By Allon Raiz
The scale of the national COVID-19 lockdown is unprecedented in living memory. The repercussions – personal, professional, national and international – will reverberate for years to come. As entrepreneurs, we need to be making the right decisions for right now to ensure that our businesses and our people’s livelihoods do not become another casualty of the virus. In this series of articles, Allon Raiz, CEO of top business incubator Raizcorp, shares his views and insights on weathering the storm and even thriving after it.
According to current statistics, there is an approximately 60% probability of all citizens on planet earth contracting COVID-19. Whether it’s early on or later in the curve, according to the experts, that is the probability. It is therefore prudent for you, as the leader of your organisation, to plan for the probability of contracting the disease yourself.
We all know the importance of leadership in any context, and particularly in a business. During a crisis, strong leadership is even more critical. Should a business leader be afflicted with COVID-19 and be unable to think cogently or communicate well or even at all, this will leave the small business rudderless and leaderless. For small businesses that are probably marginal at best and already battling the current economic tsunami, this may well be a fatal blow.
It is therefore incredibly important for entrepreneurs to plan well for this possibility or, as the statisticians claim, this probability.
Who will do what while you are man or woman down? What is your plan? What is the sequencing of your plan? Who will have authority to do what? Who will have the ability to sign contracts? Who will have the ability to make payments? Et cetera, et cetera.
Entrepreneurs live in risk and, as such, have developed coping mechanisms to deal with that risk. A positive and optimistic demeanour is one of those mechanisms. Some entrepreneurs – especially the ones who have been consistently successful (or lucky) – might have developed a “bullet-proof” attitude, and are most likely therefore to resist even the idea that they might form part of the 60% who contract COVID-19. This reluctance to accept the statistical probabilities is exactly the opposite of what is required right now. Planning for the worst and steering the business for the best is a more prudent approach. For this reason, the most important thing you can do right now is to “embrace your X” (X being your functional replacement during a time you might not be effective or operational). Once you embrace your X, all sorts of possibilities and options begin to open up for a more sustainable future.
You need to sort out all of these things now, and not as you realise that your throat is scratchy and you sit nervously awaiting your COVID-19 test results. The time to act is NOW!
Once you have built out your plan (including all your delegation of authority), it’s important to convene your management team if you have one – and if you don’t, then the balance of your team – to have a frank and honest discussion with them about the plan, communicating what each and every person is required to do should you, as the leader of the organisation, contract the virus. It is important that you take questions from your team during this time. My suggestion is that you have these meetings or discussions more than once in order to normalise the situation as much as possible beforehand. (As an aside, this is exactly what I have been talking to my exco about for several weeks.)
Your plan should be written down, and it should be administered by someone you have identified as your second in command to take over should you be taken ill. The concept of a country’s vice-president is very appropriate here. If the president is not available, his or her vice acts on his or her behalf.
This situation is also reminiscent of the soldiers in the trenches during the first world war who gave their friends instructions about who to write to, or who to return keepsakes to, should they not return from an assault on the opposing trenches. The probability is high that you will come back but it will be while you are away that these instructions and directions will count most. Any loss of leadership and direction during the crisis may well mean life or death – not for you but for your business.