Running a Business in Uncertain Times

This week most media houses recounted Tech’s biggest CEOs been grilled on anti-competitive business practices as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Tim Cook testified in Congress remotely. The four tech titans leading Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google appeared before the US Congress. Given their growth in extraordinary wealth, one tends to believe the global pandemic we have all experienced had very little impact on them.

Facebook reported second-quarter results that exceeded estimates, growing its user base and advertising business further during the global pandemic also irrespective of the fact that the social media giant came under all forms of a boycott this year. Amazon reported a Quarter 2 earnings per share of $10.30 (almost a 100% growth from last year), a 40% growth in revenue even with the pandemic. This has been attributed to the growth of online shopping with the pandemic.

These businesses give us the impression that the Covid-19 health crisis globally barely impacted this sector, however, we know for many more enterprises it has been all gloom and doom. Consumer-goods makers and retailers hugely impacted by the slow spending patterns during the lockdown and shutdown of most countries. Many businesses are struggling with how to operate and engage staff to work from home. The questions for many startups, small enterprises and CEOs being, How do you run a business in such uncertain times?

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While the big goal for most business is to solve problems or ease frictions. In the time you will be willing to consider some of below points:

  1. For most business leaders and CEOs: Accept the fact that you don’t have all the answers, this gives you the ability to seek solutions. Recognize that very or no company has been in a pandemic this size for about a century. This opens you to talk to people who see things differently, continuously ask questions and consider support even from your peers.

2. Protect your asset: Great companies start with great people, the greatest asset arguably being your staff. Ensure you find ways to engage and ensure good mental health especially with the anxiety, sudden changes and isolation that are eminent with these times.

3. Engage your Customers: Keep them informed, communicate with your customers and clients. For a small business, after-sales support is important, it is a good avenue to keep engagement ongoing. Do not forget to be sensitive and show empathy as well. Most customers are also going through pressures, job loss, reduction in spending etc, your brand can show it understands in these times.

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4. Engage every stakeholder (clients, partners, suppliers, investors) and keep your eyes on the pulse of operations. As governments and health officials navigate and try to introduce a policy that might affect your business, ensure you carry your stakeholders along. The uncertainty will require that business make changes quickly. I would recommend you err on the side of over-communicating rather than under communicating.  E.g communicating compulsory use of a mask for restaurants, updating investors changes in your resource allocation or pivots in your product roadmap, the impact of new social distance guidelines on client engagement, new closing or opening times.

5. Be ready to Adapt, diversify your products if need be. The extent of your business model disruption and the depth and length of the demand disruption in your industry will force you to shift your business model or shape a whole new business, maybe restructure your company or industry but for very few, they can just sustain their business and restore operations.

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6. Stay on top of the fast-changing terrain. Track your metrics (whatever that is).

7. Evaluate your Finance: Remove the fat, reduce non- critical expenditure, review accounts, use this period to stress test your financial planning. This is a time to address your near term cash management challenges to ensure resilience.

8. Look Beyond the Covid-19 -Market fit: Understand that the pandemic will one day end, so structure your business beyond Covid-19. Your mode should be Short term Planing, think strategy long term. This will require that you create a detailed plan to return your business back to scale quickly as the crisis becomes manageable or addressed. A lot of businesses tend to focus all their energies on crisis management rather than the return or reimagining how the business will look after the impact i.e. “new normal”.

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