Navigating Your Business Through COVID-19
In the period leading up to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I do not imagine that many of us were expecting to be on lockdown and forced to remain in our homes by the Government. At the time of writing, there has been just over 4,900 deaths in this country. Very sobering.
Despite the impositions of COVID-19 that affect us all, it is also crucial that the business machine that drives our economy, keeps running as best it can during this testing time. This must be done responsibly and in a way that keeps our workers safe.
It would seem obvious and logical to write about technology adoption as a technology professional; however, I am also the owner of a technology business that employs people. And during this testing time, I feel that I could offer more value by sharing my own observations as a business owner and an employer.
Thinking through what I wanted to write here, I cast back to something that an old business coach of mine taught me. Every business issue is down to either time, people or money. With that being said, here’s my thoughts…
March was the longest month in existence!
Time is moving slowly. It has been two weeks since lockdown however, it feels like we have been in lockdown for longer. A client of mine described it as being part of a computer game that you’re in but only observing.
Every day is different, and change is constant. The changes that we are subject to, such as the lockdown, are well outside our circles of control and influence.
Why time is on our side though…
Lockdown has meant reduced travel and reduced face-to-face meetings; I have done more video conferencing in the last 10 days than I have in the last 10 years!
The observation of time from reduced travel and meetings is that we have more of it. We’re not spending hours on the road to get to places. Video meetings are shorter because we’re getting on with it. What matters now is how we use that extra time to position our businesses for the other end of the pandemic.
Check-in with your team
There are a lot of scared people right now.
Some of those people may work for your business and as a business leader it is therefore paramount that you offer calm and steadiness as best you can. Mindset is everything – instead of panicking, it is important to your people that you are seen to be calm. Focus on your circle of control and do not obsess with your circle of concern.
Being stuck at home has a massive effect on the way we think and view things. Ensuring that no man is left behind to isolation whilst isolating has been front of mind, not just for the minority of my team that live alone.
I have never communicated with my team to the extent that I do now. I make it my mission to speak to every one of my direct reports at least once a day to see how they are doing. I always do that on the phone or via video conference. I save the emails and texts for mass-messaging important updates and reinforcement of the calls.
Reduce the news
For me personally, I have increased the distance between myself and media. I watch the Government briefings but no other news. I seek the views of my trusted advisors and close peers. I have removed all social media from my phone. There is too much disinformation and hysteria to distract you from your circle of control.
That may create an information gap between you and the outside world. Operational intelligence is therefore crucial, and, in my world, I seek the views of my trusted advisors (accountant, HR, law) and from my Vistage peer group.
The way your people are working has changed. Working patterns and habits are now different, especially for those employees that have children. In our business approximately, half of our workforce are parents and I see an increase in working outside of traditional business hours – both ends of the normal working day.
If a period of lockdown and remote working extends from weeks into months, I am already asking questions about how the team works and the environment it works in. One of my goals is to offer 24×7 service; is a side effect of COVID-19 the opportunity to test and offer extended hours?
Do you have what you need?
Immediately before the pandemic kicked off, the business was looking at larger premises. Is this important now that much of our business has proven it can function remotely? Tooling is also important and every time I speak to my team, I am checking that they have what they need – from USB adapters to the chairs that they are sitting on.
Finally, for people, I see that we are more reliant than ever before on technology. Yet for some businesses, they just did not have remote working on the radar, and it was never a thing. This will certainly change now for how we coach our clients to get the best from technology – remote working as standard, right across their technology stack from file access to voice and video calling.
Check before you make the cut!
The technology supply chain, which was already in a fragile state because of Brexit, has been devastated. Whilst some of you were stocking up on toilet paper, the stocks of decent business-grade laptops literally dried up in a short few days. Those that were left were either crap or extortionately priced – supply and demand.
More than ever before, cash is king. Our business and a lot of our clients are looking at spend and how quickly cash is coming back in. We carry a small amount of stock and have been looking at how to get that moving. If cost-cutting is on your own agenda, be sure to cut the right things. Skimping on anything that puts you at risk or stops work from coming in is a poor decision – cyber security and marketing should be way down the list of cost savings.
Don’t just cut and run either…
Cashflow forecasting is also high on our radar. For years we have maintained a 26-week forecast and it is updated at least weekly. From the perspective of cash, we are fortunate to be key workers that also supports other key workers. But what if your business is forced to stop selling. How long will Government support carry you through?
Don’t just stop paying your suppliers. If the flow of money stops moving, it will cascade up your supply chain and when this is over, you will have no supply chain. If you have cash issues, then talk to your debtors and find ways to work with them.
How to Make the Best of it!
Despite the very real trauma that is affecting us all, the COVID-19 pandemic is also an opportunity for good.
It is the chance to innovate new products and services that have a positive impact on society. It is time to engage your people to come up with new ideas based upon what they see at the coal face.
More important, as a business leader, it is your opportunity to be a good person. Now go wash your hands!