Best Practices


Best Practices

Get Ready for a Post-pandemic Economy

2020 was a difficult and important year in many ways. The pandemic affected virtually everyone in the world and thrust economies into recession. Almost 2 million people have died, and many survivors are still facing long-term effects of the virus.   

On the brighter side, effective and safe vaccines were developed in record time and are being distributed across the world. The end appears to be in sight. It is now time to anticipate the next phase: the reopening of global economies by mid-2021. This column offers some suggestions for reopening.

Do prepare for pent-up demand to be unleashed. Once people are vaccinated and feel safe, I believe there will be a tremendous hunger for the things people have been unable to do over the past year. Travel of all types will surge, and along with that, demand for petroleum products. Your plants have likely been running at significantly reduced capacity for some time, so now is the time to get ready for the surge.

Be sure to discuss with customers their expected demand and their inventory situation. Consider building inventory of high-volume products. Confer with suppliers on their inventory situation, supply constraints and options available to deal with such limitations. Ensure your plant leadership is planning for resurgence of demand and evaluating any internal constraints, including availability of personnel and maintenance schedules.

Do discuss with customers their potential return to physical work locations and how you may interact with them in the coming months. Focus on how you will rekindle customer relationships during 2021, especially in situations where new people have been hired or significant organizational or strategic changes have occurred, either in the customer’s organization or your own.

Do evaluate your personnel situation. Perhaps during the pandemic it has become clear where gaps exist in your organization either due to personnel departures or performance issues. Also, you have likely observed opportunities to eliminate or consolidate positions due to changing priorities or other factors. 

I don’t recommend sweeping organization changes at this pivotal time, but I do recommend ensuring a fit-for-purpose organization for 2021 that will be sufficient to deliver the basics. Fill those key gaps, upgrade your organization as needed now and fund new positions with elimination of unneeded ones. Resist a significant hiring program beyond this until you have a better handle on future needs.

Do focus on reinstating programs to train and onboard any new employees who have been hired during the past 18 months, as they may be keeping up with the work but struggling to understand the corporate culture and norms. They certainly have missed meeting people in other locations or functions.

Do reevaluate corporate priorities as you put together your 2021 budgets and project lists. Some projects may have seriously lagged or halted during the pandemic for various reasons. Do you still view them as important and worth doing? Are there other projects that have gained priority due to pandemic revelations? Examples of the latter might be cybersecurity projects, projects related to corporate communications and connectivity, and e-commerce solutions. 

Do reward employees who have delivered results during 2020 in an exceedingly difficult environment. Perhaps you want to give an across-the-board reward of some type, or you may prefer to focus such bonuses on frontline workers or customer-facing workers. Accompany monetary rewards with heartfelt messages from management.

Do re-engage with original equipment manufacturers as soon as practical. 2020 seems to have brought significant evolution in OEM strategies. Electrification of vehicles seems to be taking an increasingly prominent place not only in OEM plans but also in public opinion. The new Biden administration is likely to focus on green strategies. 

Now is the time to update your own corporate strategies in light of the higher-level forces shaping our industry. Be sure to get input from major customers in order to do a quality job on your strategic planning process. This work may not be fast or easy to do, but it is highly important.

With the above activity list in place, you may need to “clear the decks” in order to make resources available to get it done. Here are some ideas on that front:

Don’t just restart all those things on your old project list. Some types of projects that you may want to put on hold or cancel include major systems projects (unless they are already very far along or vital), major expansions, early-stage new product developments and the like.  

Don’t ignore the lessons and insights that you have gained during the pandemic. Most likely you have figured out that you can operate very well with remote employees in many jobs. Consider whether this opens up new opportunities for your company with respect to accessing a wider hiring pool or offering greater opportunities for employee job satisfaction. 

Evaluate opportunities to reduce the size of physical facilities where it makes sense. While more travel will be necessary and desirable for business purposes in 2021, don’t simply reinstate the old travel budget or face-to-face meeting schedule. Rather, right-size the travel budget for the new reality. Consider keeping some training virtual and online for efficiency purposes.

Don’t forget to capture specific new ideas on how to function during a pandemic. This is unlikely to be the last pandemic, so be sure to be better prepared for the next one. Consider what worked well and what didn’t with respect to employee communications and human resources policies. Consider what, if any, personal protective equipment may be useful to have on hand. Update your health and safety plans accordingly. Be sure to keep safe during the transitional period between now and when herd immunity is established.

Don’t underestimate the power of the shared experience the pandemic has created. In many parts of your organization, there may be strong bonds forged through the pandemic fire and a feeling of having gotten through very difficult times by working together in new and innovative ways. Be sure to cultivate and harness this new collective energy and goodwill. 

I wish everyone a happier, healthier and more prosperous year in 2021!  

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Contact her at or (908) 400-5210.