All South African business leaders have a responsibility to stand together to keep business moving, protect employment and the economy ticking over.
According to Frank Mullen, CEO of Zinia, a leading mid-sized telecoms and ICT provider, “How decision-makers adapt to the Covid-19 national disaster will determine the knock-on effect to businesses and livelihoods around the entire country.”
“Now is not the time to stop doing business or bring a halt to spending,” he says. “If we do so, it will negatively affect those we do business with, impacting employment and ultimately worsen the current economic situation.
“Our ability to bounce back will be severely affected and by the time the worst of the virus is over, the damage will be done.”
He makes his point strongly: “think about what will happen if your customers stop buying from you or you in turn stop purchasing from your suppliers due to Covid-19; what will the impact be? This would have a severe impact on your business as well as your suppliers.
“We are all in this together and have a responsibility to collaborate with our suppliers, customers, employees and peers, to find ways to keep business going, even if it is not how we traditionally would operate,” he says.
He believes that if every business in the country stopped their normal buying behaviour, then every business could be impacted, and the ripple effect will be felt throughout every sector of the economy, ultimately hurting society.
From travel bans, quarantines, to social distancing and behaviour change, Covid-19 will continue to affect South Africa in the coming months – he believes these measures will be around for at least three months.
As a nation, South Africans are particularly resilient and he believes we should challenge all negative decisions, and not react out of fear.
He believes leaders need to adapt quickly and he provides the following as a guideline:
Implement Covid-19 education and take actions to protect the health of those within your company and those who come into contact with your business. This includes putting in place sanitary and protective supplies, educational information and make sure that the right behaviour patterns are adhered to.
Create a new 90-day business ADAPT action plan that includes dealing with further restrictions on travel and other decisions taken, should the situation worsen as a whole.
Continue business as usual as far as possible. Do not stop spending entirely or take the attitude that your business needs to shut down. This behaviour will damage the economy.
Give all staff the ability to work from home. Check that your business has the right technology and if not, put them in place quickly. This includes giving tools, such as access to data, devices, internet and remote access to work systems, so employees can continue working in isolation if need be. You will do more damage to your business if your employees are unable to work in isolation.
Manage the productivity of employees who are working at home. Instead of travelling use video conferencing and telephony systems.
“As business leaders, we need to be open to limit the risk of spreading the virus, this means doing things differently than we would normally,” explains Mullen. “For example, find another way to get the information you need to make a decision, instead of cancelling a face-to-face meeting – by not making a decision you are further damaging the economy.”
“We absolutely must continue the buying cycle,” he says. He emphasises that some sectors like tourism will be majorly affected, but if it is within the control of a business leader they must do everything to support local tourism, businesses and co-workers.
“We should not panic and allow the country to go further into recession. We must rally together, support each other and speak up – including putting pressure on Government to come up with economic reforms and stimulus packages to boost and assist businesses during these times.”
Mullen concludes there is a silver lining: “as the price of oil drops, the price of fuel will lower, and interest rates may come down too, effectively increasing spending power and improving budgets.”