Who would have thought such a global calamity could have occurred. Yet it’s here and the repercussions will continue for some time. Some industries have taken a severe beating like hotels, restaurants, airlines, and entertainment. Other businesses have been bruised and battered. A few businesses have escaped the financial challenges, but not the emotional trauma.
Looking at the Facts
Every death is an unfortunate and tragic event. Educating ourselves with facts is important in building a revised business model as we return to normal business operations.
If your business is local or national, I suggest researching the U.S. Census Bureau website and determine the actual population of your business and distribution footprint. This would include the region, state, or market area. Then determine the number of Coronavirus infections in your area by researching the CDC website. Divide the infections by the total population and you can calculate a percentage of actual infections.
From this information, you can develop your own business model for assessment. With the exception of the national hotspots like New York City, Michigan, and New Jersey, the percentages of infections are very low in a national context.
If you are global, some countries in the EU for example have a high incidence of infection, while others are relatively low. The EU offers similar statistical information in their European Statistical System. Countries like Germany are already developing criteria for normal resumption of business in a rollout plan.
Absolutely, the number of inflected people can increase. Certainly, all business should follow best health practices as recommended by health services.
However, we need to start the process of reinvesting our resources in the most beneficial and productive areas. We need to become proactive rather than reactive. Facts allow leaders to make quality decisions.
Trauma and Stress
I’m not a psychiatrist. I offer a common sense view from working with vast numbers of people and companies. Frankly, some employees are going to suffer from traumatic stress. There has never been an event in modern history that was global in nature, since WW2. Never before has entire populations been forced to experience and witness the gravity of this pandemic.
I suggest the inner stress and trauma of employees and customers will influence business going forward. Smart leadership is going to be transformational and proactive.
In my view, the extent of the traumatic stress would be greater in high-risk infection areas and lower in smaller infection areas. What this means to me is people will return to work, re engage with society, and return to pre-existing purchasing habits faster in smaller infection areas.
High infection area populations will have greater traumatic stress. It may take a longer period of time for high traumatic stress areas to reset. Please understand people are fragile, and many are connected to reality by a thread.
Effective leaders provide clear guidance and direction to teams. These conditions are temporary not permanent. If you don’t have a go forward strategy in place, now is the time. By communicating team, structure, and expectations, leaders provide comfort and security to most employees.
Subordinate management and employees are your business culture. If company leadership is undecided about course and direction, so are employees and customers.
Quality cultures contribute to sustainability. Effective leadership should recognize it’s not business as usual. Empathy and compassion toward employees will be necessary. Business will not return to pre-pandemic positions.
In my view, team is most important. If everyone is working for similar goals, challenges are less threatening. Best practices need to be reviewed and executed at every level.
What is your go forward business strategy? If it’s a continuation of existing strategy, perhaps this is the time for a revision. These are recommendations to consider.
Control the narrative. Employees, subordinate management, customers, suppliers, and competitors should not be controlling the narrative of your business communication. Company leadership should develop relevant talking points and stick to the script. If a revision is necessary, company leadership is responsible for altering the narrative.
Safety. Go overboard in creating a safe working environment. Provide masks, sanitizers, and distancing requirements. Identify challenges to safe working conditions with health experts and employee teams. Let employees assist and collaborate with you in designing a safer place to work.
Over communicate. Coordinate leadership team meetings weekly or more often so everyone is on the same page. Conduct direct video conferencing with employees in large organizations to ensure your message is not lost in translation. Don’t assume people understand because they do not. Ensure they understand with a direct broadcast.
Accounts Receivable. How we communicate regarding collection of customer invoices due by accounts receivable is critical. Companies who are unforgiving in collecting invoices during this crisis are going to pay a very substantial price in customer perception and future business opportunities.
While all business is struggling to survive, we must understand so are our customers. Securing 50% of a payment is better than zero. How companies negotiate and collect receivables should be closely scripted, and monitored by senior leadership. Do not assume.
Customers. If you are looking for new customers in the same places, they may no longer exist. Now is the time to seek out opportunities in channels and categories you never thought possible!
Customers, who in the past said “no,” may now be an opportunity. Pick up the phone and call them personally. Express your empathy to the situation and interest in becoming a supplier. You might be very surprised at the response.
Paul Fournier is President of Tacticware Resource Group. Tacticware is a management consultancy firm offering leadership development, cultural management, and strategy expertise. We assist clients globally to transform their business.
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