How to Survive in this Challenging Period and Then Thrive?

  • An online panel discussion conducted in Chinese on how to survive in this challenging period and then thrive
  • Discussed on how enterprises can tide through the perilous period when the global economy has been adversely affected by COVID-19 and emerge stronger in the aftermath
  • The event was organised by MBAlliance
  • Panelists included Mr. Holmes Chen (Chairman and Principal Consultant, swem Consultancy), Mr. Paddy Tan (Co-Founder, BlackStorm Consulting) and Ms. Christine Lee (GM of Taiwan and Partner, Align Group)
  • The discussion was moderated by Consultant of BlackStorm Consulting, Mr. Lionel Chia

29 April 2020: COVID-19 outbreak has evolved into a pandemic and has affected worldwide economically. The impacts to the globe are unprecedented and Asia is also experiencing stormy weather. Lockdowns and quarantine orders have caused businesses to cease, resulting in major disruptions. How can enterprises tide through this challenging period and then thrive?

It was an honour to invite distinguished guests from various consultancy fields to share with us on how businesses can survive in this perilous situation and emerge stronger in the aftermath.

This panel discussion was well-organised and managed by MBAlliance, of which the founding members are swem Consultancy, Align Group and BlackStorm Consulting. The speakers were all from MBAlliance respectively.

Introduction of MBAlliance

The aim of MBAlliance is to strengthen ties of businesses within Asia-Pacific, utilising technology to modernise companies and encouraging companies to adopt a lifelong learning mindset to remain competitive. MBAlliance will offer advices that derive from many years of experience and expertise, which will enable the business to have a head-start. As an alliance, we provide services from market entry to sales and marketing to talent development and management.

Our values are to align our services with the clients’ needs, ensuring the services of quality and having the best arrangements for the clients to help them enter the international stage.

We are now inviting other stakeholders to join as supporting members to expand the capabilities of this alliance. Currently, we have SparkAmplify, 4b Studios, and Aedge Capital onboard as our supporting members.

In light of COVID-19, we are also launching Virtual Business Clinic, where 30-minute complimentary consultancy service is offered to any firms for reviewing of current business situation and assistance.

Trends Formed During this Pandemic

Mr. Holmes Chen shared his view on how social distancing habits may extend beyond this crisis, and remote working and e-learning may be more common in the future. Current businesses may have to anticipate that consumers may spend less time in brick and mortar stores and shift towards digital consumerism. This pandemic has actually accelerated the process of transitioning to digital processes for everyone and businesses may benefit from investing in technologies at this crucial time. It will allow the company to reach out to more customers that have not been reached out, thus expanding the customer base.

Concerns Faced by Enterprises

On the other hand, Mr. Paddy Tan shared the main concerns that are faced by enterprises. As COVID-19 was highly unexpected, many enterprises did not prepare sufficiently for this crisis. Enterprises may face a complete shutdown due to the lockdown, but they still have to continue paying their employees, rental fees and to suppliers. Employers may consider retrenching their employees but it is not as straightforward as they still have to pay  severance fees and they might need additional manpower after the situation recovers.

Additionally, companies may be able to weather the storm for the next few months but the problem comes when physical meetups are impossible with international travel restrictions. Despite the convenience that virtual meeting tools provide, many face-to-face meetings are still required. This might cause businesses to lose sales as they are unavailable to meet up with clients from different countries.

The last concern would be whether the company’s current business model is feasible for survival. Even if the business model may have worked for the past ten to twenty years, many industries may be revolutionised after this crisis.

A Need to Digitally Transform Business

Regarding the necessity of digitally transforming businesses, Mr. Holmes Chen opined that transformations are always triggered by external factors and right now consumers may develop an aversion to physical shopping, which can push for the need to digitalise businesses. Not just for consumers, firms may also look shift digitally to source for supplies and services.

If companies are not ready to reach out to customers online, it will be many opportunities missed and sales can go down. After starting to digitalise one part of the process, it will make more sense to digitalise the whole process from start to end, which makes things much more convenient and documented.  Investing in efficient technologies can lower communication costs, allowing the clients to be more updated and enhance the client’s experience.

Ms. Christine Lee also took a strong stance, stating that digital transformation has evolved from an option to a requirement.

Human Resources Management – Cutting People, Retaining People or Other Alternatives?

Whether companies retrench employees or try their best to retain talent, Ms. Christine Lee gives her opinions on this matter. She believed that the best strategy for the firm is highly dependent on what type of business.

Importantly, the finance department has to run many simulations and be very clear of the company’s cash flow to understand how long the company can last.

Sometimes it will be good to recognise the losses and leave the market. There are benefits of doing so – if the product or service is attractive enough to be sold, selling it off can help cutting losses and protect the employees from losing their jobs.

Subsequently, if the company is able to survive, one has to plan and identify critical factors to success. Recognise key employees and categorise them in terms of importance. Ensure that the core personnel are retained at the end of the day.

Scaling in this Period

Mr. Paddy Tan pointed out that it is important to question whether the company has the financial capability and the power to scale. In order to enter different markets and countries, one needs to evaluate the available resources and abilities. He raised an example of a client suggesting to venture into Thailand. Most competitors will choose to stay put now until the storm is over but it can be seen as an opportune time to scale since no one is moving any move, allowing the client to have an upper hand.

In a nutshell, as long as you have the muscle to do it, now is a good time to venture into new markets, as competitors may be built on shaky grounds and be easily eliminated by this crisis. However, if your resources are not abundant, you should refrain from such risky ventures. Even if you are not taking any major actions, you have to observe what your competitors are doing in the meantime.

Business Continuity Plan – What to Look Out For?

Ms. Christine Lee emphasised the importance of transparency and communication. Employees need to be on the same page and they have to understand the status of the company as well as any further actions to be taken by the company. In case any personnel are unavailable, the company has to decide on the next person-in-charge and it is crucial that this protocol is established for each department.

She agreed with Paddy that now is a good time to not sit idle and to identify potential developments. Companies must understand that new norms are going to take over, especially in food and beverage, insurance, healthcare industries, so they must think of how to adapt to the situation. She also pointed out that surviving the crisis is the minimum, companies also have to devise plans on how to thrive after this crisis by going along with the flow and making necessary business model changes according to the needs of the markets. She also made an interesting observation that companies who adopt technologies have higher chances of surviving during this crisis.

Most significantly, she stated that this crisis has caused a shift in mindsets. In order to attract talent, as a company, one has to prove the sustainability of the company, the company’s motto and how well the employees are treated. In the past, Taiwanese firms were more focused on completing orders because they were mostly in the manufacturing industry. However, she noted that this crisis has sparked kindness in society, where restaurants and factories go out of their way to help one another, initiating collaboration instead of competition.

Identifying and Creating New Opportunities

On how companies should leverage on this situation, Mr. Paddy Tan noted that for companies which are largely unaffected by the crisis, where employees are still able to work from home and operations are only minutely disrupted, now is a good time to think of alliances and collaborations. Partnering with companies from other countries can expand the vision and also facilitate transformation in the business models. Apart from alliances, companies can also look to acquire other companies which are slightly smaller, and these companies may not have to be the direct competitors.

However, if the main concern is on how to survive now, one should consider changing business models or expanding the services to increase viability of the company. Transformation does not have to be a complete revamp, it can simply be development of a software, or an application, just to cover costs for the time being. Another interesting suggestion was to have barter trades with other companies by using vouchers as currency for service rendering.

Leveraging on Technology to Attract Customers

Since staying put is not advisable, Mr. Holmes Chen advised companies to evaluate whether the slump in demand would be temporary or permanent for them. There might be permanent change in consumer habits, such as they might opt for food delivery services over eating in at stores, so restaurants have to be equipped with technology to allow ease of ordering for customers, so that their sales and demand will be largely unaffected.

Other than setting up an online shop, Mr. Holmes Chen suggested that retailers can also use technology to take note of each customer’s browsing preferences so as to give them a more customised experience and personalised service.

As many countries mandated working from home during this period, Ms. Christine Lee reminded employers to adjust their expectations as productivity and efficiency cannot be exactly the same as before. It is also important to respect their employees. This is also an ultimate test for employees’ own accountability and loyalty towards the company.

With that being said, one remote managing tip is to have daily meetings to make sure each activity is taken into account and to manage employees’ productivity level. Now is also a good time to discuss the values and motto of the company, the daily inspirations and share tips on how to deal with isolation and telecommuting. As a business leader, one have to practise empathy and care, understanding the conditions of employees, be it their family duties or the insecurities of being retrenched.

Last Advice – What Should or Should Not be Done?

Mr. Paddy Tan gave some practical tips for telecommuting, which include explaining to meeting partners on having children or toddlers at home and apologising in advance for any inconvenience caused. Even if one might be extremely busy, it is important to leave time for oneself and the family. Draw a clear line between private life and working hours, and importantly, take care of the health.

Mr. Holmes Chen kindly advised companies to refrain from stagnating in this period of time. One can choose to reorganise internal operations and incorporate new technologies to help reform the business.

Ms. Christine Lee believed that it is important to be vulnerable. In order to receive help, one must put down the ego and let other people know the troubles and concerns faced.

It is noticeable that many companies are now facing unprecedented challenges. It is important to seek assistance if there is a need to.  

What are the measures to be implemented in weathering a downturn? Is the business doing it correctly? How can the business brace through a financial crisis? How can you identify and utilise the opportunities amid chaos?

Book a free 30-minute consultation to review your business situation and find out how MBAlliance can help you.

About MBAlliance

MBAlliance (http://mballiance.asia) provides a series of multinational services, acting as a bridge and enabler for businesses to compete more effectively in a dynamic and fast evolving Asia Pacific.

As an alliance, between Swem Consulting, BlackStorm Consulting and Align Group, we strive to equip entrepreneurs with local knowledge, leveraging on years of experience from our founding members.

About BlackStorm Consulting

BlackStorm Consulting (http://blackstormco.asia/) is a Singapore-based boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management. We scale businesses in Southeast Asia. Our clients and connections are internationally present and range from small and medium sized businesses, MNCs, to government agencies.

About swem Consultancy

swem Consultancy (http://www.swem.com.tw/) is a Taiwan-based international enterprise, serving as a brand marketing consultant. We provide strategies to help enterprises to transform and establish brands, seize more market shares, and expand their global presence and popularity.

About Align Group

Align Group (http://www.aligngoc.com/) is the fastest growing people-focused management consultancy helping fast-growing enterprises in transformation for growth. This is achieved through a combination of Human Capability Development projects and HR solutions to maximise performance and potential of your people. Our goal is to support companies create sustainable productivity, strong alignment and to bring the best out of their teams, thereby transform their human capital and grow their business. Over the years, we have serviced more than 100 SMEs with high service ratings, and with many of them remaining as our business partners in their growth journeys.

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