Evolve during a Crisis [By Jan Weidlich]

Already earlier this year newspapers were forecasting lowest growth rates of the Singapore economy since 2009. DBS analysts warned of the impact of China’s slowdown on the Singapore economy as Singapore got more dependent on China over the last 10 to 20 years. Recent published figures report modest growth rates of 1.8% for the first quarter of the year.

But despite all the bad news companies should not panic now. Crisis have happened and will happen moving forward. We have seen and survived a number of crisis here in Singapore over the last decades (1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis, 2003 SARS, 2008-2009 Lehman Brothers). Some of them were hailed as the worst recessions ever, but companies evolved and got stronger.

What is crucial now is to use the involuntary downtime to prepare for the time after the crisis and to have a head start once the economy picks up again. Saying that the time is right to take stock and re-evaluate your own business model, market positioning and future plans for better times to come.

Re-evaluate internal systems and processes

Being too focused on operational issues, business owners and management should now use the available time resources to re-evaluate internal processes to look at the systems in place and adjust if needed. A first step to do so could be a self-assessment using SPRING Singapore’s Business Excellence framework. Looking at the seven pillars (leadership, customers, strategy, people, processes, knowledge and results) of a company will identify areas of improvement and strengthen your business.

Plan your internationalisation roadmap

Already last year, 50% of all SME in Singapore had overseas revenues. With the limitations of the domestic market, companies have to take going overseas into consideration. For Singapore’s heavily export driven economy, international business will always be one of the driving forces for growth. Companies should now consider, plan and evaluate opportunities overseas and tap on new markets to increase revenues and further growth.

Retain the right people during difficult times

Especially in difficult times, it is crucial for leaders to manage human assets as employees will be always be critical success factors for a company. Times of change make the employees evaluate the uncertainties and opportunities with other potential employers. Counter measurements besides obligatory open and honest communication are, for example, ongoing training opportunities that will be beneficial for both the employee and the company itself. Staffs that are cross-trained can be easier utilised than employees who only work in their own silo. Intense feedback and coaching sessions can be used to identify hidden gems in the workforce who should be retained and further developed (e.g. leadership development programs).

Branding and Marketing

It is also now the right time to re-look at the company’s branding and marketing strategy. Business owners have to ask themselves whether the brand position is still appropriate and whether the marketing strategies are still up-to-date and meet current market trends. A brand and marketing refresh can unleash new heights.

How to start

A first step now could be a discussion among the management team. Do not waste the crisis as a chance to strengthen your company, embrace the crisis as an opportunity. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel summarized it as “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.”

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