How to plan for pandemics, disasters and the zombie apocalypse

Vision & Strategy

For many of us, this is our first experience at a pandemic, and we (and our businesses) are not prepared. We’re having to learn as we go.

That’s okay-nobody is alone in this.

It doesn’t matter if the spread of COVID-19 stops tomorrow or continues for another month. There’s already a global-level impact that you need to be prepared for.

Instead of running around like the zombie apocalypse and buying every roll of toilet paper on the market, it’s vital to get ahead of this. Sit down (or video conference) with your leadership team as soon as possible and start planning out scenarios, their impact and your plan to manage them. First:

  1. Take a breath and stay calm.
  2. Make sure you’re getting correct information. This isn’t the time to give in to fear-porn.
  3. Think strategically about how to reduce risk for your family, community and business.

Scenario planning is a powerful strategic thinking tool that helps businesses understand the risks, impact and changes they would need to make if something happens.

An important part of the scenario planning process is to brainstorm risks and opportunities in each scenario.  Gravitas Impact Coach Mark Green released a helpful video on LinkedIn explaining how your business can do a SWOT analysis for the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help you get going with your analysis, start by looking at stakeholders—specifically your employees and families, customers, suppliers and the business itself. For each audience there’s many risks you need to consider. For example:

Employees and families:

  • How do we reduce the risk of spread in our organization?
  • What if a key person is exposed or needs to be quarantined?
  • How do we deal with the fear and heightened emotions?
  • Do we have the staff to cover if multiple team members are away?


  • What if a key customer has cash flow issues?
  • What if a key customer cancels (or postpones) a project?
  • What if customers go out of business?


  • What if a supplier can’t fulfill requests?
  • What if a key supplier goes out of business?
  • What if there’s no more toilet paper at our suppliers?

Your business:

  • What if we run out of cash?
  • How will our market be impacted?
  • How will our market recover?

Take some time to look at the big picture. What could this scenario do to your market over the next several years? The global economy? Government policies?

For many of the weaknesses and risks (threats) you brainstorm in this process, do you best to come up with action plans to reduce the risk level. For example:

Spread of COVID-19 in our organization
  • Minimize in-person meetings with externals
  • Implement a work-from-home policy
  • Training/education for basic hygiene
How do we deal with the fear and heightened emotions?
  • Develop a thorough communication plan
  • Be proactive with communications and actions
Key person is exposed or needs to be quarantined
  • Start documenting key processes and cross-training staff
  • Remote working policy
Key customer cancels (or postpones) a project
  • Ensure you have 3+ months of cash available to cover all expenses
Supplier can’t fulfill orders
  • Source backup suppliers
  • Discuss their pandemic plans with suppliers
Running out of cash
  • Ensure you have 3+ months of cash available to cover all expenses
  • Talk to your bank about increasing your line of credit
  • Talk to key suppliers about increasing terms

Develop your scenarios

Start by developing three base scenarios:

  1. Revenue drop – bad case (50%+ drop)
  2. Revenue drop – likely case (30%? drop)
  3. Revenue drop – good case (15%? drop)

For each of these scenarios, create a budget and execution plan, including what you’d have to do with suppliers, staff and customers.

Is there a bright side?

Yes, a global pandemic is terrible, but in some cases, when you have a threat, there are opportunities just waiting to be uncovered. Some companies that are maximizing on the opportunities include Zoom, VPN service providers and SaaS providers—they’re offering amazing deals to help people work remotely. Some examples for you include:

  • If the market slows down, there is the opportunity to work on the business and make it stronger
  • You can diversify to reduce your dependence on a single supplier or client
  • You can document key processes for more scalability and predictability
  • You can use it as a check-in with key customers and deepen relationships

Your actions

Disasters, pandemics and other major shifts are going to happen, and we need to plan for them. COVID-19 is giving us the opportunity to jump-start out strategic thinking process, but only if we stay calm, focus and get ahead of it.

If you need support in this challenging time, please reach out. We’re here to help.

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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