James MacPherson, CEO (ASPAC + Canada)
Though businesses have faced somewhat similar challenges before, it is still a challenge, nonetheless. In some ways, it feels closest to the post-9/11 climate, when CEOs were simultaneously concerned about helping their companies as well as helping their families.
The current and ever-changing situation strikes a unifying chord of worry and uncertainty. Although so much is unclear, there is a common understanding that unpredictability is here for the foreseeable future.
To help our staff, partners and clients during these unprecedented times, we have made some changes to the way we work.
We believe this is an opportunity to emerge in a stronger position and deepen the relationships we have with our customers and trading partners, and hopefully, these changes may help other companies emerge stronger, too.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
While local government policies differ all over the world, many businesses are on global lockdown for an indeterminate amount of time, but likely until the end of the second quarter, at least.
Many of our people will choose to work from home, our employees and customers will be worried about access to food, childcare and medical services, our ways of working with customers and suppliers will change, sometimes by the hour and travel and logistics will be disrupted.
It starts with anxious individuals spending much of their energy trying to herd families and friends toward safer pastures. For 2020, this is the new normal.
Despite the fear of the unknown, the pandemic and the subsequent economic challenges present a more defining moment.
As the world ahead will only be filled with more uncertainty, leading firms should view the current situation as a dress rehearsal. With this as the backdrop, the action plan in my mind becomes clearer. Even as leading commentators refine their specific views of the future, there are a few things that we know for certain.
“Our focus is to emerge in a stronger position and deepen the relationships we have with our customers, such as Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, Western Australia.”James MacPherson, Chief Executive Officer (ASPAC)
Firstly, the best companies will be those who treat their customers and employees with generosity and kindness. We are redefining citizenship right now and leaders will set out to show the world what it means to be a global citizen. Of course, businesses must satisfy stakeholders, but customers, employees and local communities should come first.
Companies will be all the richer by keeping this in mind in all that they deliver.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that revenue and cash will always fall faster than costs. The cash crisis every business currently faces is known and inevitable. Winning businesses will get ahead of this and adjust to the new normal with a focus on the value delivered ahead of the curve.
As part of this ‘new normal’, companies are now in a truly global battle for customer relevance. With every action, they will demonstrate that they are essential or discretionary.
Things we must do to remain top-of-mind
Improve our proposition. Not all products and services are of the same importance today as they were yesterday. We must adjust to our customer needs.
Communicate carefully. Every “work from home” message needs to be followed by a “disruption and innovation in progress for our customers” to avoid the message being misinterpreted.
Remain relevant. Every message on new ways of working must be combined with a new sense of urgency. We must help our customers now and at greater lengths than ever before. We are not “responding to government policy,” but redefining ourselves to become even more essential to our customers.
Now is the time to be more disruptive. Now is the time to be the best company in our chosen space and to help people through the pandemic.
Companies should not be waiting for governments to solve the issues for them. This is why we are leading and acting now. We know that a wait-and-see approach is often a damaging move in uncertain times and quick action is acceptable, because we’re preparing for a world of more, not less, turbulence. We are committed to showing customers that their company is relevant to navigate the challenges ahead.
We know that a lot of people will be dealing with anxiety – worrying about loved ones, childcare logistics and working-from-home environments. We know that everyone is trying to stay in touch with and calm down family and friends which is why we must all do what it takes to get through this.
This is a unique opportunity to redefine our customer relationships and become essential, not discretionary, while we prepare to enter the ‘new normal’ together.