I was asked to advise…
It’s tempting to just delve into the advise but I believe context will help deepen understanding, which is necessary for empathy.
So, last Friday, as I stepped out of a client’s office, I saw a professional collegue on the opposite side of the road. She was standing by a car while a lady was bent over packaging some stuff she was selling from the car boot.
As we exchanged pleasantries, it turned out the lady was selling frozen bottled fresh juices. She had a whole car boot full and was narrating how it would be her last day of production till further notice.
She had just closed down her small factory in a bid to enforce social distancing as a preventive measure to curb the spread of the corona virus. She explained how the staff were not happy about it, but seeing that she would no longer be going to the market to source supplies, she felt she had no choice. Her staff would have to stay home as a result and they would have to be on unpaid leave.
It may surprise some to know that 98% of all businesses are small businesses and just like many low income earners, these businesses, live pay cheque to pay cheque, striving to meet monthly expenses like payroll.
A sample of a few small business owners in the last week revealed that the month of March could very well be the last payroll run till further notice. Some have already adopted an unpaid leave protocol and some are planning on providing a stipend only for the low business period. Businesses are reacting to the current state of their bank accounts.
Yesterday, as I rang our key clients, it was no surprise that some projects have been abruptly put on hold and some have already stopped payments to vendors for what they consider non essential services. Second quarter and beyond projections will definitely take a huge hit. We are indeed at the brink of a major global recession.
Recent policies of developed countries to bail out businesses has indicated that the first priority of these governments is to protect people’s livelihoods by curbing job losses. This is achieved by keeping businesses alive.
Two weeks out of business is enough to knock out any small business that isn’t funded, while a month is almost sure to shut it down.
Business is a team sport. The survival of every business is the strength of its team. A chain they say is as strong as the weakest link. Without the support of employees, most businesses will simply react and start cutting costs.
The first and most obvious overhead will be staff. Non-critical and redundant roles will be trimmed first. Critical and valuable employees will be kept for as long as possible, however measures to preserve cash flow will be adopted.
More than ever businesses need the support of its employees. Well-meaning employees can help their organisations in the following ways;
1. Show Empathy: Rather than ask what the company can do for you at this time, ask, what can you do for the company. Explore how you can help lighten the load, offer support and alleviate extra costs. Rather than make requests, see how you can contribute your quota. Businesses, will be sacrificing a lot right now, gestures such as bearing expenses like data, telephone, etc will be appreciated. Everyone should be willing to give a little, afterall, if the business shuts down, it will be worse for everyone.
Many businesses and small business owners will be in survival mode. Survival mode is reactive and emotional, fight or flight. Financial pressure may cause drastic actions to be considered. Reach out and ask how things are going and how you can be of help, and mean it as you do so. Any gesture of concern and care will be appreciated.
2. Be Productive: Productivity is always valued by any business, moreso now. The most valuable employees are the most productive employees. Organisations will need to do more with less and will make decisions base on productivity levels. This period is an opportunity to be creative. Develop new products and services, be proactive and be useful. Most recruitment will be on hold right now, thus, remaining productive in your current organisation will be more appreciated and secure than job hunting at this time.
3. Be Discipline: Every small business owner is well aware of who is doing what. The beauty of small firms is that nothing is hidden especially slack. If you have been struggling to follow a work routine that produces results, this is the time to do so. If you are now required to work from home, do so diligently, as any slack right now can quickly lead to lay offs.
4. Communicate More: A lot of times, management is expected to communicate, truth is, communication is more effective when it flows both ways. You can begin by checking in with colleagues and management more often than usual. Everyone wants to be carried along with updates. I can assure you that this gesture will be appreciated.
5. Be of Good Cheer: Morale may be already low, we can lift people up by our words and actions. This is the time to show optimism in the face of adversity. Remember, your management and bosses are human beings. We can still encourage them and others, make people laugh and be a source of hope and inspiration. We can still choose our attitude and be the person who made tough times easier.
I hope these tips help someone out there.
As you pray for yourselves and your loved ones, please pray for the life-blood of the economy, the notorious ‘one-man’ businesses and business owners the economy relies on.
Wishing you and your organisations all the best at this time.
Adora Ikwuemesi speaks, writes and advises on enhancing work lives.