Business during a period of volatility and uncertainty:
Business during a period of volatility and uncertainty:
The unfolding of a global pandemic and the heart wrenching dismal reports every week of rising deaths around every part of the world has turned to rising fear, anxiety, and stress for people around the world. The shutdown of entire parts of the economy has led to widespread loss of employment, decline in investments and revenues, and lost wages for many. Beyond the tragic loss of lives from the pandemic, losing the rhythms and routines of one’s life has been especially difficult for many. Whether it’s front-‐line workers, researchers, business owners, parents, or all of us that have had to make drastic changes to our everyday lives, this pandemic has tested patience, adaptability, strength and leadership. Economies are in drastic decline bringing down multiple businesses, small and large, and thousands of careers along with it. The pandemic has caused widespread anxiety and sadness, with many important questions largely unanswered to date.
This week, I spoke with a CEO of a rare-‐disease late stage biopharmaceutical company. He offers hope in a time of global unrest as to how to stay focused during this difficult time. We discussed the immediate, mid-‐term and long-‐term strategies that business owners, small or large, should put into place to ensure continued success despite the circumstances. We talk about his tips for leading in a changing world, which can be applied to all business owners throughout the globe and how his company is managing to work through this pandemic, even managing to close in a financial agreement (for up to $75 million dollars) in spite of the economic uncertainty affecting us all.
He highlights three common things that all business leaders, whichever industry or size of company, should be thinking about during this pandemic:
1. First and primarily, you need to make sure that your employees are taken care of
2. Secondly, you want to know and ensure that your customers are being taken care of
3. Lastly, you need to think about the future; how you will survive the pandemic and, ultimately, what will be the new normal?
My conversations with him are split up into three parts based on the above. In this section, we address his first point; what business leaders can do to take care of their employees i.e., the immediate actions to put into place. Next, we discuss the mid-‐term actions needed to put into place to take care of customers and supply chain. Lastly, we address what business can do on the other side of the pandemic and how to ease back into normality once things finally settle down.
The immediate effects: CEO’s advice on how to look after your employees
As a business leader, the first thing you need to think about during this time are your employees. Being and staying Connected is a priority. People feeling engaged is another priority. You need to make sure that everyone is connected and up to date at all times.
How do you work as one team when you are all scattered working from home?
First and foremost, you need to make sure that everyone has a secure working environment from home environment and the right set up. That means, ensuring all colleagues have a good and working laptops, large monitors, etc. and have access to their emails and files, etc.
Then, you need to make sure that all employees are connected on all issues at all times. To do this, you should send weekly emails to the whole team, updating them with the successes of the week, challenges, and the deliverables for the following week. As well as some additional advice and interesting articles to read on how to stay productive working remotely.
We need to be flexible in terms of both working hours and environments. Bear in mind those who need to take care of their elders or children at home. We need to accept that 9am – 5pm no longer exists. Parents need to take it in turns to look after their kids and we must be conscious of this. We also need to be accepting of background noise over phone calls or interviews; dogs barking, kids crying or family members barging into rooms.
You need to over communicate; anchor employees on the purpose and the shared values of the company. You need to be an authentic leader, but also be honest, humble, and empathetic. You need to be optimistic and supportive, but also, truthful about the realities and the potential sacrifices each of us may have to make to secure the company’s future. Is the company losing substantial amounts of money? Will people need to be furloughed? Will trials be paused? Need to come across as authentic but also drive the message of adaptability.
This is a time of global anxiety and unrest for everyone involved. Whether it’s financial, physical health, or mental health concerns, anyone and everyone is taking on a lot of stress at the moment. As a leader, colleague and friend, we need to be conscious of this. As a comparison: The beginning of most relationships is great. In a world of little hardship, it is very easy to get along with one another. However, as things get more adverse and challenging, you really start to judge a person’s character. It is when things go wrong that you really get to see their character. The key to understanding who you really are comes out not in great situations but in adversity. It is therefore key, that leaders show flexibility, understanding, empathy, and display as much support as possible. People need friends at this time more than anything else, especially those that are living alone, or may know someone critically ill.
Stay tuned for next blog where we discuss how to take care of our customers and the mid-‐ term problems during this time. Including, the effects on their clinical trials, how to continue business and making deals, how to take of our finances and hiring needs, and tips on getting ahead of the curve to gain a strategic advantage on the new normal.