Get invoices out and ensure good revenue management including collection.
Negotiate a credit line with the bank now when you still have working capital left. Banks like to lend to companies that manage their business professionally.
Reduce or postpone costs
Postpone paying taxes as currently allowed by local governments.
If you have a loan, negotiate a payment holiday now.
Negotiate to reduce or at least postpone paying rent. The landlord may be able to negotiate an extension to paying its own bank loans.
Reduce all “nice to have” costs ‒ those not vital for your business. Do you need to clean your office if people are at home, for example?
Continue paying your suppliers if possible, as otherwise you may bankrupt them. Even if they survive, they would always remember you stranding them when times were tough. On 15 March two large Lithuanian companies announced stopping payments to their suppliers, resulting in a lot of public ill-will towards them and they soon reversed the announcement.
Actively seek financial support and credit guarantees that the State already offers or will soon start to offer
The EU Central Bank, the World Bank Group and other international financial institutions such as the EBRD are starting to offer credit to governments and companies, to be channelled through government institutions and local banks as we already see Kredex in Estonia starting to do. It may take a few weeks before these credit lines are available so we must survive at least until then.
EBRD will support its clients, some of which are in the Baltics and Belarus. Also most likely they will support SMEs through providing credit to local banks to be used for that purpose. Hopefully the Baltics & Belarus will be among the recipients.
Banks, however, understand that during the crisis the competition environment will change; some companies will succeed while some will perish. All banks try to avoid financing those who will not succeed.
Keep close to key clients and really help them. Share best practice, support & advise. They may be struggling even more than your own firm. Now is your golden opportunity to earn the trust of your clients! When things get back to normal many of them will remember you helping them during the hard times.
Trash your current marketing and sales plan. Everything is now changing and new services & new approaches must now be invented and tried out. Most innovation occurs during times of crisis and war.
Aim to increase your market share. Even if business is temporarily down, there is now a change in the market and every change gives an opportunity to increase market share even if the overall market is shrinking.
Consider talking to your peers. Even if your target is to increase market share you can still contact your competitors and exchange best practice on how to survive now. That, however, may be close to the edge of what is permitted by competition law, but if it is a question of life & death for your company, then do it.
Maintain a realistic-pessimistic view rather than being overly optimistic. A realistic pessimist plans for a long, tough period ahead and starts to think ahead of time about what decisions will be needed. We are now entering a period of stagnation and today we have more options available than perhaps in a few months ahead.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture and ensure big decisions are made at the right time. During a crisis a leader is easily overwhelmed with smaller issues and a huge info flow, which may drown you.
Read the news, but maintain a sober view and above all don’t panic. In China, South Korea and Italy it seems that the peak was reached 20 days after the start of major restrictions. For us that would mean that by the end of next week we might hopefully start to see the number of new cases start to decline. Looking at China & South Korea a month from the peak it seems that there are only a few new cases and restrictions can be loosened.
Avoid acting alone from the “Ivory tower” as a leader. Consult in advance with key stakeholders before you make major ‒ and especially unpopular ‒ decisions.
Communicate much more than before with colleagues & staff and keep a positive tone, avoiding any signs of panic in the firm, but be honest. Honest communication keeps people calm and retains their trust in the firm.
All your people must have high-speed internet and good remote working conditions including access to the company IT system; many have also taken their bigger screens home from work.
Now is your golden opportunity to get your people aligned and to grow team spirit. In good times people may have strong personal agendas, which are not always aligned with the strategy and values of the Firm. Now everyone wants to survive and they understand that the company and its clients are playing a big part in everyone’s survival. This is a unique opportunity to align the firm!
If you have to make cuts in personnel, then this is a great opportunity to make choices and strengthen the core of the firm. In good times companies tend to hire people who may not be the best fit for the firm, but as there is a shortage in the labour market companies are forced to hire people they hesitate about. Now you can again focus on keeping those people who are vital for the firm and build a “Dream Team”.
If you have to let people go or reduce their salaries, then usually it is best to make a big cut at once rather than several small cuts. After a big cut there will be a shock, but usually people will adjust quickly. If several small cuts are made, then uncertainty will prevail. This kills motivation and the best people will leave “the sinking ship” and you are left with the people you had wanted to let go. That dooms the firm, so you must take the initiative as to who stays and who does not.
Soon there will again be some very talented people available in the market. Be ready to hire them even if you don’t have a full workload right away.
Most likely we will see a wave of solidarity and support. People locally are helping each other until we can go out again, while companies and organisations are making donations.
Governments are being less populist and dialogue & co-operation with opposition parties is increasing.
Times of crisis usually unite people and also bring out the good in people. In the UK 400,000 people have registered as volunteers to support the healthcare system and elderly people.
Bank of Estonia predicts 6-14% decline in GDP. However, in Estonia and globally the economy was not so overheated and twisted as it was just before the financial crisis in 2008. Also central banks, governments and companies have more experience than at the beginning of the last crisis. Thus the chances are that economy will quickly recover after the pandemic is over.