COVID-19: What US business leaders should know

Tim Ryan

We can help protect the economy if we protect our people

PwC US Chairman and Senior Partner Tim Ryan, discusses how PwC and other firms can do more to support their employees and the communities around them.

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Here’s how to shore up your company’s response to the coronavirus


We’re operating in uncharted waters. Critical information on the characteristics of COVID-19 and its impacts on global business activity are difficult to assess and can change overnight. But we all need to structure responses that are capable of managing the work now and in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s how US companies, including those without direct exposure, can focus their efforts.


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Six key focus areas

Crisis management and response

Existing business continuity plans aren't capable of handling the fast-moving and unknown variables of an outbreak like COVID-19.

  • Develop incident management and scenario plans that are specific to this crisis
  • Focus on factually and effectively communicating to stakeholders
  • Plan on how to meet government priorities in individual countries and minimize the risk of business disruptions

 

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Workforce

Beyond human welfare, there are other people challenges to tackle, including how to support remote working at scale.

  • Attend to immediate global mobility concerns, such as reviewing travel rules, HR policies, first-aid plans
  • Assess remote working strategy, including asking employees to temporarily stop work, work remotely or relocate 
  • Address strains on a firm’s existing information technology and communications infrastructure in order to support remote working during the crisis

 

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Operations and supply chain

The ripple effects of the COVID-19 outbreak are difficult to model and assess, but US businesses can begin to mitigate supply chain distributions. 

  • Identify alternative supply chain scenarios — especially as new cases of the virus emerge in different territories
  • Activate pre-approved parts or raw-material substitutions
  • Adapt allocations to customers and pricing strategies

 

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Finance and liquidity

Financial markets often watch how companies plan for and respond to events like the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Consider disclosures related to direct effects on the results of operations, as well as second- and third-order effects
  • Think about disclosures related to risks and uncertainties about the impact of COVID-19 on future periods
  • Assess disclosures on the current and future impact on liquidity and capital resources

 

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Tax and trade

More agile tax models are needed in the face of global uncertainties to allow the tax function to effectively provide critical inputs in business decisions.

  • Effectively manage cash taxes through minimizing taxable income, obtaining available refunds and reducing required tax payments.
  • Consider actions to stabilize supply chains while bracing for an unpredictable revenue and profitability mix in key markets.
  • Assess the resources your company needs to meet your ongoing indirect and direct tax compliance requirements, imposed by the various taxing authorities.
  • Explore opportunities focused on becoming more flexible in responding to arising uncertainties.

 

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Strategy and brand

As companies move from reacting to mitigating the impact of the outbreak, strategies to emerge stronger will come in focus:

  • Consider accelerating digital transformations as the shift to remote working reveals gaps in IT infrastructure, workforce planning and digital upskilling
  • Protect growth and profitability through actions such as scenario planning, more frequent financial modeling exercises to improve resiliency, and new models that incorporate economic impacts of past pandemics
  • Take the pulse of your customers, thinking through longer-term considerations around shifts in core markets or business models as a result of the outbreak

 

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Kristin Rivera

Partner, Global Forensics Leader, PwC US

David Stainback

Partner, Crisis Consulting Leader, PwC US