Due to the current coronavirus crisis, business leaders are now having to deal with many unprecedented obstacles, including employees working remotely, meaning changes in work setups and communication methods, and delays in production.
As it’s likely that the current situation is unlike any other that businesses have encountered before, there’s bound to be much uncertainty among workforces that leaders will need to manage.
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With this in mind, Michael Anderson, a conference keynote speaker and leadership mentor, gave his top tips for business leaders aiming to effectively guide their company in this time of crisis.
1. Put human values first
The first tip Anderson gave was to “be a human person before being a business person.
“What I mean by that, is this is the time to be compassionate to people; to have dialogues, to work with the different stakeholders to make sure that what you’re doing is the right thing for everybody.”
This, he said, could include managing the contracts of employees and customers. In the case of employees, it’s determining whether it’s better for them to have hours cut, or to let them go entirely.
“Instead of laying off a significant amount, maybe you want to have some people go halftime,” he explained. “But then again, it might be better for them to get fired, because then they can get relief from the government. So it’s different different cases.”
In the case of customers, business leaders will need to be wary of clauses and whether it’s worth upholding them under the circumstances.
“Maybe you don’t want to really be a stickler to each of the different clauses, like a minimum order quantity” said Anderson. “It may just be the wrong thing to do for the long term relationship.”
2. Maintain rationality when making decisions
Secondly, Anderson stressed the importance of making rational decisions quickly, stating that though this may sound contradictory to the previous tip, “if your company doesn’t survive, no one wins”.
He added: “The quicker you make those decisions, the better. For example, laying people off; if you keep people for an extra week or month, that really can drain your cash.
“So, if you’re going to do stuff like that, it’s best done quickly, and you also want to make sure you don’t make those decisions from a place of fear. You want to make these decisions off of data and things that are well thought out.
“That’s where somebody like me, or another kind of coach or mentor, can really help by walking you through the different options, making sure you look at everything, and making a sound decision.”
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Decision making for business leaders, according to Anderson, should also accommodate cash flow management, considering that the coronavirus crisis is set to impact companies for months to come.
“For my businesses, I’m estimating up to six months of reduced cash flow,” he said.
3. Be creative, and negotiate
The third tip Anderson gave business leaders for managing companies during this pandemic was to consider renegotiating with landlords on leases.
“If you have a large rent that you can’t pay, the landlord probably isn’t going to kick you out, because they don’t really have anybody to replace you with,” he said.
“You can go ask for what’s called rent abatement, and I would encourage a lot of people, if they’re in a tough spot, to go and work something out with with their landlord.”
It is important, however, to ensure that these negotiations are made before it becomes impossible to honour lease contracts.
“When you want to renegotiate things like this, just be really authentic and open, and be proactive,” Anderson explained. “Don’t say start a conversation right when you can’t pay for something that you were contracted to pay; start these conversations as early as possible.”
4. Consider a merger or acquisition
For business leaders having to cope with a current crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is likely that other companies in the same market will be in the same boat.
According to Anderson, the current situation could be a good opportunity to enter a merger or acquisition in order to keep the business afloat.
“I did an acquisition around the great recession that doubled the size of my business,” he said.
“This might be a great time to bulk buy or pre-pay for raw materials, supplies or services, or look for a different business line.
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“If you have another business line coming out, maybe you can give people three or six-month discount, or let them have it for free so they can play with it during these times.
“There are a lot of opportunities to be had; you just have to think outside the box.”
5. Be a positive leader
Lastly, Anderson emphasised the importance of being positive during these trying times, by focusing on the pending benefits while being realistic and truthful with employees.
“You just really want to keep everybody in your company focused on getting through this as strong as possible, and then getting ready to really do some business once it’s done,” he said. “If people can be productive, you can also have people work on some infrastructure projects any other projects you’ve been waiting to do, but never have gotten to.
“Also, be careful the media you consume. I was on a train to London, and I just spent too much time on my Facebook feed, so I got a bit down depressed.
“If you’re if you’re a little bit down, that’s okay, but just be careful that you don’t present to your company when you’re not in a great place.
“Reach out to to a friend or a family member, and practice good self care; don’t don’t go off your diet, be careful of what you eat, what you drink, and all those different things.”