Managing businesses in the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are going through unprecedented times, where the COVID-19 virus has brought our economy, our businesses and our way of life down to our knees. It has disrupted supply chains, demolished demand in short term, evaporated jobs, especially blue collared jobs, decimated balance sheets and fundamentally changed how employees work and interact.
However, it has also provided multiple opportunities. It has provided the opportunity to become significantly more efficient by adopting techniques such as WFH (Work From Home) on a more permanent basis, and its collateral benefit of Reduced Travel as the acceptability of closing deals through video conferencing has gone up. It would not only reduce cost of doing business, but also save commute time and reduce carbon footprint of businesses. Which also means that there will be a long-term effect on airlines as they would face a reduced demand even after the pandemic is over.
The question really is, how do businesses and startups manage this pandemic. To begin with, each business should form a coordinating body or what I would prefer to call a War room that will address immediate challenges such as employee morale, cash flow management, customer/ client outreach and ensuring business continuity. It would also work out the modalities for post lockdown working protocols. No company should immediately get all its employees coming to office, especially critical employees, since if they get infected, it will impact the company significantly. Rostering systems need to be worked out so that the same batch of employees come at the same time and do not mix up with another batch of employees.
The war room would then need to address near-term challenges, including Cash management, future lockdowns, safe environment protocol etc. It will also have to work out how the organization returns back to BAU (Business as Usual) and also, what will the new BAU look like? If we have been able to successfully work from home, do we still need all employees to come to office or can we reduce office space requirement and get some people to continue to work from home?
The war room, would also have to therefore envision new processes for the new BAU and also work out new business models as opportunities that the disruption will present. It would also look at restructuring the capital structure and perhaps retire some of the high cost debt and borrow from the current market that is offering a much lower cost debt. It should also look at the possibility of buying out other businesses that are available cheap now and also look at acquiring technologies that are now available cheap.
And lastly, the war room should have an investor outreach program to ensure that your investors are on-board with the fast pace of changes that your company will go through.
This is an excellent opportunity for organizations to emerge as more competitive entities that will go out and win more market segments and more market share.