2. Secure the supply of key ingredientsWhile the situation facing the tourism, hospitality and travel industries is dire, ultimately, people will still have to eat, meaning the food industry has a better chance of fighting the economic stagnation caused by coronavirus. At the moment, consumers seem focused on purchasing staples like dried pasta and canned goods. However, they are likely to tire of this and will probably return to their normal buying patterns soon. As pub, restaurant and out-of-home consumption dwindle, retail channels will be in strong demand – and possibly over-run. For businesses in this sector, emphasis needs to be placed on securing the supply of key ingredients now (many may come from more affected areas, potentially areas suffering significant disruption – think of Northern Italy) and packaging (large quantities of food and drink packaging is manufactured in China). Focus on securing continuity of supply from existing sources and/ or explore alternatives (which may well cost more).
3. Do some scenario planningCome summer, (when we are hopefully coming out of the first wave of disruption like China appears to be now), what will likely have changed? What will you need to do to get back to where you were before all this happened? Will it ever be possible to get back there? Run some best/ worst/ middle of the road financial projections based on new assumptions taking account of the risks from and effects of the virus on your business/ industry. If you need cash to survive any of these scenarios, figure out now how you could achieve this with the least possible pain. Do this now rather than leaving it until your back is against the wall.
4. Focus on opportunitiesWe may well be facing a new economic reality when we come out of this. Some avenues may be closed to us while others may open up. One of the great strengths of start-ups or early-stage growth businesses is their agility. Opportunities to pivot may present themselves, but only if we recognise them. I heard so much from businesses over the last 2 years saying they couldn’t really prepare for Brexit as they “didn’t know what it would look like”. This is a fallacy on both counts. With coronavirus, we certainly know what it looks like – again, see Italy and South Korea. We have real-life case studies currently running approximately 15-30 days ahead of the UK. We can learn from how they have responded to the virus and can now begin to understand the challenges and opportunities that are likely to develop over the coming months.
5. Change the way you thinkI said I wouldn’t add to the noise on what we as individuals should do to help stem the spread of the virus. However, I heard a medical expert speak on Irish national media recently and what he said made me think. When asked what we should all do differently, he said: “Well, nothing much really. I mean, we’ve always been washing our hands, haven’t we?! It’s less about what we do and more about how we think. If we all had the attitude that each of us is already infected and our actions are more to do with protecting others – i.e. those who aren’t, rather than protecting ourselves, then we’d have a chance of halting this virus before we have to encounter a drastic loss of life.” I think that if we’re equally smart about our attitude to economic survival and returning to growth, we can also avoid drastic losses for our businesses too.
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