06 Apr

As A Leader, Here Are 5 Things You May Want To Be Doing Right Now

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We have faced nothing like this in our lifetime. The Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic is sickening millions and killing thousands. Those of us who can, are working from home, while others risk their lives to take care of us: obviously health care workers and law enforcement, but let’s not forget service providers from network technicians to plumbers, contact center workers, delivery teams, and journalists. Business doesn’t stop and your responsibilities continue. We have gone from a consensus on a recession to a very real threat of a prolonged and deep depression, on top of the human tragedy.

You have a duty to protect your business. Your employees, their families, and your other stakeholders from clients and customers to shareholders are counting on you in multiple ways. We must physically distance ourselves right now, but isolation for your business is a different matter.

Are you doing these things? And if not, why not? (Seriously, maybe you disagree with me, and I would love to hear).

♦   Overcommunicate with stakeholders!            Your events have been canceled, your sales team is not meeting in person, and in most cases, the typical sales cycle has ground to a halt. Your employees are probably working from home, or worse, possibly applying for unemployment. This is when your internal and external communications efforts are even more important than normal. Let people know what you are doing, what steps the company is taking, what to expect in the coming months, options for those who depend on you (clients, customers, shareholders, employees…)

♦   Gap Analysis – Business Continuity Hopefully you already had business continuity & disaster recovery plans in place. If not, of course you will going forward. This is a good time to methodically analyze what you were and were not prepared for, so that you can update those plans for the future, learning lessons from the current situations.

Two days ago, we had an earthquake here in Medellín; 5.2 so no serious damage or fatalities. We are all under 24 hour Coronavirus COVID-19 curfew and isolation orders, but earthquake procedure says to get outside of structures and gather together in groups at designated evacuation points. What to do?

Petroleum & other energy companies are reducing certain operations, but also have to keep the mobility and energy supply chain operational.  Do you have a protocol to designate critical employees during times like this—and how you plan on taking care of their safety and welfare? Do you have the necessary redundancy and fault tolerance in your systems and infrastructure? Take notes now so that you can make the necessary changes that better prepare you for the future.

♦   Gap Analysis — A Strong Balance Sheet My wife is the type who, if I slip and fall, will admonish me: “You need to be more careful!” Well duh!! Tell me 30 seconds ago!!  It is clearly too late to tell you that you ought to shore up your balance sheets, and I know it is easier said than done – like saying “you ought to save more for retirement” or
“you ought to exercise more!” I won’t belabor the obvious, but this year may be one to, in addition to executing on a survival strategy, reprioritize cash and liquid assets against growth, non-accretive acquisitions, or the single dumbest thing for publicly traded companies: share buybacks.

CFOs and CEOs may have had recalcitrant boards or shareholders who have had other ideas or priorities. Use this opportunity to push for fiscal sanity and make your company stronger. In times like these, strong companies buy weak companies at bargain prices, and gain market share by virtue of their ability to execute. The chief risk officers of your clients are going to be looking at your financial strength and ability to execute, no matter the sector in which you operate.

♦   Structural Adjustments Telework has been around since the industrial revolution in some form or another, and we have seen a gradual move towards “work from home” in some sectors, especially with knowledge work. This pandemic and the resultant quarantines, curfews, and “social distancing” has forced companies to adapt to telework, and do it “whether they like it or not.” Companies that excel at it have a strong, results oriented corporate culture, and hire intelligently, screening for self-motivated professionals who are trustworthy and don’t need physical supervision—or better said, babysitting.

Distributed companies have additional advantages when it comes to real estate costs, work-life balance (think: no daily commute), sustainability and carbon footprint, talent (the ability to hire from broader geographies), fault tolerance, disaster resilience, and operational expenses: no cafeterias, break room, coffee service, cleaning crew, toilet paper purchases, etc.

Obviously, telework can’t work for everyone. I don’t think we would want infectious disease researchers working from home laboratories. Did you see my recent piece on this?

♦   Build Your Brand I have noticed some people seem to be reluctant to do this or are afraid it might even be unethical. Get that out of your head. If your product or service is useful to humanity, then you have an ethical duty to offer it. This does not mean be tacky, tone deaf, crass, or stupid. It’s not the best time to advertise your cruise ship specials, group tours, or music festival. However, people need professional services, they need basic supplies; many of which are in short supply.

Companies need legal, tax & accounting advice. They need outsourcing and are desperate for customer service.

Brand building means much more than advertising though. Are you doing things in the communities where you have a presence? It is not a sin to let the world know about your efforts. Yesterday I published this article about Zijin Continental Gold’s donation of critical medical equipment and supplies to hospitals in the towns around their gold mine, including the hospital in my wife’s home town. Analysts and journalists are going to report on the bad news out there about you (like this), and often we are glad to report on the good, but never hear about it…and that is often your fault! Your light can’t shine if you keep it hidden under a blanket.

What have I neglected to include? What are you doing? Share with me please, what challenges has this crisis created for you professionally? What obstacles have you faced getting your message across effectively to your own clients and other stakeholders?

What other business challenges has this created for you? Write me back, and remember, I am here to help. There is a lot we can be doing right now.

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