The monsters you cannot see. And the lessons they teach us.
All of us face threats in our business. Competition, change of regulation, consumers changing behaviour. Most of these are actually threats you see. Some in clear focus, some distant and blurred.
But the biggest threats we face are sometimes the ones that are not visible at all. The current Coronavirus pandemic is one such Black Swan that has swooped on us from nowhere, taking over our lives and businesses.
Obviously, the one big factor to evaluate at times like this is human safety. And I am sure each one of us is seized of the need to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and secure. Enough has been – and is being – said on this topic and I know that we are all actively monitoring the situation.
But there is a second and critical part of this scenario. The damage that the virus is doing – directly and indirectly – to the global economy and hence our individual businesses. As the impact of the virus spread, we saw it first damaging the obvious sectors of travel and hospitality but as it continues to spread, it is touching most parts of the economy. Each one of us will eventually be affected. If you are reading this, either your business is paused or some part of your business is down. And some of this damage could be lasting.
At moments like these, when we face monsters that we have not planned for, what should be our key focus?
There are multiple stakeholders to every business and when you evaluate the impact of a crisis, you do see how it affects all parts of your business. But when we did this analysis for ourselves at Spring, we understood a simple fact. At times like this, the one – and only – thing we need to do as founders is to keep our teams at the focus of the decisions we take. And I am talking economic safety here. How economically safe are our team members? How do we stretch cash so that we can continue to pay salaries and manage expenses? How do we ensure that we protect our business in order to protect our teams?
Imagine if every single founder/CEO/business head were to have only this at the focus of their thinking. Imagine if all we care about – during these stressful business times – is to protect jobs, save people’s livelihoods and wait for the world to come back.
When we applied this simple filter to our business, so much became clearer. What we should do for the next quarter and the quarter after that. How we should behave, the steps we need to take – it all just fell into place. And what’s really beautiful to me is the realization that what’s good for our teams today will be long term good for our business. The steps we are taking to protect our teams are the steps we should be taking to also protect our business. Because the world will come back and when it does, we will be fighting fit to continue our crusade. If we do right by our people at this critical stage, we will end up doing right for our company.
This was a heartening lesson for me. When you put ‘People First’ during a crisis of this magnitude, it is not only the kind and human thing to do, it also makes eminent business sense.