COVID-19: What does it all mean?

31st March, 2020

What does it all mean?

These are the words being repeated in households across the nation – because at the moment , Great Britain remains in lock down with a significant number of its workforce working in home offices, dining rooms, sheds and bedrooms.

In response, we invited Patrick Dunne to join us and our portfolio businesses on a webinar to try to help all of us to makes sense of it all.
In the first of our series on crisis management, Patrick, who has extensive experience as an investor and chair, provided some great advice for our portfolio businesses, the full recording of which you can access below.

The feedback for Patrick’s last webinar has been tremendous and we think this comment sums it up nicely – 

“ I am sure you have had some good feedback on yesterday’s webinar already – I just put the phone down to an FD I know – he said it’s the best he has heard and really found it useful, insightful and direct – just wanted to pass it on!”  

You can access a recording of the webinar below.

For those of you that are time-strapped, here is some of Patrick’s key advice from the first webinar.

  1. Continue to look for opportunities – at a time of crisis the role of management is to safeguard the business. However they should always be alert to new opportunities as this will help to create value and protect jobs. 
  2. Set up a task force – where there are a lot of serious issues to deal with, having to constantly update the board can be time consuming. One idea is to set up a small group to deal with and report on triage issues. It can also be useful to distinguish between issues which are for information only and those which require a decision, and have separate virtual board meetings for each. 
  3. Keep records – when decisions have to be made at high speed on the basis of limited information, it is easy to pick holes in them afterwards. Always keep a record of what has been decided and why.
  4. Share good news – don’t be afraid to publicise your success stories as positive news is helpful for employees and creditors alike. But leave out the superlatives and be careful not to sound too arrogant.
  5. Focus on the important things – do you  have the right strategy and the right resourcing model to put it into place? If you are making a decision be clear about what decision you need to take and when, and how you can implement it. Anyone can make a decision but it is not always so easy to put it into practice and ensure that the consequences are as intended.
  6. Be aware that people are stressed – in times of crisis, people might be more irritable than they would otherwise. Don’t take it personally but instead lend your support.
  7. Understand the new KPIs – cash, cash and cash are the top three priorities right now. Cash ensures choice and sustainability so preserving cash and getting money in is all important. Also look at your supply chain – you are only as strong as the weakest link in it so consider who that might be.
  8. Consider requests for time to pay – clients may ask you to ‘help them out’ and if they are good customers, it could be worthwhile to do so if you can. But do try to get something in return, such as a discount on a future order, and think about the sustainability of your own business too!
  9. Scrutinise your contracts – if you have a small number of key contracts then take your time to understand them, and the ‘get out’ provisions within them.
  10. Keep people’s spirits up – when I worked at 3i during the financial crisis we had an Morale Improvement Plan to ensure we were doing everything we could to help our teams and  portfolio companies not just survive but thrive. Once the crisis is over staff, customers and shareholders will remember how you treated them so try to keep people happy. In the words of the late great Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

About Patrick – Patrick is Chair of Business (Boardelta) & Social Enterprise (EY Foundation, ESSA-Education Sub Saharan Africa) and author of Boards, and author of the award-winning book, ‘Boards.’

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