Survival of the fittest: Good governance and transparency in the workplace
Let there be no doubt, being a founder is no joke. Even in the best of economic and geopolitical climates, running a business is rife with challenges and the learning curve is often steep. Entrepreneurs sign up for this and most wouldn’t have it any other way. But life in the times of COVID-19 is redefining and pushing the landscape of challenges that start-ups face to entirely new levels. Despite the best efforts of governments around the world to support businesses, many will not survive this existential blow.
Not all will fair badly. There are some that will really come into play during these times or crisis like those that offer doctors on demand such as Babylon in the UK, remote meeting solutions such as Zoom and Houseparty and others such as the whistleblowing app, Alethia, whose Coronavirus dashboard is being rolled out in the UK to provide an accountability backstop and mitigate against unscrupulous vendors and employers benefiting from these troubled times. They, too, will have to manage the unexpected surge in demand.
Survive it though, and your business’ immune system would have received a significant boost. Whether you are prepared for or indeed made for a crisis or not, here are some of the common threads that all founders and leaders can follow to better ensure business continuity and survivability.
ACCEPT AND EMBRACE REALITY:
Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Now is not the time to overly question how bad a situation really is or chalk the gravity of it up to the media or fake news. Accept and embrace the stark reality. Once you see it for what it is, your ability to plan and work through it will be greatly enhanced.
Times like these is the time to find your leadership DNA. It will ultimately mean more than anything else at the end of the day. Show leadership and communicate clearly and your ship will keep its passengers. Not only will they stay, but they’ll be motivated to do more to play their part in steering everyone through this.
Over-communicate if you must, but don’t under-communicate. Your employees, customers, investors and other market stakeholders will all want to hear from you. There is no more important time to provide clarity and assurance on your contingency plan for surviving the storm, using it as a force for good and how you see it defining the future. Invest in an expert advice to perform a crisis communications audit and preparedness plan to help you navigate crises.
LEAN ON YOUR ADVISORS:
Often overlooked, but at some stage in early development, founders should form an advisory board. If you have already convened one, great; if not, add it to your to-do list. This is your trusted support network of experienced professionals. Engage them, lean on them, deploy them in your organisation – you’ll be glad you did. All founders need someone to turn to for advice and bounce-ideas off be it during crises, inflection points or in success. They can also enhance your platform’s credibility.
SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY:
Your license to operate is not just predicated on capital and investors but on your community of employees, customers and others in your literal or virtual proximity. If your product or technology can be deployed in service to alleviate fellow human suffering, then include the deployment of your technology in your battle plans for this crisis.
What do all the above have in common? They are all important building blocks that drive qualification of a business as one that has good governance, an essential focus that is increasingly accepted for its importance in driving long-term value and mitigating against risk and the impact of crises in the short term. Granted, the very topic is wide and amorphous but nevertheless of paramount importance to the future. Look no further than the examples of WeWork, Uber or several others for why investing the resources towards good governance matters during a crisis (whether external or of your own making).
You can be forgiven (for now!) as a founder for de-prioritising governance when growing your business; it has been too easy to brush the topic aside as something that can be addressed at a later stage when it is perceived that there is a greater need for it. But this belies both the true definition and true impact of good governance on any organisation. The most valuable platforms of the future will be those that make governance an early and continuous priority in the life of their start-up.
This torrid period in our history will serve many important lessons and drive important change across society. What it must also do is re-focus our attention so that we all view an investment in governance as an essential part of the development of our businesses all over the world.
In times of pandemics and other global headwinds, it can make the difference between boom or bust.