The 5 essential things you should be doing right now…
ONE: It is worth remembering the recovery is only weeks away. Get ready and start planning for the recovery now — whilst markets are in turmoil and dropping, and yes everything seems desperate and hopeless. However, historically things get back to normally very quickly, as these virus’s tend to disappear as fast as they appear. In many ways see this as another ‘shake out’ the weaker businesses less able to ride the storm, but also think of it another way, consumer demand is simply delayed. Although there will be some adjustment of behaviours, society has short memories.
It’s not armageddon as reported by media that run out of positive things to talk about. They are always first to talk up a problem into a disaster, and sensationalise everything. My guidance stop watching it. Focus on the recovery effort and staying healthy.
So when will things improve and go back to normal?
This issue has always been about exponential scaling as the infection rate of the virus doubles every 4 or 5 days. The objective of social distancing and ‘lock down’ is to flatten the curve. As one can see from China and S Korea once this happens, the rate of new cases drops and things start to return to normal much quicker. And why the Chinese stock market is back in positive territory. In Europe, US and the RoW they are following this strategy in various forms and degrees. Unfortunately the people that flout what is being asked, refuse to comply are simply delaying the time to normality for everyone.
TWO: Think of it this way. Demand for good and services have shifted or been delayed, but it is still there. Restrictions of movement and markets doesn’t change this rolling forward. Brace yourself for massive demand, as not being ready will result in lost opportunities. Think about all the pent up demand for the good and services. Think about what people have been deprived of in the past weeks and months and they will want to dive back in.
In business planning terms adjust strategies where demand is largely delayed, unless you are supporting critical infrastructure. In the main most of your customers are still there. An example is demand for food remains, it has merely shifted from restaurants, bars and fast food to supermarkets causing some supply issues, as the supply chains adjust to adding 30%++ demand overnight. And dare I say local businesses, farm shops, local stores are booming.
THREE: Keep pushing now. Whilst cash might be tight and there is a temptation with staff at home to back off a little. In some respects it is better to double down and push harder. As many won’t be doing this.
It is misleading to see and follow what others are doing. And remember the countries that went through this first, and are coming out the other end will have the upper hand initially. How will this impact you? Manufacturing capacity in China for example has been offline since the beginning of the New Year and then Covid19 closed it down. This supply capacity will be coming online quickly, and they will be offering best value to catch up on lost income. As far as we know global supply chains are still operational across the board, with some restrictions at border control and customs.
FOUR: If you are anything like the Governments, Big Business and Smaller Businesses you didn’t have a plan for this did you! It caught you off guard and unawares. But now you know the significance of what just happened. The impact on business that left you with little contingency at all, and few options other than to slim down staff, cut costs, send people home, delay payments to conserve cash, ask for support, grants, go to banks for cheap loans.
So you have learned one thing, you didn’t have a plan, and if you did it wasn’t much good was it.
There is one thing for certain, there will be another pandemic given Covid19 is a repeat in many ways of the Spanish flu between the wars that wiped out so many — when 70% people smoked, diet was not as good and soldiers and a large proportion of people living in poverty were vulnerable. SARS aka Bird Flu were more recently others didn’t reach epidemic potential, but they could again. But let is not forget geopolitical uncertainty and instability in regions can cause to odd conflict that has knock-on effect to commerce . Then there is ‘digital terrorism’, non nation states, disgruntled hackers that have targeted national infrastructure, will do so again. Our infrastructure like commerce remains fragile.
At a more mundane and basic level there is time do the things you have been putting off for weeks, months, years even. It’s time to sort out your social media strategies, writing new posts and putting positive messages out there. Read those articles and books you were intending. Do the online course you have been putting off.
Use the spare time you have for competitive advantage.
Adjust the websites to prepare for the return of demand and recovery of markets. Add capacity to order taking, to turning around larger volumes, plan to get more stock in place and source alternate suppliers. Update marketing messages and materials. Adjust your products and services in relation to what has just happened, to benefit from changes in priorities and behaviours. Be ready to run campaigns and offers to pick up the slack and even a land grab of new customers.
FIVE: Thinking Time use it. The modern way of business never sleeps with full on social media that tricks us to thinking we are missing out. The first thing to mention is all of us have more thinking time, unless you are part of the emergency and essential services or struck down and hospitalised. For most people they don’t have enough thinking time day to day, strange since most of us are paid to think and make decisions, so here is your chance to catch up, and do it properly.
From a business perspective your staff, your people are at home. They are, unless they are struck down with the virus. They are available, might be bored, lonely and want something to do. Now is the time to engage the collective minds of your staff like never before. Engage with them, set projects, do the surveys you were always intending to do. Ask for feedback and hold online ‘town hall’ meetings. The collective mind and spirit is more powerful when engaged.
So there are many things you can and should be doing to plan for what is to come. Let us not hope for the best and plan for the worst every time. Far better to plan for a rapid recovery, and a return to what will be the new norm, that this is likely to happen again and again.
It is time to re-work your business plans, look at contingency, look at what worked and what didn’t. Put new plans in place, adjust your organisation, for example to be able to support remote or home working, how decision will be made, added security to handle people logging in from everywhere to ensure and validate Who?
But this is not just about business. Contingency and plans for the home. The degree of self sufficiency require for next time. Making sure our government and councils also make the right investments and adjustments to be ready next time. To not let government or big business off the hook.
Author: Nick Ayton
Deep Tech and Strategy Advisor to Board, Businesses and Family Offices.