Navigating economic turbulence

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BATANAI KAMUNYARU

With the ongoing economic turbulence, where challenges like election outcomes, international tensions, and drastic currency fluctuations are being added daily, business operations are becoming difficult and companies are facing hard times. It is not business as usual, hard decisions must be made for companies to remain afloat. Costs are increasing at a faster pace than the expected normal, and so are prices for goods and services. Hard hit, some companies are laying off employees as it has become unsustainable to run operations.

Since turbulence brings fear and confusion, eventually clouding decision making, business leaders should manage their psychology as it brings winning or losing in times like these. The strong in psychology are likely to survive the turbulence.

King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 (TLB) says that, “History merely repeats itself. Nothing is truly new; it has all been done or said before. What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn’t exist long ages ago? We don’t remember what happened in those former times, and in the future generations no one will remember what we have done back here.” The fact that nothing is completely new, there is hope for every business that is willing to learn from history. We have gone through this kind of turbulence before, therefore if you are new in business learn from the survivors!

Not to say that it is going to be easy to run business under the current economic turbulence, but solutions can be picked from many areas to help the business to operate. It is of importance to always remember that businesses will be run in both good and bad times. In bad times, do not lose hope and in good times do not forget that bad times are coming. Also, King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 7:14 (TLB) says, “Enjoy prosperity whenever you can, and when hard times strike, realise that God gives one as well as the other – so that everyone will realise that nothing is certain in this life.”

While business cannot comfortably operate under the prevailing conditions, there are some strategies that business can implement to cushion the impact, and some of the strategies include;

Communication
Under the prevailing conditions, where there is uncertainty, it is very important to have good communication within the organisation. Employees must be kept updated of how the business will be faring. Whether the news is good, indifferent or bad, the communication must remain open. Times have changed, so rather than telling employees about a problem and presenting a solution, employees ought to be involved in coming up with the answer. Management should be willing to take advise from employees, as employees no longer like being told what to do, but to participate in crafting the solution.

Winning organisations do know that communication is key and is the basic principle that every member of the organisation must obey. Many businesses that fail under tough economic conditions are mainly those that do not communicate with their employees and the management is foolish enough to think that they have all the solutions. The times are turbulent, and it is not possible to have solutions that sustain the organisation from a small group of people. It must be a corporate agenda not a few men agenda.

Communication is the fabric that holds an organisation together. For example, in the UEFA champions league, the team that lifts the trophy is the one that communicates well on the pitch, be it verbal or non-verbal. Every move of the ball would have been communicated, passes are even communication in the game! When the communication fabric holds the team, it is very difficult to penetrate them. So is with business, the organisation that knows communication will mostly be on top of the game regardless of the circumstances.

King Solomon had mastered how things should be handled for one to be successful, and he said that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” The business leaders who will seek advice of other men in these times, and communicate with their employees often, will be wiser even after the hardships.

New kids on the block
New brains are needed to solve old problems, and this might be found in recruiting young people. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Because some minds have been exposed to the problems for too long and could not think of a solution, they now believe that there is no solution to the problem. It is also easy to blame the wrong problems if you do not have a solution.

It is now a key role for every serious business to be able to accurately model and adapt to the peaks and valleys in both the domestic and global market. The prevailing market turbulence could mean the success or collapse of the business. Therefore, let the business employ people with the skills and experience to guide the financial and operations stability of the organisation.

The hired people must understand the company’s outlook in both good and bad times. Daily scenario planning might help in the storm, even though it might be very difficult to capture the whole mix of factors affecting the movement of business!

Development of business does not stop
Failure mainly comes when things become stable. During these turbulent times, maybe a few businesses will shut down, but many will close shop when things become normal, thus soon after these times. The nation has gone through similar times in year 2008, businesses hanged on and survived, but they could not run under the so called ‘stable’ period due to unpredicted competition and many liquidated.

Even though the turbulence calls for immediate strategies to survive, it does not mean that the business must forget about the medium and long-term periods. Business prospers in the long-term, and in the shortterm it survives! Regrettably, many business leaders get disturbed by the prevailing conditions and struggle to find time to work on their businesses, forgetting the focus and the priorities of the business.

In turbulence, business leaders master the short-term survival strategies and forget to plan for a normal economy. When the economy stabilises, they are caught off guard and lose business to competitors. Ordinarily, those who survive the turbulence put their arms down and relax thinking that they have won the war, but the real test comes when ‘normalcy’ returns. Consequently, never forget the long-term plans of your business, continue working on them. Whilst you fight, be building!

Let the employees be engaged
At all times, but mainly in turbulence, engagement of employees is critical. The core values of the company should not depart from the employees during the turbulence confusion but must be instilled in them. Because of the conditions affecting everyone, it is very easy for employees to vent out their frustrations on customers, compromising customer service. Such behaviours ought to be contained and ensure that the customers get the best of service always. There is a high probability that when customers are treated well in bad times, they will remain customers even in good times.

Encourage your employees to visit the business’s customers or clients to check on them and find out how best the business can assist them to navigate through the turbulence. To ask how you can assist other businesses during difficult times does not mean that as a business you will not be facing the same challenges, but you will be trying to be good to your customers. Do you think such customers will leave your business in good times? I don’t think so! Let your business bring a smile to the customers.

Focus on your competencies
During difficult times, it is very tempting to chase revenue, but it is of importance to turn down work that is not core to your business. The main reason why businesses fail after the turbulence is because they would have ventured into chasing money, forgetting the core activities. When you get involved in doing many things, you abandon your key customers while you chase the revenue. Once you abandon your key customers in bad times, be guaranteed of losing them in good times.

When you decide to find another venture to get quick money to sustain the business, let it be run separately from the main business, so that you do not focus on business of temporary value and let go longterm value.

Stick to what you are good at and what you are known for, there is more danger in spreading the business too thinly than to specialise in few things. The result of being all over the place is that you become master of none and get trampled over by masters in certain fields!