As it appeared in the Daily Nation on March 31st 2020
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Across the globe, business leaders have to make decisions every day. Some decisions are easy and others are extremely difficult. Business leaders have to decide what to do as well as what not to do. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, most business leaders have found themselves in uncharted waters. Some do not even really know what to do. The same can be said of health facilities, government officials, and even individuals; everyone has to make very tough choices. Here are some of the tough decisions that business leaders have to make.
Safety of Staff
To enhance the safety of their staff, business leaders have to make choices. Some of the options they have include operating with a skeleton staff, introducing remote working, making significant changes to their operations or completely shutting down. Each of these options has repercussions, however, putting the safety of staff first and offering clear guidelines to their staff at this time is crucial. Businesses leaders have the major responsibility of providing precautionary measures such as the provision of personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, handwashing facilities and ensuring that their staff adhere to the recommended safety measures. The decisions that business leaders make regarding the safety of their staff will have long-term implications on staff relations.
Businesses are concerned about their customers. Business leaders are having to make tough decisions on what kind of support their customers require during these difficult times and what they can offer. Some sectors have completely shut down; those in essential services continue to come up with creative ways of serving their customer. There is an increase in offering customer support remotely. Other businesses are extending discounted or free services to their customers. Some businesses have invented ways of supporting their customers while prioritizing staff safety. My client in essential services shared that their staff do not need to use public transport anymore as private transport is organized. Customer support decisions that business leaders will make have implications on their long-term relationships with customers. For now, what is critical is to stay in touch with customers. It is commendable that most businesses are swiftly responding to customer queries remotely and taking needed action.
Revenue and Cost Management
Decisions around revenue and cost management are possibly the most difficult for business leaders today. Many businesses have witnessed a reduction in revenues. On costs, business leaders have to decide on what expenditures to allow, which ones to postpone as well as which ones to forgo. We have witnessed a few companies that have laid off some staff and others have taken pay cuts. Many business leaders will make tough decisions; these decisions should ensure their ability to bounce back. In particular, businesses will need to support each other to go through the crisis.
Ultimately, business leaders have to think about their survival in the long-term. Many have activated their business continuity plans; universities have gone online, retailers and restaurants have introduced online shopping and delivery etc. It is also time for business leaders to learn from each other. Further, the government has a key responsibility in helping businesses stay alive. For now, the tough decisions that business leaders should make are on how to control the spread of COVID-19. My prayer is that every business will survive the crisis and come out of it with some great lessons.
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy