6 minute read 30 Mar 2020
Six priorities for business leaders to shape up for a post-corona world and create a thriving business in the future

How to lead your company through the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath

By Marc Herlant

EY Belgium Strategy & Operations Partner (EY-Parthenon)

More than 25 years experience in industry and consulting.

6 minute read 30 Mar 2020

Six priorities for business leaders to shape up for a post-corona world and create a thriving business in the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a black swan nobody saw coming. By focussing on building resilience and recovery in a post-corona world, companies and people can find opportunities in adversity. We need to start planting the seeds for economic growth, so that society can thrive and people can look forward to a prosperous future once we have conquered this crisis. 


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The COVID-19 crisis is exceptional because of the human tragedies, the changing social behaviours and the severe economic crisis. As this crisis further unfolds, leaders and their teams are exploring ways to prepare for the upcoming period of volatility. It’s critical to navigate disruption and maintain business continuity. Business leaders have to be proactive in their decision-making, act fast and prepare for the new normal by reshaping their business.

The six main areas to improve resilience are:

1. People first

Guaranteeing people’s wellbeing and safety, as well as their livelihoods is vital. In the short term it’s important to:

  • Establish and maintain a pandemic personnel plan to enable flexible work arrangements and implement safety guidelines for on-site work if homeworking isn’t possible.
  • Use existing internal and external data to support, move or evacuate employees.
  • Upgrade technologies to ensure stable connectivity and access to company systems, so that people can work safely from home.
  • Temporarily adapt HR policies to comply with regulations and transitional measures such as temporary unemployment.
  • Maintain employee morale and address employees’ challenges like impaired health, loss of pay and childcare.

In the long term, business leaders need to look at how they will ensure employees remain productive and engaged. Think about wellbeing programmes and code of conducts, so that people can maintain a healthy work-life balance. It’s equally important to remind people that you want to create a culture of respect and inclusion in your organisation. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to be clear about the values that align with the company’s purpose. People need a sense of belonging and to feel part of something bigger.


2. Focus on effective cash and tax management

The world economic order has changed. The tourism and hospitality industry took the first hits. But increased shipment time, falling production capabilities and customers postponing purchases combined with delayed payments are putting tremendous stress on the short-term cash requirements of many companies.

Every company needs to:

  • Assess its liquidity situation in this new and volatile market environment that is characterised by uncertain supply, diminishing or fluctuating demand and delayed payments.
  • Make a 13-week cash forecast to identify possible cash requirements.
  • Consider possible actions to improve working capital and other short-term mitigating measures to improve the company’s cash position.
  • Explore government support like liquidity support and bridge loans.
  • Think about capital requirements and consider potential additional cash sources, such as banks, bonds and/or private debt funds.


3. Build a resilient supply chain

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted many lean supply chains with just-in-time inventory. Upstream, companies are struggling with stock-outs due to the closure of operations by suppliers, lack of suitable alternate sourcing options and closure of shipping routes. Downstream, companies that can still maintain full production capacity are facing restrictions in delivery routes and changes in buying patterns.

Start building a resilient supply chain by:

  • Assessing your supply chain risks in the specific context of the COVID-19 crisis. Identify risks at external suppliers and single internal or external points of failure that may cause the entire collapse of your supply chain.
  • Analysing and evaluating the disruptive impact of supply interruptions on fundamental business functions.
  • Evaluating your current resilience and capabilities, as well as additional capabilities that may be necessary like organising different site cleaning intervals and disinfection.
  • Identifying alternative sourcing strategies.
  • Taking specific temporary actions to stabilise operations such as stock building and extra resources.
  • Consulting with your suppliers and clients to develop alternatives.


4. Be versatile to respond to a rapid change in demand

These days, demand is marked by volatility. The hospitality and travel industries are reporting steep drops in demand, whereas e-commerce players can’t keep up with the sharp increase of orders. How to respond? Forget about traditional forecasting tools that take into account last year’s demand and traditional seasonality. Create instead several scenarios based on clear parameters. Choose one and update it weekly.

Also focus on:

  • Performing frequent assessments of demand patterns and the impact on your scenarios to reduce the time horizon for production capacity planning cycles.
  • Strengthening customer relationships, by reaching out to your customers, understand their needs and building solutions together.
  • Assessing the impact that disruptions in other supply chains could have on customer demand.


5. Prepare a recovery plan now

The crisis will end at some point. Business leaders need to be ready to pick up signals from the market for when it’s time to switch to recovery mode. Time and agility are key to maintain or gain market share. Ask yourself: What does it take to resume operations? How much time will this take? Which ramp-up activities will be necessary? What are the new market conditions?

Start looking at:

  • Measures to enable manufacturing facilities to remain available or to restart production quickly after the crisis.
  • Potential indicators of an uptake of demand and the implications for your supply chain.
  • Your manufacturing start-up process and procedures, including filling your supply chains and organising the necessary workforce.


6.      Transform your business

Once companies have solidified their strategies to build a more resilient organisation, it’s time to prepare for the new normal. How will your company’s organisation structure, way of working, activities and assets fit into this new reality? Your ability to win in some segments may improve, while some parts of your business may have become redundant or less attractive. An agile mindset will help companies to reposition themselves for growth.

Prepare for future success by:

  • Monitoring structural changes in customer attitudes and expectations.
  • Assessing fundamental changes potentially required in your business model to address new opportunities and walk away from less attractive segments.
  • Evaluating your capital structure amidst new economic realities.
  • Anticipating and preparing the required structural changes for a smooth transition and steep recovery.

Shaping up for the future

Many companies are responding to the first shockwaves. But with a strong agile mindset to reshape their business strategies, companies will be able to respond better to market demand and potentially increase their market share. So that ultimately, companies, people and society as a whole can thrive in the future.

Reshaping results for a sustainable and successful future

Reshaping Result is one of EY’s five Connected Capital Solutions. Connected Capital Solutions help clients drive inclusive growth by focusing on their business, capital and transaction strategy through to execution to drive fast-track value creation.

With the Reshaping Results solution, an integrated team of EY-Parthenon experts supports companies in complex, critical or urgent situations to rapidly solve business challenges, sustainably improve results and help clients reshape for a better future. We therefore work closely together with our clients and focus on value creation, preservation or recovery.

Looking for more insights? Discover the complete series of articles by following us on social media #ReshapingResults #ConnectedCapitalSolutions #COVID19.

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As the COVID-19 crisis further develops, business leaders are responding to the first shockwaves. By focussing on building resilience and preparing for recovery, companies can turn adversity into opportunity. And ultimately, ensure people and society as a whole prosper in the future.

About this article

By Marc Herlant

EY Belgium Strategy & Operations Partner (EY-Parthenon)

More than 25 years experience in industry and consulting.