Adjusting Our Business To The Corona Crisis
Tuesday 10 March, we were all in the office, having just returned from our company ski trip to Austria. (We went to Sankt Anton in Tirol, which was quarantined on March 13.) Back home, things had changed quickly—for the world, our country, and our business.
Over 72 hours everything changed. Events were affected. Trips to Sweden, Romania, Spain, and Russia were all cancelled. Rebel Events were put on hold. The Dutch book tour was cancelled. Our calendar was wiped clean for months.
Take a deep breath
We needed to take a deep breath, to figure out how bad the damage was and could get. This did not take long. Nor was it very stressful. In a matter of minutes, we concluded that we were not in financial trouble. Sure, things had changed beyond our imagination, but we were in a good, stable position.
What helped us to quickly take stock is our practice of open book management. Every quarter we go through the financials with the team. All is transparent. We discuss revenue, costs, and projections. We dropped cashflow forecasts a while ago. No need to do that when you know you are bringing in more than you are spending. It is that simple.
We quickly learned that our good, stable position had two main reasons:
- Our business had done well. We are very grateful for that. It came from hard work and, importantly, a healthy dose of luck.
- We have never taken much money out of the company. Our salaries and other costs are low. Sure, we have distributed some profits, and declared dividends. But we always aimed to have strong financial buffers—for unexpected crises and peace of mind.
The conclusion? We were safe. We had enough buffer, plus ongoing projects. No need to fire people, to cut salaries, or ditch projects. We can make new investments during the crisis to come out even stronger. I read somewhere that Bill Gates’ advice is to have a one-year financial buffer to keep a company afloat in a crisis. Amen to that!
This might not be realistic for all businesses (like small restaurants, bars, and hairdressers), but it sure is what many corporates should be doing. Yes, I am talking about the greedy ones that spent their free cash flow on stock buybacks and outrageous CEO pay, and who now, in tough times, lay off large chunks of their workforce or seek government bail-outs. Shame on you.
Settle into the new reality
Knowing we are financially OK; it was time to reflect more deeply. What should we do? How could we use this situation for the better? What opportunity was there to grow our impact on the world of work, now and in the future?
We have always been set up to work flexibly. But everyone still needed to adjust. For me, that involved:
- Setting up a proper home office with good equipment;
- Ticking off some long-overdue to-do’s;
- Carving out more time to read and think;
- Adding a daily 9am call with Ellen to my routine.
More personal remote work tips (>30 contributions) from the community – including us – can be found here.
After settling into our home offices, and getting used to our new habits in a relaxed way, it was time to ask: What next? We used our fixed monthly team day (first Monday) to review plans and shift priorities.
Jointly, we decided to pursue two new business ideas. One new (of which more later) and another that has been on our minds a while (an online academy). Finally, we have time to dedicate to these potentially impactful ideas.
Plus, we decided not to push for online events and remote client engagements. We never liked online events ourselves, and did not want to just follow the herd. Recently, however, we have learned that online events can be more powerful than we thought. We ran sessions with the leadership of Russia’s largest steel company and Russian Post. We have contributed to various online conferences. We worked with others on an online seminar about Bucket List pioneer Haier.
As you can see, we are coming back to our first opinion. (Yes, we make stupid decisions all the time.) Let us just say the corona crisis has helped us be more progressive too… 😉
Besides working on these ideas, we are investing more time in the Corporate Rebels Foundation setup, signing contracts for book translations, and preparing to move to a new and awesome office.
However shitty the reason we are all adjusting, let us make one thing clear: we can all come out stronger.
In short: there is plenty to do and to get excited about. However shitty the reason we are all adjusting, let us make one thing clear: we can all come out stronger.
To follow our progress on all of this, make sure you follow our social media channels for a look 'behind the scenes':
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This is great and very inspirational !
It also shows that this period was an opportunity for the companies which are always prepared, for the ones who are focused constantly on the "basics".
It is outrageous to see and as you mention here when the biggest and oldest TO in the world Thomas Cook, go bankrupt in late November, in the meantime their CEO was taking all options and dividends even before the bankrupt, while there were considerable losses in several previous years.
I like your "pragmatic" approach and enjoying your articles !
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Social capital and social networks are becoming increasingly important in today’s economy at large, and for individuals within organisations. For my MSc dissertation in Organisational Psychology, I researched how newcomers transition into a self-managing organisation (Lee & Edmondson, 2017), an organisation where authority is decentralised and classic manager-subordinate relationships are absent.
It’s all about your people. Now more than ever. But in knee-jerk reactions to the coronavirus many companies are laying off large numbers. I want to shout out to the shareholder-value managers driven by their spreadsheets: “This is not only inhumane. It is bad for your business!”. Why? It will harm your company. Companies that treat their people best in bad times emerged as winners in the past.