Resist, adapt, innovate - building a crisis-proof business

With the news around the coronavirus rising exponentially as its effects on global health and economy become more and more pronounced, many companies are switching into the crisis management mode, so let’s dig a little deeper and see what are some of the key components of building a crisis-proof business, as well as what you can do to strengthen your company!

Let’s get straight to the point – crises in general affect businesses in two concrete and very direct ways:

  1. They affect their financial stability
  2. They affect the health of their people

Whatever the crisis, these two aspects are always connected and pronounced, and you as a business owner or a manager need to implement strategies that can handle both if you want to ensure your company’s business continuity, and build one that is truly crisis-proof and that can grow while others stagnate or break.

Now, you might be saying: ‘Hold on a minute Dorian, I get how coronavirus affects health – it’s a virus, that’s what it does. But what about the 2008 financial crisis, for example? That wasn’t a virus.’

True, 2008 financial crisis wasn’t a virus, but every crisis is a time of uncertainty. In 2008, people weren’t sure if they would have a job tomorrow or if their company would stay alive. Uncertainty can lead to panic and stress – which can affect the health of your employees, and ultimately lead to decreased efficiency and productivity of your company. That is why I’m saying that the health and business effects of crises are connected, and that you need strategies that handle both.

OK, let’s see what some of those strategies are!

How to minimize the crisis impact on employee health

As a company that started its journey right when the 2008 financial crisis hit the hardest, you could say that we’re experienced in handling crisis situations and implementing strategies that enabled us to overcome and thrive from them.

And from 2008 to now, one approach stood out as crucial – when it comes to crisis, people are the top priority.

So how do you take care of people?

1. Communicate regularly and keep them in the loop

This first advice is arguably the most important one as your employees will likely be exposed to a lot of information that might be very conflicting. In times of crises, you can expect a lot of misinformation, rumors, fake news, panic spreading… your job is to stop it by being open and transparent with your employees.

Keep them in the loop, tell them all about the state of the company, the industry, the overall market and the decisions you’ll be making – explain to them why some decisions are being made so they can deepen their understanding of the matter, and help them discern the real news from the misinformation.

A great idea is to have a constantly open channel of communication that’s free from clutter, like the BEYOND application we created for our client who needed a private social network where more than 2 thousand of their employees spread across 8 countries could have a direct line with the management and get the most important information in real-time.

2. Embrace remote work

Although this one is highly dependent on the type of work your company specializes in, enabling your employees to work remotely is a great option of handling crisis situations because it enables you to take care of both the health aspect and the financial stability – by enabling your employees to work from home, you decrease the chance of your employees coming into contact with the virus and you also decrease the overhead costs of an office.

But, organizing remote work is not just telling your employees they can work from home. You also need to make sure they have everything they need to be able to work from home:

  • provide them with the equipment they’ll need to perform the job (laptops, smartphones, extra monitors…)
  • give them access to all of the tools and applications they use
  • set up tools for remote collaboration (project management, messengers…)
  • define processes your employees can follow
  • organize a team that will make sure everything is running smoothly
  • provide them with full support, so you can quickly solve any issue

Feel free to contact us if you want to know more!

3. Support each other

And the final advice is to show as much support as you can to each other. Be open and create those connections between all members of the team – that will make the bonds between the company and its employees much stronger and deeper. As I said, people are the top priority, they are the core of the company and their work is the difference between achieving success and failing. If you as a business owner and the company as a whole has the employees’ interests at heart, the people will have the company’s back.

That’s the alliance that can beat and thrive in a crisis!

How to minimize the crisis impact on financial stability

In addition to making sure that your people, the core of your company, have everything they need to resist, adapt and innovate in times of crises, you also need to make sure your company is financially stable.

As I said, both of these aspects are connected, so you can’t just ignore one hoping that the other will be able to pull everything.

Let’s get into the strategies!

1. Embrace the agile mindset, flexibility and transparency

Crises move at their own pace and in their own ways – some are slow and methodical, others are fast and chaotic. If you want to stay ahead of them at all times, making these three components the key pillars of your company is always a move in the right direction:

Agile mindset and agile production methodologies enable you to quickly create, test, iterate and repeat. 
At Bornfight, we don’t just use agile methodologies like Scrum for client projects, we also implemented them into our internal work as that fast paced, sprint-oriented approach enables us to experiment with different ideas, discard the bad, work on the good and have a constant stream of incremental upgrades with continuous progress.

Flexibility is the key when your goal is to outmanoeuvre a crisis and quickly make big decisions that need to be implemented across the entire company.
For example, Bornfight never had a detailed plan of a full-time remote work for all our employees. But recent news regarding the coronavirus led us to create one in a matter of days. By following the 20:80 rule (we’ll talk about it a bit later), we defined the key elements that need to be set-up, what each person needs to be able to work from home, what will the collaboration look like when we’re not at the office, a few basic rules we’ll follow to keep things smooth while we’re testing this out, and how we’ll iterate on that initial plan. And now we’re ready for remote!

Transparency is crucial because the more open you are when it comes to communicating your plans, the more likely you’ll get support not just from your employees, but also from the greater community and the industry.
When it comes to transparency, what you want is to be timely and fully open. When the coronavirus outbreak became a serious threat in Croatia, we held a full-on meeting with every single person who works at Bornfight, and laid out a detailed plan of what can we expect in the following days, weeks and months, depending on the spread of the virus and different scenarios that might occur. That one meeting was enough for everyone to get informed on the stance the company will take regarding the virus.

2. Use available data to your advantage

When all is stable, data can be one of your best friends. When there’s a crisis, data is not just your best friend – it’s one of your closest allies and advisors. If you can gather data from your company, use it as much as you can because it will help you detect strengths, pain points and opportunities, and help you optimize your company so that the stress you feel from the crisis is as low as it can be.

If you currently don’t have the capabilities to gather, process and present data, think about investing in a piece of software that can do it for you – one that would be able to analyze all your business processes and give you a clear representation of the current state of your company.

For example, when we implemented as a time and project tracking tool, we didn’t just get an overview of how much time we were working on certain projects and how we’re handling them as a company, we also got the info that showed us which types of tasks were among the most difficult and time consuming – and we created clear education plans, so we can now finish them almost twice as fast. All that from a simple time tracker!

3. Embrace the 20:80 rule

An old saying goes – perfection is the enemy of action. And that is especially true in a time of crisis when the situation can change on a daily basis, and when polishing a solution until it becomes perfect is a surefire way to minimize your chance of getting out of the crisis. What you, as a business owner or a manager, need to do in a time of crisis is make decisions – you need to plan, test and execute. And do it often!

That is why it’s important to embrace the 20:80 rule – invest 20% of your activities, time or effort to get 80% of the results. When trying to decide into what you’ll invest those 20%, analyze your business and your processes, and try to detect a specific element or a set of elements that:

  • bring you the most revenue
  • have the highest costs
  • have the highest chance of being a future risk factor
  • something else specific to your business that can be quickly optimized and provide results

Choose one of the options that has the highest potential of giving you the best results, and start working on it. That will put you into the position to make a new decision, and a new one, and a new one – and with each new decision, you’ll gather more information that will help you guide your employees and your company out of the crisis.

4. Don’t shut yourself from the world

In times of crises, the first reaction for a large number of companies is to start cutting everything they’re working on – from current projects and new opportunities they wanted to pursue, all the way to their people and connections to other companies. Reactions like that can send negative shockwaves across the market because everything is connected.

During a crisis, your best approach is to become a part of a bigger picture – be open to receiving and giving help and advice. Support others in your community and industry, and try to find a way your business can contribute to solving the crisis. The mindset for this is simple – think about what your company does best and find an intersection where that expertize meets the global needs.

Here’s a quick example. Bornfight creates amazing websites – we’re great at it. A few years ago, when Croatia was being ravaged by wildfires, we became a part of the Boranka campaign and we did what we do best – we created a website. This website was a small cog in the system that ultimately resulted in tens of thousands of new trees being planted across Croatia. And all we did was what we do best!

Thinking beyond the crisis

Before I finish this article, here are just a few more general pieces of advice that can help you create a business that is able to resist, adapt and innovate in times of crises.

1. Learn and share what you learned

Although crises are usually periods of uncertainty and stress, they are also periods of learning, experimentation and risk-taking that will provide you with much more knowledge than periods of stability. Use that knowledge to grow your company and thrive, but as I said in one of the previous paragraphs, don’t shut yourself from the world – the market is global and everything is connected, so share your knowledge because it might make the next crisis easier.

2. Remember that there will be more crises

Ah yes, the next crisis – it will happen because it always does. Now we’re talking about the coronavirus, in a couple of years… who knows. That is why it’s imperative that you implement strategies that might help you time and time again – putting a band-aid on a bullet wound might help for a moment, but you should really see a doctor and get that fully healed.

The sooner you embrace that mindset, the sooner will your company, your people and you as a leader become really crisis-proof.