Rising infection counts. The declaration of a National Disaster. Travelling bans and calls to practice social distancing. We find ourselves in a unique period in human history with a situation not likely to go away very soon. We face unprecedented impact on business and the economy. Impact that is fundamental and not through market failure. Business will need to reinvent itself. But what do we do right now?
We offer 5 ideas how you can use your time effectively during this period of uncertainty, giving your business the best chance of surviving and maintaining unity.
Start with something simple. You have been procrastinating and kept deferring attention to that “subject”. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that will get done in future. That future is now! Even if a task is as mundane as clearing your desk, sorting filing, cleaning a storeroom or disposing waste. Perhaps you have a project coming up and need to document user requirements or maybe there is a bit of data clean-up that needs attention: get these done!
Give yourself and your teams a simple task to achieve in the coming weeks. Add a bit of urgency to ensure focus. During a time that uncertainty and fear are occupying the minds of many, this action will give you/them focus and, once complete, a sense of accomplishment that will contribute to maintaining hope. The accumulation of successes will give you and your team the certainty that challenges can be overcome. Reward accomplishments appropriately.
Boards, executives, management and others in strategic positions in your organisation will do well to use the time to revisit your business strategy. The one you have should likely be shredded, considering the havoc in global markets. Sit down and document at least three clearly defined scenarios, as well as a short/medium/long term analysis of each. Now rethink your business strategy with these scenarios as backdrop. Think about your strengths and how you will use them to ride the stormy waters. Think about your business habits and what needs change. Think about your customer experience and how this should drive your strategy. Engage with your staff to reflect on these issues and agree a way forward. It a great opportunity to remind everyone of the company mission and drive unity.
If you planned significant projects, revisit documented strategies and execution plans. Have alternatives ready to resource these projects and agree how they will be executed under the various scenarios contemplated. You might have been planning digital projects but not quite made the assessment of your maturity and skill level. You might have thought about your management information and dashboards that need to be redone to better engage with business information. Get stuck in!
Oh, since you have not done a black swan risk analysis up to now: it’s a good time to get that done too.
3. Remote Working
You probably started with a rapid response remote working policy and some of your staff are already working from home. Not very well coordinated, right? If not in place, you need a robust policy that will be able to ride the storm should the period of isolation extend to months. Check with your digital partners on how you will use remote working solutions to keep your teams engaged and productive. Engage with the people within your organisation that were already used to working remotely, such as regional management or salespeople. Get them to share best practice on good habits, managing relationships and keeping a good rhythm.
It is also critical to take good care about cyber security for all your new remote workers. Things might get desperate and your devices could be at risk. This is not the time to have an employee hacked or their computer stolen, losing critical business information. You also need to be sure everyone is executing good back-up procedures.
4. Learning Goals
The very word “company” reflects on the fact that humans operate in each other’s company as teams within a business and of course the business as a whole is one big team. We need each other’s company; we need to collaborate, and we need to achieve. The sense of achievement in business brings about a sense of community, no different to a big sports event bringing a town or even a nation together. We must therefore do extra in enabling our teams to find these goals and accomplish such achievements.
During a time of slow business activity and possibly a period of extensive isolation, I recommend that everyone in the organisation receives a clear learning goal to pursue in this period. Sign-up for that certification exam that was postponed for too long or assign new learning goals with specific application to future work activities.
Again, the sense of accomplishment will help you and your staff. However, there is also a helpful dose of comfort coming from having a new skill in trying times. Just like a soldier has a better chance of survival having expanded his/her repertoire of enemy engagement techniques, so your teams will be stronger knowing that with newly developed skills they will rise to new heights as this pandemic gets under control and they can get back to business.
Please avoid leaving your staff goalless and suffering. The mass of negative (and fake) information about the virus and its impact could be overwhelming and they deserve a welcome distraction. Connect them to that better future.
5. Customer Relationships
This is now the time to revisit your customer relationships. While business is down and they might not be buying, please don’t ignore your customers. Check on their wellbeing and how they are dealing with the pandemic. Also, ask for an opportunity to reflect on the past. Discuss customer feedback, exploring the good and the bad. Learn from your customers about how you can be a better you once business is back to normal.
I would certainly recommend digital communication but let this not become the exclusive format for engagement. Pick-up the phone. Give him/her a call. You have been partners through thick and thin and its perhaps a really good time to express your appreciation for their business.
In conclusion we can note that this is a time to focus on healthcare. Use the time to focus on the health of your business, your clients, your employees and, perhaps most importantly, your own health and psyche. Stay strong!
What to do?
Your organisation is going through an unprecedented period of uncertainty and change. Make sure you have strategies and an ecosystem in place that will support you through these trying times. Rethink your business operating model and how you use your staff and partners to deliver effective solutions to your clients. Focus on improving processes, reducing waste and maximising results for your business. Yes, you can!
Johan Louw is the founder of Aguru Business Solutions. He helps companies to get ready for automation and digitalisation.
Aguru Business Solutions
Tel: +27 82 711 1279