There are some companies who will be stronger and more resilient during this period, and some may not survive. Being ready to make the tough decisions with the right planning will dramatically increase your chances of survival. We’re not out of the woods yet.
A global epidemic with widespread consequences
Only four months after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in China, the disease has spread worldwide and afflicted well over three million people. Many countries have taken extreme measures, including quarantines and border closures, to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Besides the human toll, COVID-19 is devastating the global economy.
Nearly every industry is feeling the repercussions. Although some sectors have seen an increase in demand, like the health and pharmaceutical, ecommerce and logistics, there are others who have seen a sharp decrease in demand such as travel, leisure and hospitality, mechanical engineering and vehicle production.
It won’t be easy, but it’s a necessity.
As a Chief Financial Officer for a lesiure and hospitality group in Munich, Germany, I have a unique perspective on what companies can do in these critical circumstances, because I am advising my CEO on how we can best guarantee our business continuity and increase our market share.
Like many CFOs, I like to take a pragmatic view based on the information we have available. From the knowledge we have now, there will be no normality in 2020 and even as it seems 2021 will be a tough year.
There will be many tough conversations you need to have, unpalatable decisions you need to make and in doing so, means you need to put your ego to one side.
Everyone is in the same boat, to a lesser or greater degree, and your priority is protecting the viability of your business.
Where to start
My bias for starting with numbers will be obvious, but my advice is intent on helping those who do not have regular access to a Chief Financial Officer.
Thus, let’s get started. Here are some steps you can take which will help you take a much stronger stance in shoring up your financial position.
One point to note is this should be an ongoing process and whilst you may have completed some of these exercises just as the lockdown began in your respective countries, it’s always worth revisiting.
Step 1: Review your projections and adapt the forecast
Revisit your yearly profit-and-loss projections and draw up best and worst-case scenarios. Which areas have been affected since the lockdown, and the most important question, how long can the company survive, considering the worst-case scenario?
Step 2: Revising your time horizon
Even the most optimistic will agree that the next weeks and months ahead will be extraordinarily difficult, therefore you must think in a much longer term time-horizon.
I would recommend planning at least two years out. But you can adjust based on your individual business circumstances.
With the information now available, it is difficult to embrace all eventualities, but with taking a longer term view, it gives you guidelines or guardrails within which you can move. If things stay the same as they are now, at least you can determine the future impact on your business.
Step 3: Time to make the tough decisions
In every crisis, there are chances you have to take unpopular decisions which won’t help you win friends, but it will help you protect the business for the longer term.
Are there unprofitable parts of your business activities or services, which prior to coronavirus were already unprofitable and in the last few weeks, nothing has changed or the low or non-existent profits you were seeing have moved even further in decline?
This is the right moment to close these business units, not only to save money, but to concentrate your efforts and energies into the units or services which are profitable, have more opportunities and/or need less intervention to run at a profit. It is easier and more important to invest in your core business, and to guarantee the continuity of the profitable business units.
Too often I see CEOs and Founder-led businesses hold on to unprofitability parts of the business because of misplaced loyalty and an unrealistic belief that they can turn the business around. This is fine if you are operating in a cash rich environment, not so fine if you are not.
And talking about cash…
Step 4: Cash is still king
If you have a forecast for the next two years, then you must also ensure you have enough cash to survive this time horizon.
So reserve as much cash as possible; cut every non-necessary expense to secure your position.
Companies with debts can be restructured with loans which have a longer time frame or you can even consider deferring the payments to the bank.
If you have a cash problem, you can weather this unpredictable period through using normal bank financing, any government-backed business loans (according to your country of operation) or by increasing the company’s equity capital or by bringing in a new investor to buy company shares.
Step 5: Review your business model
Always be critical and review the business model.
Are there early signals that the behaviour of the clients has changed, or that your business model is not working anymore?
In this environment, you should carefully consider whether any specific incentives or discounts would produce the desired results or eat into your financials.
While marketing efforts will be essential, as always, your content angles will need to change to reflect new customer preferences and concerns.
Update the pricing and revenue-management systems and adapt the customer’s new expectations and behaviours.
Step 6: Acquisition/partnership opportunities
If you have enough capital, consider also to invest in new industries, as in this period there could be some exciting opportunities. Also consider forming new strategic partnerships as a way to expand outside of your industry or overtake your competitors.
Six ways you can take a stronger stance in shoring up your financial position.
Some companies will be stronger and more resilient during this period, and some may not survive.
There will be a consolidation and only companies with a clear strategy will be best placed to take advantage of this crisis.
I know this might sound bleak but remember to prepare yourself today for the next crisis. There will always be something that appears and taking continual steps to secure your financial position means you are already two-steps ahead of your competitors.
Hansjoerg (Hansjörg in German) Mair
About the author
Hansjörg Mair is the Chief Financial Officer of a group of companies in the leisure and hospitality industry. Throughout his career he had the privilege of supporting companies in many industries. This diverse industry experience has given him the opportunity to connect and work with experts from many markets and with people from different backgrounds and countries.
His focus is always to create an environment in the companies to develop a strategy to optimize the processes in order to gain a better financial position of the company.
He had the opportunity to lead teams through times of change and variable business cycles with success and as a CFO he is also responsible for a successful risk management to ensure the survival of the organization.
You can get in touch with Hansjoerg using any of the platforms below, he would welcome your thoughts.
➡️ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/hansjoerg-mair-057a10115/
➡️ Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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