Crisis Management – COVID-19 Crisis Learnings for CEOs

Insights to help you prepare and sustain your business during a business interruption

SynFiny Advisors has developed a series of Crisis Management Insights to help you strengthen and grow your business after having faced a major business interruption.  Our objective is to provide a framework that allows any business (no matter how big or small) to maintain focus while dealing with the multitude of distractions that take you away from your core business.   Our advisors’ share their seasoned experiences and “been there, done that” practical advice to not only survive but thrive in a crisis situation.

Many companies and organizations will be placed under significant stress during periods of major business interruptions arising from unexpected situations like natural disasters, civil unrest, massive business and economic interruptions. Examples include the 1997 and 2008 global financial crises, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. This Insight provides business leaders with key guidance on what they need to do to sustain their teams and keep their business running through a major crisis.

Key Vulnerabilities and Concerns

With an impending crisis, it is critical for leadership to identify and reinforce areas vulnerabilities within their organization. These areas of concern may not be consistent from crisis to crisis; therefore, it is important to look at each crisis on an individual basis. Some common areas of vulnerability include:

  • Safety: Ensuring the safety of your team is the first priority, in particular those engaged in production and customer delivery. For COVID-19, sourcing of protective gear and safety equipment was a challenge, as well as preventive measures.
  • Organization: Be prepared to work differently. From unpaid leave, reduced staff and reduced wages to virtual work and supplier limitations, businesses must be flexible in the ways that they accomplish mission critical tasks. Waves of job, salary reductions and remote work can have significant impact on employee morale and engagement. While manageable, keeping motivation and team effectiveness upbeat will be more difficult in the long term. HR is a critical asset while navigating the legal and labor law aspects of these issues.
  • Cash: Good cashflow is essential to surviving a crisis. With rapidly declining revenues it is critical to tighten cost controls. And the cashflow issues are not restricted to your organization. Partners and suppliers with cashflow issues could also have an impact on your business.

How to Prepare

Identification of vulnerable areas is a great first step. The second step is to develop plans to reinforce vulnerable areas during a crisis. Some key considerations include:

  • Stay calm – Import stress and export serenity. Staying positive is not easy in the crisis times but CEO sets the tone and people are looking up to lead team and their reactions will be influenced by what they see and hear from them.
  • Develop a rapid response plan – Put actions in place to ensure your people are safe during the crisis. Reinforce operations for mission critical products and services so they are available during the crisis. Think through your critical processes, and in particular those that are unique/have limited number of people that can operate them. Each function needs to quickly evaluate its vulnerabilities and take action to address them via training, back-up support, creating job aids etc. Provide support for the local communities that you operate in.
  • Develop a communication strategy – Clear and consistent communication is essential to ensure that team members know how to behave during a crisis. While being open about the issues and choices is not easy and needs to be carefully managed, it ensures organizational continuity. Establish a daily emergency team meeting between management and the GM/CEO so up-to-date information (e.g., crisis situation updates, changes to organizational priorities and objectives) is communicated through the organization (up and down the chain of command). These communications also provide important “face-time” to the organization. Even when remote work is necessary, virtual technologies are widely available and easy to implement.
  • Focus on cash flow – Careful tracking of receivables, expenses, inventories, and credit limits is essential during a crisis. Approaching your banks, suppliers and customers in advance has helped to soften the blow and avoid the worst outcome.
  • Support key long-term partners/supply chain – While key focus of each organization is on ensuring its own physical and financial safety, providing support to the key long-term suppliers and customers can also be an important consideration. Forward looking businesses have developed programs to provide additional credit and/or discounts to ensure their supply and sales remain sustainable.
  • Learn from other regions – Tried and tested playbooks from other countries and regions can help provide a great foundation for managing a crisis. For companies with intercontinental manufacturing footprints, the key questions to ask are: When were they hit? How hard were the hit? Different geographies will have different answers to these questions.

Post-Crisis

Once your Rapid Response Actions are complete, the Leadership Team’s focus should shift towards post-crisis preparation. Some actions include:

  • Study trends in the marketplaces where you operate. Look for shifts in consumer behaviour and dynamics in out-of-home and in-home consumption.
  • Hold “Recovery Workshops” for your key teams to get them to focused and inspired about the future.
  • Focus on the Fundamentals –  Ensure You have a robust cash cycle and actions to preserve your cash balance.  Delay or avoid non-essential spending.

Crisis situations also present new business opportunities. These opportunities can come in the form of M&A deals for struggling organizations and enhanced government support.

Key Takeaways

  • Take time to identify key areas of vulnerability that present risk to your mission critical operations.
  • Reinforce vulnerable areas with additional resources and plans of action to keep operations running smooth during a crisis.
  • After plans are in place and running, shift Leadership team’s focus to post-crisis preparation. Look for opportunities to emerge from the crisis stronger than when it started.

Conclusion

SynFiny Advisors exists to bring talented “been there, done that” experience to bear on solving client problems. Each engagement results in measurable, pragmatic, and actionable recommendations. We assist in developing Business Process Transformation scenarios to survive changing economic conditions and minimize disruption to your organization and business partners. Our approach is very simple, we Define, Design and Transform. And in doing so, transform your business from ‘existing’ to ‘exceeding’.

Download and read the full insight here.

For more information, contact Jet Antonio (jantonio@synfiny.com) or Natalia Vinogradova (nyvinogradova@synfiny.com).

Other contributing authors to the “Crisis Management” series include the following:

Crisis Management – Insights Overview

Insights  to help  you prepare and sustain your business during a business  interruption

SynFiny Advisors has developed a series of Crisis Management Insights to help you strengthen and grow your business after having faced a major business interruption.  Our objective is to provide a framework that allows any business (no matter how big or small) to maintain focus while dealing with the multitude of distractions that take you away from your core business.   Our advisors’ share their seasoned experiences and “been there, done that” practical advice to not only survive but thrive in a crisis situation.

These Insights have the following objectives:

  1. Share proven business case examples that can be re-applied during times of business interruptions.
  2. Transformational options to manage and emerge from disruptive business situations with a more cost-effective, nimble, and flexible organization.
  3. Encourage the opportunity to capture learnings and also shape strong elements of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to further support the organization.

Overview

We will cover the following topics in this set of Insights:

  1. COVID 19 Learnings for CEOs – Provides business leaders with key guidance on what they need to do to sustain their teams and keep the business running during and after a major crisis.  Download Insight (PDF)
  2. Business Survival Kit  – Here we  challenge you to choose  supporting  those  processes  that are ‘nice to have’ or  stop what we are doing and only  maintain those that  we  ‘have to  have’?  Take a broad systemic approach to ensure throughput during a period of business interruption.  Download Insight (PDF)
  3. Developing Countries  – This Insight provides 5  actions  to be taken when  emerging markets  are facing  economic turmoil from a business interruption.  Of  particular importance  are actions when faced with currency devaluation and how to face  this challenge.  Download Insight (PDF)
  4. Procurement  – Provides  important  guidelines and insights on what  Procurement leaders need to address during a major business disruption event.  Download Insight (PDF)
  5. Balance Sheet and Fx Management – Proposes questions to consider during major economic and political  crises that impact market sizes, availability of funds and that create a flight to safety. Download Insight (PDF)
  6. Banking/Payments  – Identifies 3 loss types and potential actions to be taken; also reinforces the need to share your plans with your critical business partners to ensure mutual understanding and sustain productive relationships.  Download Insight (PDF)

Conclusion

SynFiny Advisors exists to bring talented “been there, done that” experience to bear on solving client problems.  Each engagement results in measurable, pragmatic and actionable recommendations. We assist in developing Business Process Transformation scenarios to survive changing economic conditions and minimize disruption to your organization and business partners. Our approach is very simple, we Define, Design and Transform. And in doing so, transform your business from ‘existing’ to ‘exceeding’.

Download and read the full insight here.

For more information, contact Doug Schupp (dvschupp@synfiny.com).

Other contributing authors to the “Crisis Management” series include the following:

Webinar: Business Continuity ‘Plan’demic

On June 11th, SynFiny Advisors’ CEO, Jeff Wuest, presented a webinar sponsored by Marquette University Alumni Association. In the webinar, entitled “Business Continuity ‘Plan’demic”, Jeff looked into how to maintain business functions amid a crisis like COVID-19 and what consumer changes and business opportunities we can expect after the pandemic in the “new normal”.

According to a poll of 50 business professionals from the webinar, the top concern for the future of businesses relative to COVID-19 is growing or getting back lost revenue. In fact, almost 50% claimed that this was a bigger concern than financial survival, remote work force, and having the right technology.

Chart: What are your biggest concerns about the future of your business or the company you work for? 26% said Financial Survival; 19% are worried about the Remote Work Force; 32% are concerned about Growing or Getting Back Lost Revenue; 7% are worried about Supply Chain Disruptions; 14% are concerned about individuals Having the proper Virtual Technology; 2% claimed to have No Concerns.

As a response to this concern, Jeff Wuest suggests that in order to gain back lost revenue, you must reach out to the consumer to understand their changing behavior and their needs for the future as well as prepare your Business Development and Sales Departments for these needs.

To hear more from our CEO Jeff Wuest on how to navigate a crisis like COVID-19 and what to expect in the “new normal”, watch his presentation.

Download the presentation slides

Special thanks to Marquette University Alumni Association for inviting Jeff to speak and for sponsoring the exciting webinar as well as an additional thank you to Matteo Arena, Finance Chair and Associate Professor at Marquette, for hosting.

Perspective from a CEO Round Table

Our May CEO Round Table was a great success and provided new insights on current issues. Our Eastern Europe partners, Natalia Vinogradova and Natalia Beketova, hosted the event via Zoom. The CEO Round Table included several CEOs across various industries providing perspective from Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. A special thank you for the global insights from SynFiny’s CEO, Jeff Wuest, and Managing Asia Partner, Webster Shao.

Topics that were discussed include current pandemic’s impact and the office reopening process. To discover new insights on the topics discussed and the perspectives shared, check out the conservation points below.

 

Perspective from the CEOS

Western Europe and China

  • Each country has its own pace and set of regulations for back-to-normal, making it difficult for international business to do planning. The countries that were less restrictive tend to go back quicker, while countries on full lock-down (Italy, Spain) are coming back slower. China is only back 50-70% after 2 months. Russia’ scenario seems like a slower one.
  • Second wave is very likely once the restrictions are lifted – China has seen some of that already.
  • People are afraid to go back to the offices – there is a need to build up confidence in employees that it is sufficiently safe. Training on new behaviours and habits is required.
  • Businesses are forced keep the office population down to the min level dividing office staff population into teams and/or shifts according to the need to work from the office. However, those, who are allowed to go into the office may choose to work from home.
  • To enable the split-teams work from the office a basic external and office infrastructure needs to be up and running in addition to public transport and schools/ kindergartens.
  • Increased staff safety requirements including frequent sanitisation of common areas, testing for the virus and provision of infection control supplies such as hand soap, sanitisers and face masks lead to extra costs for businesses. Those requirements are critical – in one case in China 1 employee infected over 200 colleagues. Failure to follow the safety rules affects business reputation.
  • The pace of external changes and new requirements is very high and hard to keep track of. Business needs to keep in touch with employees and overcommunicate.
  • E-business has stepped up – in Europe retail businesses are forced to embrace contactless payment systems such as ApplePay, including conservative Switzerland. In China Nike has grown online sales by over 30%.
  • Retail habits would need to change – e.g. in cosmetics the shoppers will no longer be able to try the product the way that used to. The stores and the beauty companies would need to figure out the new options.
  • The pandemic has driven local vs global focus and has affected globalization. It remains to be seen how much it will drive localization of supply chains.

 

Perspective from the CEOS

Businesses in Russia:

  • Overall: A two-three months period may not be enough to move back to the “new normal”. There is a general feeling that the situation will not dramatically improve for another 2-3 weeks. In the businesses that remained open there has been an increase in contamination rates. The most important objectives remain to protect people, secure the supply chain and provide sustainable cash flow.
  • Office re-opening: Some companies have already made decision to delay office opening beyond the official date of June 1 (provisionally mid-June or later). Base plan is gradual return, with ca 20% returning originally and working in shifts.
  • Safety/infrastructure: It is still not clear what is required to provide safe and secure office environment. New basic office infrastructure including food delivery needs to be developed.
  • Internal surveys have indicated ca. 60% of employees at this stage are unwilling to return to the office. Some are keen to remain working remotely in the future (more in IT, much less in Sales).
  • Employee engagement was high originally but has been going down in May. To keep it up some companies have restarted more frequent communication sessions and daily leadership meetings
  • Layoffs: many are still in denial, but layoffs cannot be avoided and there are plans in place already
  • BCP: it is crucial to consider back up for critical people, processes and systems. People with unique knowledge or in critical roles will need a trained back up.
Man writing on white board during a meeting

Webinar: To Lead and Efficiently Manage Change In A Crisis

On April 23rd, SynFiny Advisors Latin America sponsored their second webinar session (in Spanish) entitled, “Effectively Leading and Managing Change in Times of Crisis”. The webinar was held by Ilhiana Rojas, the CEO of BeLive Coaching, and Thomas Eckschmidt, the cofounder of Conscious Business Journey.

In the webinar, Eckshmidt explains the necessary actions and steps to lead a business through a crisis including the “7 C’s” of combatting a crisis. Rojas dives into how to manage change successfully. His advice includes how to establish a clear vision and how to develop a short and long-term plan. To learn more about the tips and tricks of crisis management, check out the webinar.

To translate the webinar recording to English, click on the video settings. Under closed captions, choose the Auto-Translate button.

 

Round Table Business Meeting

Perspectives From a CEO Round Table

As a part of the virtual Grand Opening of SynFiny’s Eastern Europe region this month, the Eastern Europe partners, Natalia Vinagradova and Natalia Beketova, hosted a CEO Round Table via Zoom. The round table included 7 CEOs representing FMCG, retail, beauty, distribution and logistics, food, and technology industries. The guest speaker, Webster Shao, SynFiny partner of the Asia Pacific region, shared an interesting perspective that was very well received and appreciated by the participants. In addition to the Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe region being represented in the round table, our CEO and founder, Jeff Wuest, also added global and North American insight. We demonstrated our global perspective and expertise.

Topics that were discussed include current market perspectives and the economic situation we face, high-level issues, solutions that have succeeded, as well as current opportunities. To learn more about the details of the topics discussed and the perspectives shared, check out the conversation points below.

Economic Situation/Market Perspective

  • All segments are affected, with premium non-food retail suffering the most (ca-80%).
  • Weaker/less reliable players are driven out of business.
  • In case the lockdown will continue beyond June-July consumer purchasing power is likely to fall down dramatically.
  • Not clear what the post-crisis reality would look like.
  • Perspective from China – we should expect at least 2-3 months more of this and the recovery will not happen overnight.

High-Level Issues (Group)

  • Safety: ensuring that the organization is safe, in particular those engaged in production/delivery. Sourcing protective gears and safety equipment is a challenge. Over time the issue will likely become more severe as whole teams might get quarantined when 1 employee gets ill.
  • Organization: Many businesses have already sent people on unpaid leaves, reduced stuff and/or salaries. There will likely will be 2nd/3d waves of job reductions if lockdown continues part June. While working remotely and employee engagement have been so far ok for most, keeping it up will be more difficult longer term.
  • Cash issues: relevant for most, even the businesses that have are doing well have partners/supply chain that is affected.

What Has Helped/Worked

  • Daily emergency team meetings.
  • Focus on cash flow, activating BCP early on/careful planning of inventories and credit limits.
  • Learning from other regions, using tested and tried playbooks.
  • Supporting key long-term partners/supply chain.
  • Over communicating with their organizations, being open about the issues and choices.
  • Opportunities

M&A deals: are already taking off (either selling or buying) depending on the company

  • Government support: not clear how broad it will be and which segments it will cover. The government announced support for small/mid-size business in most affected areas (tourism, restaurant sector, non-food retail etc).
  • It is not clear whether the government will be able to do more given the falling oil prices. Business needs support and lobbying, joint effort will help.

Webinar: How to Manage Your Business Through the Covid-19 Crisis

On April 16th, SynFiny Advisors Latin America sponsored a webinar session in Spanish, held by Jose Alonso, one of our partners, and Wiston Uzcategui, CEO of Valor Humano, entitled “Crisis Management.” They discussed how to manage finance and operations during the COVID-19 crisis as well as how to come out stronger after the crisis is over.

More than 100 people tuned into this webinar to learn from these impressive business leaders. Specific topics they touched on were the new reality, managing cash flows, business continuity plan, business models, and communication amid a crisis. Additionally, the webinar touches on creating a proper mindset and managing emotions in the new business context we will face after the crisis.

To translate it to English, click on the video settings, closed captions, and then choose the Auto-Translate button.

Meet The Partners

Jose Alonso

Jose Alonso

Partner

An experienced Managing Director with a demonstrated history of working in the Consumer Goods Industry, Jose (Pepe) Alonso is now focused on providing Finance and General Management Consulting support specializing in Restructuring of Operations, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategy, Governance, Source to Payment, Business Process Transformation, Sales and Marketing Operations and Supply Chain Management.

Pepe has 28 years with Procter and Gamble, finishing his career as Vice President – Finance for P&G Latin America. While playing a senior leadership role in driving the company’s rapid growth in the region, Pepe led the site selection and establishment of the P&G Panama offices as the Latin America headquarters for the company. Prior to this, Pepe was also Finance Director for Venezuela and the ANDEAN region and was on international assignment in Caracas, Venezuela. Pepe is an active leader of the P&G Puerto Rico Alumni Network since 2015 and is also currently a board member of the South Florida P&G Alumni Network.

Pepe plays a Mentor and Strategy Practice Leader role for the Guayacan Venture Accelerator program in San Juan, Puerto Rico since 2017. He also entered the restaurant business as co-owner of the La Mar and Tanta Peruvian restaurants in Panama from 2009 to 2015. Pepe studied Finance at Louisiana State University.

man working at desk writing in his book in front of his laptop

Webinar: Prevent, Manage, Recover – Key Strategies to Execute a Business Continuity Plan

On April 2nd, our partner, Larry Williams, presented a webinar entitled “Prevent, Manage, Recover: Key Strategies to Execute a Business Continuity Plan” as a part of Ardent Partners’s CPO Rising Virtual Series – “The Resiliency Imperative”.

Larry discussed the necessity of having a BCP (Business Continuity Plan), when to use it, and the steps to execute one. Despite already being amidst the pandemic crisis, Larry emphasizes that it is not too late to create a BCP. To find out more, watch the webinar here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7356886583498207500 or view the presentation slides attached!

Special thanks to Ardent Partners for the opportunity to share SynFiny’s expertise in operational and organization improvement.

 

Webinar: How to Achieve Maximum Results Working Remotely

On March 31st, Natalia Beketova, SynFiny Partner, participated in a virtual panel and presentation, hosted by Kontakt InterSearch Russia. The webinar, entitled “HRD: How to Achieve Maximum Results Working Remotely” focused on how to navigate changing an organizational structure to be virtual, as well as how to transfer employees to remote work.

Natalia discussed how to support critical processes, keep a workable organization, maintain relationships, save non-critical processes and maximize resources virtually. More than 100 people tuned in to learn from Natalia and other Human Resource Development professionals. To listen in English, turn on closed captioning and then select “auto-translate” under the video settings.

Meet The Partners

Natalia Beketova

Natalia Beketova

Partner

An executive with over 25 years of experience in human resources management with broad experience in large multinational and Russian production companies with international presence. Natalia has worked with Boards of Directors, as well as having worked and lived in different regions of Russia, in Ukraine and Western Europe.

Natalia started as the assistant to the Human Resources Director, has been an executive coach for C-suite and mentor and coach to many professionals in different industries at the executive level. Natalia is an independent Director at Institute of Directors and a member of Independent Directors Foundation.

Natalia graduated with a diploma with honors from Tula State Pedagogical University.

woman's hand using laptop on a desk

Webinar: How to Transfer Financial Services to Remote Work

Last Tuesday, two of our partners, Natalia Beketova and Natalia Vinogradova, held a webinar discussing how to continue operating financial services remotely. They specifically talked about maintaining a workable organization during the COVID-19 crisis, critical supporting processes for doing so, as well as other current issues.

Our partners are busy sharing their expertise and knowledge from their careers to help other businesses during this challenging business environment. The webinar, which is in Russian, can be found here. To watch in English, turn on the auto-translated closed captioning under the video’s settings.

 

Meet The Partners

Natalia Vinogradova

Natalia Vinogradova

Partner

Natalia is a senior executive with +25 years of experience in finance and accounting, and a recognized expert in shared services, process transformation, efficiency and optimization. She has led multiple projects covering corporate restructurings, acquisitions and divestitures, system implementations and service transformation for FMCG multinational.

In the past 10 years, Natalia has established and run an accounting shared service center for Procter and Gamble in Eastern Europe to cover operations in complex markets (Russia, Ukraine, Turkey etc) and total Europe for a broad range of services, including R2R, taxes, banking, accounts payable and accounts receivable. In her most recent role at Procter and Gamble she was responsible for service management of global indirect tax operations, ensuring strong service quality and long term systems & service design for tax reporting in over 60 countries.

Natalia  has an honors MBA degree from MGIMO (International Relations) University in Moscow.

Natalia Beketova

Natalia Beketova

Partner

An executive with over 25 years of experience in human resources management with broad experience in large multinational and Russian production companies with international presence. Natalia has worked with Boards of Directors, as well as having worked and lived in different regions of Russia, in Ukraine and Western Europe.

Natalia started as the assistant to the Human Resources Director, has been an executive coach for C-suite and mentor and coach to many professionals in different industries at the executive level. Natalia is an independent Director at Institute of Directors and a member of Independent Directors Foundation. 

Natalia graduated with a diploma with honors from Tula State Pedagogical University.