In the second of BOOQED’s webinar series for startups and SMEs, we talked to Joy Garingo, community manager of The Company Cebu, and Marvin Galang, founder of JuanTax. As leaders in innovation-focused companies in the Philippines, they shared their insights on business continuity planning in challenging circumstances. They also had some advice for what entrepreneurs can do to look ahead even when the future is uncertain. We've recapped the key takeaways from our conversation in this blog post.
[Watch the full webinar on Business Continuity for Startups and SMEs here: link]
At the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, many companies have had to radically change multiple aspects of their operations to adapt to a government-imposed lockdown. Anything planned for the months ahead was immediately cancelled, such as marketing plans and pending contracts with customers. For many businesses, a lockdown effectively shut off their main sources of revenue. Still overhead expenses, such as for office rent and payroll remained as they were, making survival the main consideration for businesses.
Another major challenge was implementing an alternate work arrangement. For many companies where most tasks are done in-office, they did not have a contingency plan for when office access is eliminated for an indefinite period. And it is not safe to assume that all employees would be capable of working from home, since they might not have an adequate setup in their own homes.
In such times, a business continuity plan (BCP) helps companies manage some of the uncertainty. However, in an unprecedented situation, a business continuity plan must be continually created and amended as government restrictions and internal business conditions change on a day-by-day basis.
What should we take into consideration while managing business continuity during a crisis?
1. Focus on employee well-being
Businesses should go above and beyond to minimize their employees’ health risks amid a pandemic. It is not wise to wait for the worst to happen, such as a lockdown, before thinking of alternatives to current work arrangements. This allows for ample time to source out equipment and make other more difficult preparations such as contingency workspaces, accommodations, and equipment. As one of the speakers mentioned, ensuring these steps for business continuity is a “moral obligation”.
In the current context of COVID-19, the risk remains until along-term solution is developed, so this is a good time to strengthen your business continuity protocol and supply chain. This is so you can act quickly if there is a case resurgence.
It is imperative to communicate the state of your business to all your stakeholders, such as vendors, investors, customers, and employees.
There is no shame in being completely transparent. Only very select businesses and services are thriving during this economic downturn. It helps you set expectations but also gives them the opportunity to come up with ways to help everyone move forward.
3. Proceed with empathy and logic
All your stakeholders are struggling with cash flow, whether it is for their personal finances or their business. Many services will be considered non-essential in the interim. With increased cooperation, everyone can hopefully come out of the other end of the crisis.
Work with your customers to come up with payment plans, taking into consideration what they can manage financially for the time being. It is best to proceed with this rationally by segmenting your customers since not every customer will be needing the financial assistance.
You can also work with your own suppliers to either pause payment for services you do not need for now or change your contract terms, especially for larger ticket items like your office lease.
4. Go digital
Moving your business processes from traditional to technology-driven requires a significant overhaul, not just of your infrastructure but also of your organizational mindset. This kind of shift looks costly upfront and takes some specialized knowledge, which is intimidating to many business owners. If nothing else, this current crisis has made most businesses rethink this hesitation since they no longer have a choice, and because digital platforms are now their lifeline.
There will always be a need to maintain traditional business processes (such as taking cash or operating a brick-and-mortar store). Still, it is now an imperative to diversify your revenue streams by complementing it with a digital offering and offering flexible plans, to fit with the new consumer behavior created during the peak of the crisis.
The crisis has also shown that businesses without a remote or flexible work strategy will not survive. You should also be further building out the ways in which work can be done digitally and asynchronously.
Business transformation is difficult at the outset and could have internal detractors, but it could also lead to creating a team more open to thinking outside the box in the long-term.
5. Step up to the challenge
You can read countless articles and books on crisis management, but it is not at all the same as being caught in the crossfire. A crisis shows that true leaders are made not born.
A common theme around our conversation about crisis management was thinking on your feet, executing quickly, and occasionally, “failing intelligently”, but still getting up to try again tomorrow. There is perhaps no better time to experiment, iterate, and leverage everyone’s unique contribution. Still, doing this well is reliant on building a team with a similar growth mindset and trusting that they can deliver outcomes.
[Learn more about these tenets of agile methodology here: link]
The best way to future-proof your business, apart from securing contingencies for processes and equipment, is to build a healthy culture. By promoting a mindset of empathy and humility across the team early on, then it becomes easier to discuss difficulties and to welcome creative paths to move forward.
The specific conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever. Restrictions will gradually ease up and life will shift to a new normal. However, its societal and economic implications will remain. It is important to take the lessons from an unprecedented crisis as a foundation to understanding what it takes to ensure business continuity.
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