesses, community associations and not-for-profits in Chicago.
One of the more obvious lessons is we should plan for unexpected events. We all stand to benefit when we have emergency plans in place. This may include a business continuity plan, adequate IT security and software, leadership succession plan and other adaptions to effectively keep your business going or to transition it should it close. Those who weather the storm most successfully have been able to quickly acclimate. Get creative with some of your solutions. Can your restaurant become a bodega or serve grab and go items? Do your property managers or Board members have appropriate technology and training to conduct video-conferencing meetings? Do you have a clear succession plan in place if leaders become ill or pass away?
Another important lesson is we should have an emergency fund available. Every business is different and emergency plans will vary. How much cash on hand do you need to operate for three months, six months or a year? What is your line of credit? What operation expenses can you cut and how much will that save?
Use social media to help promote your business. It is free and effective. Look for opportunities to reciprocate by promoting other business that may boost yours. Establish a referral program with another business or partner with another group to support a special event. Is your organization taking advantage of social media? What can you be doing differently to help promote your business?
If you treat your customers and employees well when times are tough, they will remember when things return to normal. Your business is only as good as your people working for it. A smile, great customer service and “doing the right thing” will pay in dividends. When possible, be flexible to work through disputes with clients, vendors, employees and other businesses. Minimizing stress and maximizing compassion is a win-win. For example, many weddings and other events have been postponed or cancelled. Even if the deposit is non-refundable, you may be able to provide an alternative date for the event, a full or partial credit on the deposit or an alternative service or product. Can you approach tenants to work through past due rent issues? Negotiation is an effective strategy and may save you money in litigation expenses.
During a pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of the evolving nature of laws that apply to your business. Now may be a good time to evaluate employee handbooks or other workplace policies to ensure that they are compliant. There are many issues to consider, including parental leave and adoption policies, dress codes, naming policies, recruiting and hiring practices and diversity and inclusion training. For example, did you know that Public Act 101-0221 was signed into law by Governor Pritzker in August 2019 requiring all Illinois employers to train employees on sexual harassment prevention on an annual basis? Fines are hefty for failure to follow this new law.
Tressler LLP recognizes that each business has diverse needs. We are available to help you develop a plan or policy, evaluate your business records, and otherwise assist you. I invite you to drop me a line to share your experiences. It helps both of us to brainstorm on creative problem solving. Feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (312) 627-4052.
ABOUT MATTHEW J. O'MALLEY
Matt O’Malley is an associate attorney in Tressler's Litigation Practice Group and a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. He advises his clients on litigation strategies, skillfully representing them through all phases of litigation. Matt has a track record of success in both bench and jury trials. He focuses on the client’s resolution goals, whether that is achieved through trial, settlement conference, mediation or arbitration. Matt serves his clients in a variety of complex litigated and non-litigated matters, including actions for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, indemnity and contribution, professional malpractice, HOA and community association law, personal injury, general corporate, LGBTQ issues, employment discrimination and civil rights violations.
ABOUT TRESSLER LLP
Tressler LLP is a national law firm headquartered in Chicago, with eight offices located in five states - California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Tressler attorneys are experienced counselors and advocates who appear in state and federal courts, and in governmental proceedings, throughout the United States. Many Tressler attorneys devote their practice to the representation of the insurance industry in coverage analysis and resolution, litigation, underwriting consultation, product development, claims management and reinsurance. Tressler attorneys also represent clients in commercial litigation, employment, local government law, corporate transactions and intellectual property law. Contact us to learn more.