Crisis Management in a Time of Global Crisis
Crisis Management in a Time of Global Crisis
The current global crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation, and every industry has been impacted to some degree.
When people think of Crisis Management, they generally think of something short term or impacting their business alone, but this global crisis has had a serious effect and will most likely have long-lasting consequences, with new and different approaches needed.
At Virtual Solutions, we’ve been talking with business owners, managers, and industry experts – finding out more about the short, medium and long-term effects, and what companies can do to keep themselves operating or ready for when the crisis is passed.
What the Experts are Saying:
Jeremy Stern, Founder & Chief Executive of PromoVeritas Ltd.
As with everything in the business, it is the people that count. So, look after your staff; stay in touch with everyone – whether they’re working or on furlough, they are still employees and when times are better, you want them to return motivated and energised.
We have a weekly Monday morning Team Call where I run through what’s happening in the business (and any new projects, any special work being done by anyone, industry news) and all invited, in fact, expected to attend, even those on furlough.
Then on a Friday afternoon, we have another all team call, but this is for fun. We have a quiz and a chat to end the week. Our Line Managers need to talk to all their teams, including those on furlough, at least once a week and record it in a tracker. The aim is to check on their general wellbeing, that they are not suffering from cabin fever, that they are able to the work assigned, or for those on furlough that they are using their time usefully, so we have recommended (but don’t insist) that people look at improving their Excel and Powerpoint skills or even learn a foreign language.
Stay positive – Clients and Staff do not want to know about the disasters that are waiting around the corner. They want you to inspire confidence and trust that you can deliver for them. Leave the bad news behind.
Stay disciplined. It is amazing how quickly the morning can disappear when you get up at 9.30am! Stick to a routine, fit exercise and talking with your partner or others in your house, but focus is crucial.
Be thankful for what you have got – a job, a house, savings. I found by doing voluntary work it made me appreciate more of what I had.
Michael Tingsager, Co-Founder of the Bear Kitchen, Creator and Host of The Hospitality Maverick Podcast
We have just left phase one of the crisis. I’m not sure how many more phases there will be over the next 18-24 months – but there will more, and maybe even tougher ones than where we are right now. As long there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, we will need to keep adapting to a continually changing environment. So here are my top tips for navigating this period:
1) Be prepared to rapidly and continually switch between very different mindsets and behaviours – for example from a cool-headed, analytical strategic planner, to a warm-hearted, inspiring and empathic leader
2) Make sure you stand by your values in the many difficult decisions that lie ahead. What do you want your stakeholders to think, feel and say about you when the crisis is over?
3) Continually work through the GAME model, on an ongoing cycle (Gather facts, Analyse, Make a plan, Execute it) – and pivot fast. Facts and reality are shifting every day; this isn’t a time to make one plan and cling to it.
4) Continue supporting your team and working on team readiness for change. They are already in a state of flux with great pressure on mental, emotional and potentially physical health – how can you best support them? How can you utilise individual strengths during change to give them confidence and motivation?
Lee Chambers MBPsS, Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant
Be Objective – It can be an emotional and unsettling time as external events challenge the very existence of your business in its current form. It is essential to try and detach from these negative feelings, so you can formulate a plan to make the most of what you have to give.
Adapt and Improvise – In times of crisis, it’s the perfect time to innovate and be creative, how can you take what your company brings to the world, and modify it to suit the current conditions?
Identify underlying causes – It might be painful to accept but look at what potential weaknesses have made this period a struggle. Again, don’t attach emotion to this, but use the lessons as data so you can continue to experiment ways to be protected from future winds.
Consider all options/avenue – It’s easy in crisis to become narrow-focused. Assess all options and continue to look for other avenues which may give opportunities both now and in the future.
Maintain Your Vision/Values/Ethics – In unprecedented times, it can be easy to do anything to keep on an even keel. But it is imperative to keep to your values and the tenets that underpin why you do what you do.
Keep communicating with clarity – Whether it’s with your employees, your clients or customers, now is the time to make sure you are communicating your position with clarity, what action you are taking, what future proactive plans are, and keep everyone updated.
Didier Penine, Director of Say it With Champers
My business is largely B2B based and those sales have crashed, it has given me time to focus on other things and this is what has helped me:
– Network with Other Businesses on Social Media.
All it takes is a quick Instagram message to someone you follow, and the chances are they have time on their hands too. I have already built much closer relationships with a number of suppliers and they have featured me in their stories, and I have returned the favour. It has worked out like free advertising and since neither has anything to lose it makes sense.
– Reach Out and Network with as Many Social Avenues as Possible.
I follow all the requests on Twitter. The idea is that if I take the time to give you a reasoned response that is useful, you will feature me which in turn brings attention to my brand in your publication. I am being featured 3 or 4 times a week and my website traffic is increasingly day by day.
– Make Use of Free Trials.
Many companies are in the same position, they have lost business and are offering free trials to help you, and of course hope that you stay as a customer afterwards. These free trials can range from PR, publicity, etc – you have got nothing to lose and if they do a good job you can pay to remain or discuss other options with the provider.
Séverine Obertelli, Change Consultant and Mindful Time Management Coach
- Learn to Respect Your Needs
To overcome crisis successfully, you need to ensure that you do not deplete your energies and find the necessary support. Respecting your financial goals and acknowledging your own need for survival now has a massive impact on how effective you can be.
- Obviously, Self-Preservation is needed
Making money in crisis is not a dirty business. Greed is. You have now the opportunity to evaluate the actions you took in the containment phase. You have the strength to succeed in crisis when you refocus on the positive and necessary steps which you have taken so far. Disruption is everywhere and reassurance is much needed. Leadership skills need to be fostered mindfully as essential to be able to lead from the front. Mindspace and mindset work are an essential element of self-care, for you and your team.
- Value Clear Vision
Developing and reconnecting with a clear business and personal vision is a timely necessity and the basis for inverting the curve. Mindful planning is necessary. You need to develop your creativity now to be able to solve problems in the future.
4. Express and Breathe
Slowing down and taking time to recollect and gauge your environment is necessary to find where you fit into a chaotic new ecosystem. Generating sustainable revenue could mean connecting with a new audience but also making the most of any financial help which might be on the way. Employees in furlough have the opportunity to engage in self-development. Creating and cherishing the team with ongoing communication and opportunities of mindful self-development opens the route to a new, more profitable and sustainable way to do business in future.
5. Implement Your Vision
Implementing your business vision is a constant work of maintaining meaningful relationships with all your stakeholders or creating new ones. This also means having the courage to stand strongly in your position when you see others do not behave in a similar ethical and value-creating manner.
- Enlightened Leadership means handling crisis successfully.
It is important to remember that your ability to handle the crisis successfully now is what will make you shine tomorrow. Playing an important inspiring role in re-building confidence as a leader is a daily accomplishment. Acknowledging changing guest preferences and new opportunities in a shape-shifting market, allows you to drive new demand for your services. Messaging and positioning yourself purposefully in line with your vision means gaining that gravitas in your ecosystem to be seen as a point of reference as soon as mobility is reinstated.
A View of the Crisis from a Business Owner:
We sat down with Sanjay Aggarwal of Spice Kitchen UK, an award-winning artisan producer of spices, spice blends and gin botanicals. The company generally deal with wholesale orders, but as a result of this crisis have started to focus more on online ordering to keep their brand growing.
Your business started as a family-owned operation in 2012. How has your team evolved since then?
The company consists of me, my Mum and Dad – we are the three directors and all work full time. We have a full-time Operations Manager who joined us six months ago and we’ve got eight part-time packing staff.
With the COVID-19 affecting all different businesses and industries, what has been the major impact on your business?
A few things. We tend to sell wholesale, so our products are stocked in garden centres, farm shops, delis and gift shops, and most of those are closed at the moment, and the trade shows that we’d booked in for the next few months have been cancelled.
In this way, about 70% of our business is on hold for the time being, and we’ve lost a lot of potential income. That’s probably been the biggest impact, but we’ve got manufacturers in India who manufacture our spices, and we have a shipping container that was due to leave India, but that’s on lockdown until May at the earliest – so we’ve got supply chain issues too.
You’re now doing more of the online direct sales, was this something you’d planned on doing – or is this a solution to the current problem?
It’s a bit of both really. We started the business online, selling online and through eBay and that represented a part of our business prior to COVID. There was always work to be done with the online side, but we put a lot of our marketing focus in the last three years on the wholesale side and with tradeshows.
Since moving your focus from Wholesale to Online Ordering, what have been your biggest challenges?
We have been operating both but have moved our resources to solely online. The key challenge is being able to keep up with demand – and we have possible supply chain issues and delivery issues with Royal Mail and Parcelforce running very slowly.
We sell a lot of gifts, and sadly some are not arriving for the intended date we need them to.
We hadn’t invested heavily in the online direct sales, but once COVID hit, we saw what was happening and it kickstarted our reaction.
I have a number of freelancers that I use for various things, and I contacted them to say I needed them to work on these other areas. I’ve got a team of about 8 freelancers working for me on these now.
So you’ve really been able to make use of the Remote Working culture?
We had been before, and we’re in a strong position which is allowing us to invest and grow our business, but it really pushed us into action to get a new Amazon store and promote our online platforms.
We’re working on eBay and Amazon, we’ve got a photographer and copywriters, and a design agency working on our new products.
For example, we were going to be launching Bombay Mix, a new spice and a few items that were perhaps a year away, but we’ve brought them right forward, and we’re going to launch them as soon as we can.
We’re seeing it as an opportunity, and are doing a lot of Influencer Marketing, which was something we’d not done a lot of before. We’ve got a really loyal customer base, including some Chefs and Food Bloggers, and Authors and they’ve been championing us.
Are you coordinating all your freelancers and Marketers yourself?
How has your team managed with the shift in focus and the additional online orders?
Well I would say.
We have no packing staff as they are furloughed – but we are working tirelessly to do all the orders and ensure we keep the wheels turning.
To be honest, it’s what we are very good at, as everything is in-house, if the orders don’t go out, it’s our own fault!
We have a very well organised unit and are used to seasonal rushes, so we are managing very well given the circumstances.
What advice would you give other small businesses that are in a similar position?
For a lot of people and businesses, there’s been a lot of fear. Personally, I see this as an opportunity, we’ve grown our business because we’ve not been scared to take a risk, being bold with the decision making.
I’ve seen some businesses furloughing all their staff, and even some of the Directors furloughing themselves – but that scares me more, grinding to a complete halt.
We have seen some businesses wondering if they should stop their marketing and business activities completely, which then runs the risk of making them invisible to the consumer.
It’s a tough decision, and it’s understandable when they’re worried about their budgets, so it’s a very tough decision. How long do they ride the storm out for, what’s the benefit in the long run?
Would you say that your Crisis Management has been largely based on reactions or having things ready just in case?
Our Crisis Management has been a bit of the other way round. Since the crisis, it made me start thinking very differently about the business, I’m using my instincts and reacting quickly – I’m making key decisions that are time-sensitive. I feel it’s more important to do this now than ever.
Going forward, would you be looking to create a Crisis Management strategy which details points of contact, people you need to talk to, and essential actions?
We feel that every crisis will be different, and our response has been largely based on the specific nature of this one – lockdown, closure of the shops, etc.
I really like your positive approach, because I think that’s what the industry really needs – a positive attitude.
Some businesses have been really impacted, but we’ve got a small team and run in-house, so we’re lucky to be able to continue, and some of the decisions we’ve made over the last few years means that we’re in a strong position.
We’re using this time to invest in our business, but I feel privileged that we’re in the position that we’re in that allows us to do so.
When this is all over, what’s the one product that your company is going to be the most excited to promote?
We’ve got our best-selling products, and we’re really excited to launch our Bombay Mix, and our new spice blends in individual tins.
You can find Spice Kitchen online at:
or follow them on social media:
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/spicekitchenuk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pg/spicekitchenuk/