Even though it might seem like business might never return to where we once were, all companies can … [+]
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With the whole world seemingly consumed by the current crisis, it may be difficult to see further than the basic actions needed to ensure business continuity – and that is understandable. However, now more than ever before, companies should look beyond that and consider how to use the current global turmoil to find new relevance for businesses, not only during uncertain times, but to prepare for the future.
There have been countless responses from companies changing their practices resulting not only in support for those in need right now, but also positive knock-on effects on the environment as a whole.
These efforts may raise the question amongst the next generation as to why other global challenges and issues can’t see the same type of attention and focus. Could this perhaps be the start of a greater turning-point in history, where greater accountability will be demanded from people, businesses, governments? Quite possibly. Which is why now is the time for businesses to be expanding their horizons and start planning for the years to come.
Refocusing businesses activities
Most businesses have a singular focus or at least concentration within a specific industry. The knock-on effects of the coronavirus, like lockdowns, reduced manufacturing capacity and changes in demand are causing many to reexamine their focus and determine whether operations could be expanded or repurposed to assist in, or at least adjust to the crisis and its aftermath.
While these efforts are not without their challenges and complexities, many are proving that once unthinkable shifts are, in fact, possible. Such efforts may not only help to protect their workforces but also serve the greater good.
Pages can undoubtedly be taken out of the books of some of the world’s most successful organizations who are doing just that at this time. Earlier this month, Louis Vuitton’s parent company LVMH announced that it would be manufacturing hand sanitizer and distributing it free of charge to hospitals in France to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Likewise, various local distilleries and big brands like Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Anheuser-Busch are pivoting to produce hand sanitizers.
While the F1 season has been postponed due to the virus outbreak, seven UK-based Formula One teams, including McLaren, Mercedes, Renault, Red Bull, Racing Point and Haas, have shifted their focus to contributing to the war on the effects of the pandemic. This week the teams were in discussions with the UK government about preparing their workforces to return to work to produce life-saving ventilators that are desperately needed by the NHS. Corporate giants Airbus AG and Siemens SE, car manufacturer Nissan as well as vacuum cleaner manufacturer, Dyson, have also joined the efforts. Even the world’s largest privately held technology companies, SpaceX and Tesla, have shifted manufacturing to ventilators.
Worldwide, fashion houses, textile manufacturers and retailers are shifting from producing and selling textiles and apparel to manufacturing and routing masks and gowns to healthcare workers. Big brands such as Gap and Eddie Bauer are filling the ranks alongside numerous smaller businesses.
With increasing demands for food delivery services, many retailers are expanding their delivery capacity and creating more jobs. Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 workers. Likewise, food delivery services like DoorDash are creating priority programs to hire restaurant workers suffering due to cutbacks. As demand rises, could we see traditional courier companies taking up the charge?
Could these efforts lead these companies to expand their offerings in these avenues in the future? Regardless of the answer, their ingenuity and inspirational efforts to help and preserve their workforces and serve the greater good are fostering goodwill that could last them a lifetime.
Even if a business cannot find ways to assist in these uncertain times, devising strategies to create relevance in the future are key. With forced lockdowns in place in various countries, many CEOs and executive managers have the time to evaluate these options.
Supporting people and communities
Across the globe, we’re seeing the world’s wealthiest stepping up to answer the call, with donations of millions in funding or the repurposing of their own companies to produce life-saving supplies. Some, like Bill and Melinda Gates, through their family foundation and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, are acting on a global level to speed up medical research. Other families and their heads like the Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and Aliko Dangote are directing their money into the countries and communities that supported their businesses.
Governments have also stepped up and put together bail-out packages for businesses and individuals. Some of the most notable packages have come from Canada, Denmark and Norway who have all directed their social spending toward supplementing salaries, supporting businesses with their revenue losses, and stepping in as load guarantors for businesses’ finance requirements. The US has also put together a $2 trillion relief package. While these are positive actions, they are raising serious questions from those concerned about the other global challenges we face. Why are global inequalities and climate change not seeing the same amount of attention?
Unfortunately, many of the ways to deal with the current situation and greater global challenges do require the type of privilege afforded only to minorities and the resources that can only really be harnessed by governments.
The majority of people in countries that will be heavily impacted by the virus and outside of that, the effects of inequality and climate change, will always be at a dire disadvantage. In the current situation, people not being able to work means a loss of earning to support their families. This equates to starvation that affects the immune system’s ability to function optimally. Many don’t have safe spaces to isolate or the ability to practice the required basic hygiene to protect themselves. As such, many developing countries will not only have to face some serious knock-on effects in terms of public health, but will also not be in a position to support their citizens. This will only be compounded by the effects of other global challenges taking place.
Still, there is a part for businesses to play and how they can go beyond profit to assist will be a big question to answer in the days to come.
While not every organization is in the position to pursue purely philanthropic efforts on such grand scales as the world’s billionaires or governments, every contribution helps. For many, ensuring that staff complements are compensated during periods of lockdown can have a resounding impact on the health and stability of local communities. Looking for ways to support the communities that have helped business beyond these uncertain times, even on a micro level, is a great initiative.
Taking some time to re-evaluate
In many countries across the world, lockdowns of some degree have been initiated. If a business isn’t in the position to contribute to the current crisis in any way and owners and management are concerned about what the future will bring, now is the perfect time to take stock and re-evaluate priorities, plans and strategies.
Businesses and people can start by using periods of lockdown optimally. Use the time to form new, positive habits – 21 days is all that is required to build new ones! This is also the time to invest in staff and business partners, whether it be with financial support, leave, or on an emotional level. Set up remote face-to-face check-ins to allow people to share their fears and encourage one another. Do a 20-minute virtual workout together. Find ways to keep organizational communities strong, motivated and healthy.
On the business side, this time can also be put to good use to re-evaluate business focuses, work processes and even investment strategies and future disaster-proofing. Identifying the current weaknesses and brainstorming ways to guard against them in the years to come.
Right now, there is a lot to think about. Not only is history being written, but in a way, so is the future. As the effects of the pandemic intensify, more and more opportunities will be revealed. The winners will not only be those who can adapt and respond immediately but also those who can find their purpose beyond the pandemic as we face what will be an entirely new world.