The impact of coronavirus crisis on businesses is devastating. But amidst the ruins abound many opportunities.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus (AKA COVID19) in December 2019, we have seen different styles of leadership play out in response to the crisis: the swift, slow, and reactive. As of April 2020, COVID-19, which began in Wuhan, China, has claimed over 100,000 lives across the world. In Africa, only two out of the 54 countries on the continent have not reported any case of coronavirus.
The pandemic has also triggered second-order effects: Travel ban and quarantine requirements put in place by governments to curb the spread of the deadly virus are keeping people away from their relatives and friends. Thus, people are feeling lonelier than ever as they can no longer find comfort in physical companionship of their communities and places of worship.
The virus has also taken a toll on world economy: Manufacturing companies and supply chains are being asphyxiated, millions of people are losing their jobs, and stocks and oil prices have become volatile. Non-essential service workers have been forced to accept the Furlough rule; 'no work, no pay'. Most companies are reducing their staff strength, retaining only staff critical to their daily operations.
But these are not unprecedented times. There are many instances where changes or unexpected incidents have put some companies under while making others stronger.
The failure of Nokia is an apposite case—the best-selling phone brand in 1998 lost 90% of its valuation and was saved only by an acquisition in 2003.
In the same vein, Starbucks reinvented coffee delivery by introducing a mail-order catalogue. As Starbucks grew, a lot of neighbourhood coffee shops were shutting down. Not necessarily because of Starbucks, but because they refused to change the way they did business. These neighbourhood coffee shop held on to their old ways of operations.
Another example is the depletion of private taxi association. This was not as a result of Uber, Bolt, Lyft or other ride-hailing services, it was because they refused to change and adapt.
Although COVID-19 is new, sudden and more shocking, its ostensible and latent impacts on businesses are not unprecedented. As devastating as they are, opportunities abound in the seeming ruin.
To harness these opportunities, businesses, employees and leaders must begin to ask: How will we do what we currently do in a different world?
Opportunities for Leaders
Companies that have embedded technology in their processes and operational scalability would come out of this crisis stronger because they are prepared. Companies that have been prudent in operational costs, as opposed to excessive overheads also have a higher chance of pulling through these dynamic times.
Leaders who have spent all their money, saved nothing and lack operational planning would be cornered into survival mode, rather than reinvention mode—a phase where they are better suited to identify opportunities for growth, rather than struggling to survive.
Don't allow the Uber and Starbucks posing as competition in your sector put you out of business. Reinvent yourself. This is not unprecedented; it has happened many times in different shape or form before. The opportunity lies in answering, "what will we be?" and not "how do we preserve what we have?" That is an infinite mindset.
Opportunities for Employees
Employees must cultivate a leadership mentality. This starts with personal reinvention and a different approach to their jobs: How can I contribute in a new way? What value can I offer for the business to scale through?
In an effort to cut costs, companies are retrenching non-essential staff: Now is the time for employees to learn skills that would enable them to provide value and be indispensable.
As an employee, you should contribute to the reinvention of the company by asking: what could we be? How will we operate and provide our products and services to people in a different way? These are some skills organisations are still hiring for amidst the pandemic.
Sadly though, employees don't have the prerogative over keeping their jobs. Despite making all the right calls, companies are still failing and becoming cash-strapped. But don't stop learning because of factors that might be against you. Because the opportunities that'd be available after COVID-19 are enormous as new jobs and movements will be created.
If you have disruptive ideas, place your bet on it; if you can redefine your skills, try it out. At the end, your energy fuels your hustle.
Opportunities for Businesses
Fareed Zakaria, a foreign relations expert during a world briefing said: "The problem we face is broad and global", but unfortunately, the responses are increasingly narrow and parochial. With oil prices crashing even before COVID-19 hit, unstable oil-producing countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela could face harsher economic downturns.
And the economic package of the Central Bank of Nigeria is too tiny to matter; the Nigerian economy is on course for a recession in the third quarter of the year. The United States is also reporting record job losses. All these factors are shaping up for a global recession, starting in the second quarter and continuing through the first quarter of 2021.
What businesses should do to make use of these opportunities
- Make risk management part of strategic planning and rethink global strategies to be more resilient. There will be more low-probability/high impact events such as disease outbreaks, severe weather events, earthquakes, and social unrest. By making risk management part of their strategic planning, companies can routinely simulate how such events—as well as other variables—could disrupt their businesses and use those insights to design their operations and resource distribution.
- Technology is an enabler, and has been seen as a game changer in either creating more jobs or wiping out the pool of manual labour resources even before pandemic. Organisations must reinvent their processes and see technology as a core factor in their business framework. It's almost impossible to take away this fact: If technology cannot drive your business growth; there is no chance of its survival in our reality.
- Companies backed by technology are in reinvention mode, while the companies with a finite mindset are in survival mode. Regardless of how much money they have, it is the mindset: How are we going to get through this? vs How are we going to change to get through this?
Lastly, it is vital that leaders not only demonstrate empathy but also open themselves to empathy from others and remain attentive to their own well-being.
As stress, fatigue, and uncertainty build up during a crisis, leaders might find that their abilities to process information, to remain level-headed, and to exercise good judgment diminish. They will stand a better chance of countering organisational declines if they encourage colleagues to express their concerns—and heed the warnings they are given.
By investing time in their well-being, leaders will be able to sustain their effectiveness over the weeks and months that a crisis can last.
This article was written by Ayobamigbe Teriba, Relationship Operations Officer at Ingressive Capital and Teni Shyllon.