The COVID-19 pandemic is upending the way organizations work, stretching their balance sheets and their overall economic position, testing them in ways not seen in decades.
The right balance of strategy and decisive tactical execution will be key for companies to weather this challenge. Below are four themes for consideration:
Safety of employees, consumers and the community is paramount, and should be the most important element of any strategy and action plan.
Manage for liquidity, not for profitability
Executives should set up a daily tracking mechanism to not only quantify the daily levels of liquidity, but also its key drivers. As such, it is key to:
Map out drivers of liquidity across business units, brands, processes, functions and vendors
Prioritize activities and initiatives based on their impact on cash flow and liquidity
Run on-going cost-value analysis to guide rapid decision making
Re-assess and be ready to adjust course as needed
Adjust to Work-from-Home (WFH) at scale
Many companies are not set up for this. Processes are not designed for this purpose, and the required hardware (i.e., mobile devices) is not available to all employees who would need it. Executives should set up and empower a COVID-19 Task Force to quickly make the required changes to allow the firm to continue operations:
Assign an executive from each major functional area (e.g., finance, IT, HR, Merchandising, Communications) to be part of the Task Force
Reach out to SaaS companies that offer document sharing, as well as video conference platforms to initiate services or update current subscriptions
Set up week-by-week (and in some cases, day-by-day) action plans and goals
Institute a communication cadence for each function to ensure frequent updates
Work the downtime
Think strategically on how to use freed-up employees’ time to strengthen the business. This will serve the organization in the medium-term, but could also help employees reduce anxiety during these very difficult times. Some ideas include:
Re-allocate resources to ongoing projects that may have been neglected due to lack of time and bandwidth
Make updates to the digital platforms as site traffic and e-commerce are down for non-essential goods
Conduct digital trainings in areas where gaps have been identified
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic will have severe negative impact on the financial position of almost all companies. Companies can implement a series of quick, agile initiatives to come out of this situation strong and ready to capitalize on a business rebound. But this will require agile decision making, extremely good project management capabilities, and the ability to think unconventionally during the most unconventional of times.