Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

We are living quarantine in Spain for the last 3 days. This is a strange Saint Patrick’s day… no rivers greeen… no parades. I am at home with family in quarantine.

How are things where you are? Stay safe and stay sane…

Would love to hear from you on how you are handling the Coronavirus… let’s hear from you in the comments below.

Handling Coronavirus as a Business Leader

…like today with COVID-19/Coronavirus affecting all aspects of our daily lives across the world.

When there is a huge range of possible impacts in the short, medium or long term, how can leaders prepare and respond?

Scenario Planning

Today, it is impossible to predict the impact of COVID-19/Coronavirus on our societies, our people, our future cash flows. Leaders cannot abdicate responsibility and say that they cannot decide because there are too many unknowns.

In the current context, business leaders need to lead with a number of specific actions:

  1. Set company policy and make sure all employees know this policy. This policy should cover at minimum what is covered in my recent post COVID-19/Coronavirus – How business leaders should respond?
  2. Communicate daily what you are seeing, what you are expecting, who is involved, what it means…
  3. Scenario Planning
    1. Best Case – What is the best case we might possibly expect and how will we respond if the situation pans out in this way?
    2. Worst Case – What is the truly worst case we might face? What actions can we take today that can prepare us for dealing with this? What cash reserves will we need? What will we do with suppliers, customers, banks, employees in this worst case? Are there any actions that can reduce the impact? Can we survive this worst case? (“You can only learn from the crisis that you survive” Jim Collins)
    3. Other Cases between best and worst – What will happen under these scenarios? How can we prepare plans and our people to perform under these conditions?

It may be helpful to have separate people/teams working on response plans for each of the scenarios.

IESE Business School is working on 4 possible Scenarios and teams are putting in place the technology, the training, the support systems in order to allow for any of these 4 scenarios to be supported. As of yesterday, IESE has moved to scenario 3… All classes delivered online for at least the next 2 weeks. All travel stopped. All marketing activities with on campus visits stopped.

IESE is maintaining the capacity to go back to on-campus teaching, and is maintaining regular communications to employees, to faculty and to students via email, a blog and internal messaging tools.

We are seeing growth in COVID-19/Coronavirus infections around the world. Some facts about the disease.

  • Unlike the flu, very young people do not seem to be at any increased risk from COVID-19.
  • Risk appears to ramp up for people over age 50. Mortality rates are 0.6% to 1.5% in general population, 80-85% of cases are mild (which is the big problem because you are infectious, but able to go out in the world).
  • The big risk is rapid spread and the collapse of hospital facilities in local regions. All efforts are directed towards slowing the spread of infection so that we don’t see a huge number of critical cases all needing hospital beds at the same time. This is what happened in Wuhan and led to the higher fatality rates in that region.

How it affects me?

As a business leader in Spain I find myself struggling to take reasoned decisions around the COVID19/Coronavirus outbreak that is spreading through the world. Over the weekend all of North Italy (16M people) went into quarantine. Last night Madrid closed all schools.

I have a training event coming up late March for our leadership team. A Vistage Chair will be travelling over from the US to run the 3 day event. Should we go ahead with the event? Should we cancel? How can I approach this decision and find a balance between emotion and reason, short term safety and long term impacts.

I find it very hard to get myself emotionally centered and make a reasoned decision. If I read the news for 20 minutes, I feel like the whole world is coming to an end… markets crashing… supply chains in grave danger…

Then I look into the illness… how serious is it? Clearly nobody wants an illness of any type… but we are lucky that this wake-up call to the global health system is not highly lethal. This crisis will prepare us and potentially mitigate or reduce the impact of a future more lethal strain that spreads widely.

How should a Small Business CEO respond?

First, leaders need to communicate regularly… I would suggest a daily update about what company policy is and what scenarios we are looking at, also what we don’t know. Even if that communication is “we have nothing new to communicate today, but we are paying close attention to what is happening” it is an important signal of leadership.

Establish and communicate Company policy – every company needs to establish a company policy that at its very least recommends the following:

  1. If you are sick, or have flu-like symptoms – do not come to work. Stay home and contact your local medical services.
  2. Wash hands regularly. Don’t touch your face. This disease (and many others) is passed from hands to mouth and nose.
  3. Wipe down work areas regularly. Shared desks, computers, personal mobile devices can gather and share the virus.
  4. Reduce physical contact as much as necessary at this time. Handshakes and kisses are out, fist pumps or elbow nudges are the replacement gesture.
  5. Encourage video conference over travel and face to face meetings. Many companies have temporarily banned any meeting of 20 or more people.
  6. Put plans in place now for remote work – think through now how the business could operate in a full quarantine.
  7. Liquidity – can you establish lines of credit, sources of financing that can get you through the next few weeks and months. As Jim Collins says “we can only learn from a crisis if we survive the crisis”.
  8. School closures? – How can employees respond if their schools close and they are at home? What is your policy? Case by case basis?

Personal and Family

Get your own house and family in order.

  • Plan for looking after kids at home if schools shut down Can you remote work or create flexibility to do your work from home?
  • Plan for the (unlikely) event you and your family can not leave your home for 2 weeks quarantine. Get in food and drinks for a 2 week stay at home.
  • Make sure your family has 2-3 months of medicine. If a loved one is taking a medicine or drug regularly, you may want to ensure a few months extra supply.

3 Important Reasons For Optimism

1. The disease is mild in most people who get it. At least 80%, most likely more, will only have flu-like symptoms.

2. Children seem particularly protected from severe coronavirus disease. Many of the sniffles and colds kids experience are due to existing milder coronavirus strains, possibly giving them partial immunity to this more serious new threat.

3. There has been extraordinary global cooperation from doctors and health officials. This is a level of globalisation that I am proud to see our leaders and doctors capable of.

Reliable Information Sources

I will continue to update this post as we learn more about effective response to COVID-19/Coronavirus.