Seven lessons the coronavirus has taught me
It’s fair to say that regardless of your age, location or financial status, we are all feeling the harsh realities of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While there is little doubt that the human cost is significant, beyond this it also offers some positive lessons and learning opportunities. Looking through a positive lens, here are seven important lessons the coronavirus (COVID-19) has taught me:
- Cash is king: This should be reasonably obvious. At this juncture where economic deceleration seems inevitable, businesses lacking in cash reserves would find themselves in existential crisis, which is why measures announced by various governments across the country have been focussed on cash flow preservation. Even when things are positive and rosy, businesses should carry a healthy cash buffer to deal with any potential headwinds. Now that the headwinds have presented themselves front and centre, stockpiling cash should be the priority to maximise a business’ chance of survival.
- Necessity is the mother of invention: As a business owner, you have a choice. You can become reactive to the environment and find ways to cut losses as dilemmas present themselves, OR you could exercise creativity and agility to proactively create opportunity to ward off adversities. For example, many restaurant owners were quick to turn their business from being ‘non-essential’ to one that is ‘essential’ by selling takeaway fresh food when the supermarket supply chain is congested but their supply chain is comparatively functional. Many real estate businesses have opted for the latter option – making use of technology and ‘out of the box’ thinking to ensure properties are still sold and leases are still signed. There are many current examples of businesses adapting to the new realities nimbly to find alternative sources of revenue.
- Give people a break: I couldn’t agree more when the Prime Minister said that we should give others a wider berth during this unprecedented period. Yes, you can be hard on people and assert your demands forcefully but you would only be adding your difficulties onto someone else’s list. This is precisely the kind of situation where the principle of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ would serve everyone well.
- Collaborate – there is strength in numbers: In difficult times, cooperating and collaborating with other people (yes, including your competitors) can produce a far better outcome for the whole community. We have seen corporate giants like Qantas demonstrating how this can be done. I cannot remember the last time when the supermarket giants have taken out joint advertisements to say that they are “working together to provide for all Australians” in a bid to stop panic buyers abusing their staff. There is strength in numbers.
- There is no shame in asking for help: We have all been taught to be self-sufficient and competitive from day one, so asking for help isn’t second nature for most. However, whether we like it or not, we are all inextricably connected with each other. If a section of our economy suffers, everyone shares the pain. Without referencing the French Revolution (oops, too late), everyone has a vested interest in ensuring each other’s wellbeing, which means if you need help, you should not shy away from asking for help. In other words, just be human.
- Don’t drown someone in kindness: Communication is key to keeping everyone informed – especially when unusual situations arise. However, there is such a thing as over-communicating. Regardless of the motive, over-communicating can exacerbate the ‘infobesity’ phenomenon and potentially increase the level of anxiety and helplessness. Closely associated with over-communication is over-engineering. Yes, decisive action is often needed to maximise positive outcomes in the face of adversity but too many action items on the agenda could distract people from doing what really matters to provide meaningful relief to the situation.
- Be alert but not alarmed: Okay, I admit that I stole this from Australian National Security but the slogan is uncannily apt in the face of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There is cause for alarm at the moment based on other countries’ experiences and what the science is telling us, but being alarmed implies a negative emotional investment that may be more paralysing than helpful when pragmatic responses are warranted now. Stay balanced and cool-headed so there is space for clear thinking. Once the practicalities have been resolved, there is plenty of time for an emotional debrief.
Important disclaimer: No person should rely on the contents of this article without first obtaining advice from a qualified professional person. This article is provided on the terms and understanding that the author and BDO Services Pty Ltd are not responsible for the results of any actions taken on the basis of information in this article, nor for any error in or omission from this article. The article is provided for general information only and the author and BDO Services Pty Ltd are not engaged to render professional advice or services through this article. The author and BDO Services Pty Ltd expressly disclaim all and any liability and responsibility to any person in respect of anything, and of the consequences of anything, done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether wholly or partially, upon the whole or any part of the contents of this article.