In drug testing, as well as background screening, crisis situations like the one we are currently facing, a global pandemic, may affect your business in a number of ways. What will you do in a crisis? It’s never fun, and it is sometimes scary, to have something unexpected happen either to your business, in your region or across the country that could jeopardize your business. One thing is certain; things do happen, and it is critical to be prepared. How you deal with a crisis is what matters. Will you let it utterly derail you and your business, or will you adapt and become stronger, better, and more prepared for the future?
In this issue of Inside Drug Testing, we are going to share some things that you should know and that you can do for your business, your employees, and for your clients to help you get through this situation and to be better prepared and stronger in the future.
The first thing is do not panic. Instead, assess the situation and determine how it may affect your company operation, your staff and your clients. You will also want to make note of what external factors the situation may create or that may arise that will indirectly be a factor. For a company providing drug testing, there are many moving parts, both those you control and those you do not. Either way, it will be essential to keep your team members and your clients updated. We will begin with those things outside your direct control and then recommendations for improving your internal processes and preparation.
Will drug testing collection sites be open or closed? Will they have limited hours? Are sites in one state or city affected more than others? Will they have the personnel needed to operate? How long may services be affected? Answers to these questions will affect both your ability and the ability of your clients to order and complete testing or screening. As we have seen with recent events, these answers can literally change daily so it is essential for your clients to know how to get updates. You can be pretty sure they do not want emails daily so having a website “Operational Status” page (or info on the home page), posts to specific social media outlets, call in recorded message line or a combination can help you best serve your customers. This is only effective if your clients know how to access the information though. You should also have a plan of how you will get updates from your collection sites, laboratories, TPA, or collection site network.
Medical Review Services
If you utilize a team of Medical Review Officers (MRO), you are less likely to have interruptions although in challenging times there may be additional delays especially if they are all located in a single area. If you happen to be using a local MRO who also operates a medical practice, the chances of service interruption go up dramatically. If this is the case, you should make certain, your MRO has a contingency plan with back up MROs that can take over seamlessly as needed. Ask for the plan in writing ahead of time if possible as this will help you make decisions if something prevents your MRO from being able to review test results.
All major laboratories will have contingency and communication plans in place and tend to be pretty good at sending out updates and notices. If you are working with a smaller or regional laboratory, discuss their communication plan with your representative and make certain to have that information in your plan as well. If your laboratory has multiple locations, then that will provide some back up in some situations, but you may have certain specimen types or tests that are only conducted at a specific lab. If you have access to more than one laboratory directly or through your TPA, then you will have an alternative if one has an issue that delays or prevents the testing of specimens.
State & Federal Disaster or Emergency Declarations
State and Federal disaster or emergency declarations can affect the ability of your business (or your suppliers and vendors) to remain open as well as those businesses you utilize daily for your drug or alcohol testing services or background screening. Whether it is a pandemic as we have seen recently, a hurricane hitting the costal areas, or some other event or situation, having a preparedness plan is essential.
Your preparedness plan should include the steps and action necessary that allows you to make every effort to continue to provide your clients with business-critical services with as little interruption as possible, while also protecting your employees, their families, and others.
Times of uncertainty may lead to the closing of many businesses that were not prepared both with an action plan and the financial reserves to continue to operate or at least recover once the problem has passed. Here are some of the key components that should be addressed in your preparedness plan.
Ability To Work Remotely
For some businesses, this may not be an option, but for many, it can be done with some planning. These are some of the questions that would need to be answered. Click here to download a “Work from Home Checklist” template.
- What job positions can work from home?
- How will this affect clients?
- What equipment would be needed?
- If computers are needed, will the company provide the computer, or will the employee use their own?
- If they use their own, what about data security? Needed Computer Programs, etc?
- What about phones? Do you have a VOIP system so they can function as if in the office?
- Does the employee have everything needed to work remotely? Desk or workspace, good lighting, chair, good internet connection?
- How will you maintain oversight? How above interaction with other team members by using chat, Slack, Microsoft teams, etc? Webcam for live interaction?
Financial Stability/Operation Reserves
Does the company have the reserves to maintain services and staff levels in an emergency type situation? This is a critical part of any business but not something that can be done last minute. Having cash in the bank is at the top of the list but having a line of credit that you can draw from is also important. Remember that you must pay employees, utilities, service providers, etc. to remain in operation.
As a service provider of background screening, drug testing and other services, it is essential to keep employees and your clients updated as uncertainty can add to the challenges of running the business. Public relations and communication should be planned carefully to reassure your clients, industry partners, and employees. These are questions that should be answered in your preparedness plan.
- How will we update clients (email, website page, social media, phone calls)?
- How will we communicate with our team members?
- What guidelines will we provide to team members to use in responding to clients? (you certainly do not want them making up answers on the fly that may well not be in line with the company plans or reality).
- How often will you provide updates?
- Do you have back up services or other companies in the industry that may be able to assist your clients if you cannot? Being able to be part of the solution can help keep you clients loyal and even strengthen the relationship.
While this is not a full disaster plan, it does provide insight into quite a few areas where we have seen businesses struggling during a major business disruption. A favorite saying of the President of National Drug Screening, Joe Reilly, is “Knowledge is Power”. I will take it a step further and say that knowledge is power when it is applied effectively to a given situation to create a positive outcome.
“Encountering obstacles in business is one thing we all have in common. The thing that will set you apart is how you deal with those obstacles. While some people allow obstacles to derail or overwhelm them, others take proactive steps to meet and overcome those obstacles to maximize their opportunities to succeed.” –Tom Fulmer
Expect the best but plan in case of the worst and you will maximize your chances of success. A clear, written plan will help stop a crisis from derailing you or your business and will help you adapt and become stronger, better, and more prepared for the future. A plan in your mind or the mind of only a few is just an outline or idea that will likely lead to poor execution or failure.