May 04, 2020
In one way, it seems like a dejavu. Everyone in their Thirties and above will still have some vivid memories of the 2008 apocalypse. The panic, the stock markets collapse, the dread, the stagnation, the world-wide halt. But more importantly, the successful recovery of those businesses that managed to survive the storm, and come out of the other end stronger than ever.
In a way, the Covid-19 saga is similar, yet totally different. The pandemic has ravaged through the world economies and supply chains, putting millions out of job, and put entire industries to their knees. The silver lining is that recovery is already taking place, as the rate of infection is slowing down, the curve is flattening, and slowly but surely things are going back to normal.
Unlike the 2008 crash, the consequences of Covid-19 are everlasting. So, there are so many lessons to learn from the recovery stories of the post-2008 crash, and much more to put into consideration for entering the completely changed post-Corona world.
Do Not Cave into Your Fears
Yes, you may have taken drastic measures to cut your losses and decrease your spendings. You may have postponed launching new products, and canceled expansion plans. Almost every business had to make their own concession, but the long term consequences of a completely defensive strategy may backfire.
An extensive study by the Harvard Business Review shows how companies that focused solely on keeping their profit margins during the 2008 crisis through drastic cuts, managed on average to grow 6% in sales during the following years. Companies that sacrificed some of their profits, and balanced between decreasing losses and keeping their original plans intact managed to grow their sales by an average of 12%.
Do not let pessimism lead your decisions. Remember that this too shall pass. The world will soon look at the pandemic as a bad memory and a hard-learned lesson. It won't be ‘business as usual,’ but one way or another the market will rebound.. At this moment, some companies will be more ready than others. Is this factored in your current plans?
Manage your liquidity
It is time for your CFO to rise and shine. They need to give a realistic assessment of cash reserves and provide a realistic runway for the company, assuming it works on bare minimum spending. Negotiate with your every supplier and service provider for possible discounts. Offer your own discounts for every customer who is paying cash in advance, or giving you large orders. And beyond all this, think of the outsider sources that can inject cash into your company.
Yes, global investments in early startups witnessed a 22% decrease in March 2020, compared to March 2019 because of coronavirus. This does not mean that finding new investors is impossible, many are adjusting to the new reality, and are looking for undervalued companies that can quadruple their profits after surviving the plague. For example, Fawry, the fintech giant, has allocated $25 million to help fin-tech startups to boost the ecosystem, with a special focus on injecting cash into companies that offer solutions that would help counter Covid-19 and facilitate social distancing.
Moreover, an increasing number of institutions are offering financial solutions. funds. For example, the government’s startups accelerator Falak allocated EGP 1 million as a relief fund for startups facing financial distress. The Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA) are offering up to EGP 1 million pounds for businesses, with a focus on labor-intensive and industrial projects. Search and you shall find new sources that will save the day and support you till you get back in shape.
Take Care of Your Team
Yes, the decision to downsize your team and layoff some of its members may be a reasonable choice in times of crisis, but it should not be your first option. According to a review of hundreds of studies, happier employees show an average of 31% higher productivity and 37% higher sales. If your employees feel that they were betrayed, it will hurt morale, which will be immediately reflected in reduced productivity and poorer performance. Additionally, it will be much more difficult down the road to attract talents, in comparison to any competitors who have a better reputation in taking care of their employees.
On a different note, churning employees and low retention rates are in themselves costly problems. It will force management in the near future to spend long hours in non-revenue generating tasks, such as hiring. As most small businesses do not have HR teams, they rely on hiring platforms and recruitment agencies, which charge monthly fees, and in some cases a percentage of the employee’s annual salary.
But if you found yourself in a position that forces you to lay off staff, and downsize salaries, now is the time to recover. As the dust settles and the skies clear, it is important to be as transparent and honest about the road ahead as possible. When will the temporary salary cuts end? Is the company on the safe side yet? If not, what goals does it need to hit to be in a stable place? Will you give priority for people who you let go, shall you open the doors for hiring again? The elongated period of isolation and stress has certainly taken a toll on the mental health of your employees. Your actions will greatly affect your team’s journey of recovery and reclaiming their normal lifestyles.
God gave you eyes.. Digitize
This ancient Japanese haiku truly sums up the zeitgeist of today. Well, it is not really ancient. Nor is it Japanese, but you get the idea. If you have not seen the importance of digital transformation to keeping your business afloat yet, nothing will.
For your internal needs, categorize your remote work and digitization needs, such as project management tools, messaging tools, collaborative working tools, etc.. Request free trials. Put them under test. Scrutinize how everything works well together, and make different budget projections for these subscriptions, based on your different scenarios.
As for your products and services, that’s when your creativity comes into place.
Lin Qingxuan, a cosmetics Chinese company, was forced to shut down 40% of its stores during the pandemic. Instead of letting go of all of their staff, they employed their beauty advisors as online influencers, giving bored isolated people tutorials through chats and video calls. In Egypt, Eventtus, which specializes in digital services for conferences, summits, and events raised a new round of investment to create a new platform for online events.
Ignite gyms created an online workout video platform that attracted their core audience of hardcore athletes. Hundreds of restaurants created make-it-yourself toolkits and launched new frozen food products, and sold them online directly to consumers. Despite the doom and gloom, there are many success stories around you. Look around and get inspired.
Sweeten the Deal
Data from the countries that recovered earlier, such as China and Singapore, show that the recovery period varies between 2.5 months, such as the case in China, to 1.5 months in the case of Singapore. This is nothing like we have ever seen before, so it is impossible to draw rock-solid conclusions on how it will look like in Egypt. However, we can learn that during the recovery period, people returned to malls and shops at full speed right after the end of the lockdown. Yet, stores still witness large drops in sales. The return of foot traffic was not translated into the return of the full purchasing power, as people were still worried and reluctant to spend any money.
Create promotional offers, discounts for groups or large purchases. Pair up with a bank or a fintech company to offer installment options. Do not expect full recovery the moment the government announces that Coronoavirus is no longer a menace. Be patient, and optimistic.
The doomsday sayers were wrong. We are not witnessing the end of the world, but we are absolutely witnessing the birth of a new one. After everything is settled, those who manage to foresee how the tides shift will grow to become the new dominant players.