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ALC’s ARTICLE SERIES

For Planning our way out of the Covid-19 crisis.

Covid-19 has disrupted markets worldwide and is threatening to herald recession for businesses across the UK unless they embrace change: business as usual just doesn’t apply anymore! Lock-down restrictions have forced us to re-assess how businesses work and our ability to thrive in a post-Covid environment depends on how we react to these challenges.

The psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described the stages of grief people go through when a loved one dies in her book “On Death and Dying” in 1969. Psychologists, sociologists and economists have applied her theory to the process of dealing with any changes in life based around the concept of dealing with loss, whether it be a loved one, environment (such as a physical re-location), control (new boss), or established structure (e.g. time schedule, roles / responsibilities and process).

Given that the Covid-19 crisis is just one such loss (of market stability) that is so significant that we believe the Kubler-Ross change curve applies here:

The timeline is split into a number of stages in 3 distinct phases:

1. Shutdown – shock, denial and the reactions to fear / threat of what could happen
2. Exploration – a time of re-orientation and understanding of transition: effectively of what is ending and what could be beginning.
3. Planning for the future – positive acceptance of the change and a level of excitement and anticipation about what the future opportunities will bring.

The Shutdown stages have been demonstrated in the Covid-19 crisis by:

Shock – (early Feb) “Isn’t it terrible in China? Oh it’s spread to Italy now – poor them”

Denial – (early March) “It couldn’t happen here”. Some people thinking or refusing to acknowledge the situation. (I don’t want to be political, but Boris Johnson’s refusal to attend five COBRA meetings on Covid-19 could be considered symptomatic here)
Fear of the threat (mid March). Some companies were planning to close down, others made a ‘dash for cash’ – chasing up overdue invoices, cancelling or curtailing non-essential spend. The Government mitigated some of this panic by a generous Budget boost and interest rate cut. Social distancing restrictions were announced backed by the employee furlough scheme and various support packages designed to put the economy into hibernation until we emerge.

Depression – inevitably there will be losers (Flybe, Kath Kidston, Debenhams, Warehouse and Oasis are just some of the obvious ones).

Exploration phase steps include:

Bargaining – exploring the boundaries of lockdown: which businesses can operate on-line? What support mechanisms are needed? How can we maintain revenue and the integrity of our businesses? Testing and refining the furlough, CBIL loan schemes and other Government initiatives. The boom in WFH technologies such as Zoom and Slack, the spike in Netflix subscriptions, home delivery services and PPE provision.

Exploring Options – there will be opportunities too for businesses that are agile: switching hi tech engineering into ventilator / PPE production in the short term, visioning of future market opportunities taking into account the UK Government’s planning for an ‘on-shoring’ boom etc..

The Planning for the Future phase is the start of the recovery.

Planning to Perform – development of plans for a post-covid future: assessing how we can better meet new market opportunities. Ensuring a diversity and resilience in our Supply Chains for example is a key requirement and planning this for the next 12-18 months is something we should all be embracing.

What do we need to do? – the acknowledged advice to speed the transition through the phases and stages of the curve is “communicate, communicate, communicate through open and honest dialogue. This can be via standard media such as the TV and news, but we recommend keeping up with topical media such as LinkedIn, attending Webinars and holding discussions with other affected parties such as suppliers and distributors.

ALC is offering a FOC, no-obligation Zoom consultation to discuss your business, identify the core challenges and debate next steps.

Three areas for every business to consider are:
1) Supply chain and your dependency on imports.
2) Supplier Lead time – building resilience into your safety stock calculations.
3) Assess your dependence on essential skills and plan contingency actions.

Contact us for an informal discussion on how we can help your business recover as quickly as it will have to.