As businesses, we are in this together

What our country and most parts of the world are currently experiencing is something unprecedented. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not an issue that concerns only a specific sector but is having an adverse effect across all strata of our lives.

Indeed, it is a surreal scenario no one could have ever predicted. Up to a few weeks ago, it was all business as usual. Yet, here we are today, coming to terms with a reality that we all are forced to face. All economic agents are and will be affected in the coming months by this adversity, thus the sense of solidarity, understanding and most of all perseverance need to prevail.

What is worrying about the economic impact of this pandemic is the ripple effects across many industries, but even more worrying is the level of uncertainty. In today’s globalised world, we are so connected with one another, that there is one certainty: that we are in this together.

This is the one certainty that we all need to hang on to so that instead of going down the obvious panic route, we all stop to take stock of our respective current situations to plan the immediate future.

In times of crisis, communication remains vital, and this is what spurred us to communicate with our business clients a few important points that should help them start preparing their business to minimise as much as possible the impact that this saga might cause to their operations.

As a business advisor, my very first advice to business owners is to not take the weight of any decisions solely upon themselves. It is very important to seek advice, talk to fellow business owners and seek varying points of view. Consider synergies that up till today might have seemed far-fetched or impossible.

Secondly, as the government lives up to its responsibility to provide reassurance that it will eventually respond to the needs of businesses in the light of an impending economic downturn, all business would do well to come together and make sure they remain updated about all the incentives and grant schemes that the government is announcing.What is worrying about the economic impact of this pandemic is the ripple effects across many industries

There are other initiatives that businesses would do well in considering. First and foremost, protect employees and show them you are doing so. Your people must come first. Together, make sure to keep following the most conservative guidelines from leading global and local health authorities, take nothing for granted and keep communicating with all your employees.

Company structures go strengthened through internal cross-functional response teams composed of the most trusted leaders within the company to deal with separate work streams namely employees, financial stress-testing and contingency plan, supply chain, marketing and sales and other relevant business areas.

Define stress scenarios and adapt your company to them. Reduce goals and targets to shorter terms, draft an operation plan and identify variables that will affect revenue and cost. Define variables through analytics and expert input, model cash flow, P&L and balance sheet in each scenario and identify input variable triggers that could drive liquidity.

Stabilise supply chains by optimising alternatives and using aftersales stock as bridge. For medium to longer-term stabilisation, companies would do well to optimise their networks, accelerate qualification for alternative suppliers and drive resilience through their supply chain.

It is also important to stay close to customers and clients by showing more flexibility through near-term pricing changes and discounts while making sure you enact a practice plan with the top team and identify proper protocol through contingency planning and full-scale response. More importantly, demonstrate purpose. Your business must remain your prime focus and concern, but the current situation should be an opportunity to show leadership and incisiveness with all stakeholders. We are in this together so encourage support to national efforts and along with your employees, foster unity and mutual understanding.

With some luck and careful planning, our hope should remain that COVID-19 will one day soon, start turning into a bad memory. And while the creativity and lessons learned along the way will turn out to be of great business value for the long term, let us all unite and face this together.  For this too shall pass.

Mark Aquilina, Managing partner, NOUV