May 18, 2020 :: Tony Topples ,

ICT Support

2020 has been challenging for everyone on a global level. The novel COVID-19 is a big threat to people and businesses. The World Health Organisation has declared it a global pandemic. New and contradicting information that is everywhere is even making it more chaotic and increasing the fear in the air. The number of confirmed cases continues to grow, as does the number of countries affected. The impacts on human health and the ultimate scale of the crisis are still being determined. But so far, the numbers of affected cases have been really bad.

Governments have come up with measures to try to stop the virus from spreading. Measures like; social distancing, travel restrictions, self-quarantine, etc. These responses around the world are also varied and unpredictable and all carry varying consequences that carry a huge change surge for everyone economically. It carries a level of negative impacts on offline and online businesses and both small and big businesses.  How long is this going to last, nobody really knows. The tidal wave of economic impacts has already begun; Government With low-interest rates, central banks have fewer options to stimulate a slowing economy and many countries are relying more on fiscal policy, with less predictable outcomes.

An uncertain future

All these, coupled with the end of the world Armageddon scare creates a level of uncertainty and unpredictability – the exact opposite of what is required for strategic planning. All the strategies that you have set up during January have no meaning in this current rapidly changing and uncertain environment.
For many businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the challenges go beyond strategic planning as they are even more badly hit economically. The inability to adapt easily as you absorb the change and increase your business flexibility is very paramount.  
How can organisations, especially small and medium enterprises act strategically and survive through this pandemic?

1. Stay safe and calm down;

It’s very important that you control the narrative interpretation of gazillions of information that you receive every day. Make sure you filter them correctly in a way that will not allow panic encroach into your space. First, you need to obey public health advisory and stay alive and healthy. It is only a healthy living person that discuses about business. But then, as much as you are taking precautions to protect your body, also take precautions to protect your mind. You can only make any strategic planning for your business survival in clarity of mind. And a mind that is full of fear is far away from clarity.

2. Don’t wait for anyone to come and rescue you.

A lot of people and businesses alike are complaining that the government is not doing enough to help them as other countries. This is a very dangerous mentality in a place like Nigeria. So even though they are not really expecting a radical government intervention, they are already cargo-pilling a pseudo excuse on why they are helpless.

The whole point of owning a business is having control over your own destiny. Deal with your own affairs as if there was no government help coming. If it does come, it will be less and later than you’d hoped. Treat it as an unexpected bonus but there is no governmental superhero coming to save you in the final scene of your COVID-19 movie. It’s up to you.

3. Establish a remote work option

A lot of people already been forced to work remotely. This should not even be an option for anyone anymore. There are a lot of free tools business owners can utilise so that teams can stay in touch and keep working even if they aren’t in the same place.

Implement a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, Slack, or video call, for instance), and what deliverable each team member is responsible for completing.

4. Shift your sales and communication strategy to online

If for any you don't already have an online store or any digital offerings, this is the time to look into this now. If your value offering is something you can provide online, then proceed. If not, still proceed with promises of delivery after lockdown, or you could also offer other online experiences.

This could be webinars, virtual business conferences clients and other industry experts. Other virtual community industry-related collaborations can include articles published through your newsletter or other reputable industry publications, etc.
If you can't be operational and conducting sales through this period, at least keep your business at the forefront of known industry leaders' and experts' minds.

5. Revamp your website

As at now, the digital space is extremely very busy and your website is no longer just an information space to pseudo-raise your professionalism. It is the only office that you have for now and that is open to everyone globally. Have a look at it again. What improvements can you make right now that will ensure your survival? Chances are, you will be receiving tons of new visitors to your website during this period and you want to put your best foot forward.

Working on website improvements or a complete overhaul during this time will ensure no downtime and be an efficient use of this period.

6. Automate your processes

Imagine if this COVID-19 pandemic is happening to us 20 years ago, the chaos would have been way greater than what we are currently experiencing economically. Banks were less automated, Governments were less likely to adopt advanced technologies, and more importantly, individuals did not have as much access to applications compared to today. We are weathering it to an extent today because of automation. You cannot be a serious business person if you don’t have some level of automation in your business. It can come in different ways; the enterprise planning software that comes with different modules like; email marketing software’s, CRM systems, accounting modules, staff management modules etc, chat-bots and simple things like an updated FAQ; a list of frequently asked questions with regards to how your business is operating during COVID-19 and its precaution methods. Make this detail and reassurance available to the public, not just to your current clients.

7. Up-skill your staff

Instead of an unnecessary layoff, try your best to keep your staff especially during this period that they rely on you, and if you have a good managed team, they should be supporting you. You could train your existing staff on additional skills, which could make them more productive and efficient, rather than hiring more staff. There’s plenty of online courses that are very affordable, and these will allow them to focus on other areas of the business when their department is down- for instance, your sales team could perhaps also help out the marketing team.