Article written by:
Doug Davidson
Director of Information Technology Services

When I was running my own small business, prior to joining GBQ, I kept most of my focus on running and growing the company and spent few brain cycles on something like 2019-nCoV, the nasty coronavirus spreading globally.

Usually, GBQ’s IT services team is helping firms fight off computer viruses, regulators and other bad cyber actors – not human viruses. But, the plans we help our clients develop about how to be resilient in the face of a cyberattack aren’t that far from the plans we should have in place for other business risks.

After Hurricane Ike hit Ohio in 2008, taking out the power in central Ohio for days, my company invested in cloud tools so we could operate the business even if the office was down. That quickly turned into us creating a call chain to declare “work from home” days if the weather was bad. This meant our employees were safe from bad drivers and our productivity for the day wasn’t spilled all over the interstate in wasted drive time.

There is an unintended opportunity in the choices you make to manage risks.

Eventually, my small business became virtual, working from home most days, meeting at Starbucks or the Columbus Metropolitan Library when we needed to be face-to-face as a team. Rent, cleaning costs, and a number of other things were no longer coming out of my back pocket, and my employees were happier. Additionally, we built the skills to be able to work remotely with clients which serve us well still today as we do risk assessments, penetration testing and other services for clients all over the country.

This coronavirus outbreak is real and may have significant business impacts for some of us.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, as the first person-to-person transmission of the virus was reported in the U.S. Noting the WHO’s declaration, the State Department told Americans not to go to China, raising its travel alert to the highest level.

Here are some things to consider if you do have a concern about the virus:

Go to the authorities for your information.

There is nonsense out there on social media. Keep your eye on the global situation through WHO, nationally through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and locally through your county health department.

Quickly take stock of your risk.

It isn’t as thorough as the full effort of conducting an enterprise risk assessment, but it’ll do for now.

The biggest concern is going to be for products that are made in China and shipped through Wuhan, the shutdown city which serves the country as a major transportation hub. If supplies are made elsewhere in China, they still may ship through Wuhan which means delayed shipment.

  • Do you have significant components in your supply chain that come from China or other areas of the world? What is the impact on your business if those parts stop shipping?
  • Do employees travel to, or live in, regions impacted by the virus?
  • Do you have a plan in case of an outbreak in your workforce, either here or abroad? What steps will you need to take to stay in production? Are plans in place so that once employees come back to work, they don’t get sick again?

Keep aware of the situation.

Monitor the news in geographies that impact your business. Monitor employee absentee rates. Monitor WHO, CDC and local health authorities. Talk regularly with suppliers you think may be impacted.

If the situation is trending worse, you may need to make some decisions. A quick eye on the situation every morning should be enough to put you in a position to react if the situation worsens, but not so much so that running and growing your business takes a back seat.

Don’t go to work if you feel sick. Make it okay for your employees to choose not to come in either.

It’s not the time to take a “tough pill” and go into the office when you feel lousy. This advice holds true even if there were no coronavirus, as the flu season is hitting seasonal peaks. One sick employee – even you – can create a mini-outbreak in close quarters where everyone is working and breathing together.

« Back