In Summary
  • Remember not to just think of your business as is right now but what it will look like and need in the next couple of months.
  • Keep expenses to a bare minimum. Consider alternatives like partial salary payments or temporary adjustments depending on if and how long your business is affected.

Do I retain my employees? How do I meet payroll? Should I send people on unpaid leave?

These are the questions every business is grappling with at the moment. It's not an easy time neither is it black and white.

There is a lot of noise about how people are going to lose jobs. Some will but I challenge this thinking. It's the reaction we have seen before, but before we get there let us exercise humanity and wisdom.

We need as many people as possible earning so that they can survive and live. Buy food, pay bills, school fees, order a birthday cake, get something delivered or take an Uber (while observing distance).

This keeps the economy going. Apart from their spending, these employees have domestic staff who then have other people they support. Imagine 100,000 people suddenly out of work.

This is the time we all need to play our part and do our very best to keep people in jobs! It is not just about our business but the collective effect.

COLLECTIVE PURPOSE

It may not be possible for every business to keep everybody, but I think if all of us start with that frame of mind instead of the self-preservation that usually takes over, there could be a lot of creative and interesting things we discover along the way.

You may be one of the lucky ones that are still profitable. You may make less profit — but have some cash flows.

The culture and practice of instantly letting go of people just because of less profit or unrealised targets was wrong.

It is time to change that and this is when we can go beyond thinking of corporate social responsibility as just digging boreholes.

Use this opportunity to change what you need to change and do it fast. You may have cashflows or reserves that can keep the business running.

You will need your team to make these changes. To those with shareholders — nobody will die because dividends weren't paid.

Senior management can go without perks for a while if that's what it takes. Now that we can't travel, these are costs saved.

I have the feeling this experience will show us how many of those meetings were necessary. Go beyond your P & L into purpose. The biggest collective purpose just became employment.

REIN IN EXPENSES

Remember not to just think of your business as is right now but what it will look like and need in the next couple of months.

If you do have some cashflows, pay people (especially the right people) for as long as you can. Look at which expenses can be cut or renegotiated, for example rent and loan payments.

Keep expenses to a bare minimum. Consider alternatives like partial salary payments or temporary adjustments depending on if and how long your business is affected.

I have come across businesses that cannot pay but are doing survival kits for staff like food and a few basics.

Train staff on how to negotiate with their lenders or with the landlord. No matter what the situation is, keep lines of communication open.

Let them weigh in. You may be surprised at the solutions people have.

In the course of running a business, I have been pleasantly surprised to find people tolerating very delayed pay during tough times.

SOURCES OF INCOME

This is when true leadership shows. Is your vision, purposes, motive, energy compelling enough to keep people engaged?

A correction that is coming our way in business is that money is very important but was never meant to be the primary reason why people work for you. You may be assuming that people will not step up.

You may also have to adjust your mindset and allow people to figure out other sources of income as they continue to work. Human beings are multidimensional.

I recently spoke to a lawyer who is also using this time to re-discover her love and talent for art.

Maybe we will debunk the myth that we need to work eight controlled hours a day to be productive.

Some businesses will be disrupted for much longer periods or permanently so letting go of people may be unavoidable.

However, think through whether this could be an opportunity for re-invention and innovation. You may need at least some of your team members to still do this.

FIND YOUR EDGE

Employees, too, need to be responsible. The same principles apply to your domestic staff. Keep them in jobs.

Also, recognise and be alert that your employer is going through a tough time. It is time to be part of the solution.

Put your hand up to do over and above. The person who just sits there and waits for a salary is going to be discovered and there is no reason for an employer to struggle to pay you.

Already, many businesses are discovering which people in their organisations they need or want to have. Let's do our best to keep our businesses alive and the right people in jobs.

Waceke's book Making Cents is now on sale at selected bookstores. For queries get in touch through waceke@centonomy.com