"Don't panic, don't panic"

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Lance Corporal Jones, Dad’s Army

These are difficult times, and almost unprecedented in the uncertainty and wide-spread nature of the communication/coverage of C-19.

What can we draw on as business owners, employers and employees to manage through this?

There are practical things than can be done to manage, and before you scroll down to the suggestions, remember that it is better that we all share some pain rather than a few suffer all the pain. At the end of this, (and there will be an end, followed by a new beginning) we will survive and there will be a new business as usual. The detail of that new ‘as usual’ are still being shaped on a daily basis.

We are all in the same Boat

Most business owners will be trying to make decisions at a moment in time while there is great asymmetry of information and uncertainty. When there is such asymmetry of information, there is a likelihood of inequality outcomes. It is unproductive to worry about the things you can’t control, we have politicians to do that for us.

What do we all know for sure?

The sun will come up tomorrow, and we will get through this, and it will be different on the other side. What we also need to be aware of is that we have to get through this together.

It will get worse before it gets better.

Most haven’t experienced this level of crisis or uncertainty before. The 24/7 nature of news and social media has clearly not contained panic. One client suggested that shutting down the internet for two weeks would help everyone become more rational. That’s not going to happen, but we will have to put up with non-HD Neflix, Disney and Apple TV.

All governments are trying to ease the pain and to genuinely help all its citizens. Our clients are already applying and receiving various subsidies from Government agencies, rent holidays from landlords, and improved bank facilities. We are helping our clients with all these discussions and negotiations.

Collaboration and social distancing are not mutually exclusive.

We can’t add meaningfully to the volume being written about C-19, and the details about the virus and efforts to create treatment and vaccines. What we can say, is that throughout history we have experienced and survived literally dozens of plagues & epidemics – all meant to be an end to civilisation.

In addition to C-19 there are other deadly epidemics currently going on around the World with diseases such as Cholera, Measles, HFM (hand, foot & mouth), MERS, and Ebola. I guess we won’t be hearing about these anytime soon, or the 3,287 people who die in car crashes every day around the World. Given a choice between C-19 or Ebola, what would you rather have? Not many people can say they have been poorly after a touch of the Ebola.

In the past, here is a random selection of what we have survived, which, as a result have shaped our civilisation and immunity.

  • The Great Plague of Athens
  • The Great Roman Plague of 590
  • Plague of Justinian
  • Japanese smallpox epidemic
  • Black Death
  • 1563 London Plague
  • The Great Plague of Seville
  • Great Plague of 1738
  • Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
  • The 1915 Encephalitis pandemic
  • The Spanish Flu pandemic 1918/19… over 50m deaths!
  • The Hong Kong Flu
  • The London Flu
  • 1998 Nipah Virus outbreak
  • SARS
  • 2005 The Dengue Fever outbreak in Singapore

History has taught us that this too will pass. Having hope and resilience will see this pass. Global innovators will engage and develop treatment options and vaccines as they always have before.

Some practical business advice.

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Review your ability to cut and manage costs, and generate revenue in this time
  3. Talk to your bank early about support, they may require forecasts and reporting before they can help
  4. Cash Liquidity is important, manage your cash
  5. Do something active at least once a day, get some fresh air. Thirty minutes a day will make you feel much better.
  6. Take advantage of government programmes to soften the impact
  7. Pay your smaller creditors quickly – reduce the noise from the number of people asking you for money
  8. Identify your critical suppliers and support them to the extent you can. What must you have in order to generate revenue and keep operating? Support your loyal and deserving customers, they will all remember. If you can pay people do so. Remember the biblical adage, “each according to their means, but make sure you have a clear view of your means”.
  9. Manage your big fixed commitments, what can you defer?
  10. Look after your staff, when this passes, they will remember
  11. Manage your supply chain, Talk to your debtors, stay on top of those
  12. Don’t panic
  13. Negotiate sooner rather than later when you cant meet your obligations… more is more in terms of communication at this time, just make sure it is to the point, otherwise we will all be drowning in panic noise emails and newsletters.
  14. Get your messaging to staff clear and consistent, be organised
  15. Don’t make decisions based on fear
  16. Talk to your advisors, today. They can share what is and is not working for others
  17. Look for green shoots – where will recovery be seen first
  18. Don’t under any circumstances take this crisis as an opportunity to profiteer, or as an excuse to lay off people if you don’t need to, or an excuse to take advantage of your suppliers and banks by asking for more than you NEED. The profiteers and racketeers will be remembered and we live in a village.
  19. Don’t panic
  20. We are here to help, listen, and act on your behalf to help you manage through this period of uncertainty. Balancing your priorities is important now, as is remembering the purpose of your business.
  21. In the words of Warren Buffet, “when the tide goes out we see who is swimming naked.” Sadly we are all swimming naked, however this is a time when the courageous, the calm, the principled, the resilient and the principled will stand out and be remembered. This is the opportunity for you in this crisis.
  22. In the immortal lyrics of Waterfall by TLC “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”

Co-authored by Bruce Sheppard and Michael Vukcevic.

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