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  • Writer's pictureYannick Oswald

We need to have a European plan for COVID-19

We need take the COVID-19 outbreak seriously. This is just the beginning of it in Europe.

According to this FT article, 'the UK government's medical advisers have calculated that, with existing measures, the greatest increase in the number of cases will occur in April, with a peak in May or June. This implies economic disruption lasting at least into the summer. This timeline should be broadly the same for the eurozone. The direct impact is a hit to supply chains and to consumption for two to three quarters.'

I don’t think it will necessarily be terrible. But, early in an outbreak, containment is key. I was also happy to read this NY times article this morning:

So far, European leaders, including the ECB, could not agree on a coordinated policy. The US, China and the UK are, at present, more likely to take effective action than the eurozone. As 'a survey in Germany suggests, 66% of population thinks that the situation is under control, while 76% are not greatly concerned about becoming infected. For as long as such delusions persist, there will be no public pressure for immediate government actions'. As a result, European policymakers are still 'monitoring' the situation, instead of taking actions...

One thing is clear. Startup founders need to be prepared now, as all companies will be impacted in one way or another. As we know, reforecasting will NOT be an option, especially for startups, as it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here some examples: B2B SaaS companies will probably suffer from a lack of f2f meetings. On the other hand, sales and marketing have the opportunity to adjust to a new format, which could even drive more productivity in the future... Consumer facing businesses will probably reap some rewards of being directly connected to the consumer and they should leverage them. While companies in the elderly care space will need to have a swift response to the situation. Etc.

My partner Mark shared here some great leadership advice for startup founders:

'As if being an entrepreneur was not hard enough, you now have to contend with the anxiety and fall-out resulting from Covid-19. If you have yet to feel it, get ready, it's coming. That it will impact your business is a given and the disruption could be very real. That your employees will be confused, concerned and anxious is certain. That your investors will be freaking is a pitiful certainty. What is less clear is what can you do beyond the obvious business planning issues.....

You may be thinking that all the hype and anxiety is exaggerated, but this is as much about perception as it is about substance and no amount of denial or wishing will make it go away. You run a business which has a new problem, add it to the long list of issues facing any company and work with it.

The way you handle it within your organisation will say a lot about you, for this is where you have influence and this is where you as an individual can have an outsized impact. More than anything right now, your company needs Leadership from you. Here are a few ideas: Hygiene. Be demonstrative in applying the hygiene recommendations, in fact be "over-the-top" within your company. People must see you, the leaders, as someone who takes this seriously and who does not "cheat". You are the agent of change, the influencer, the one who can have the most impact on employee behaviour.

Hold regular "Covid-19" company wide briefings. As the potential impact of Covid-19 becomes a reality, make this a company wide conversation. In times of anxiety, transparency goes a long way to helping people adjust. People will need to understand what it means for the company, what tactical things you are implementing and what are the nature of things to come. Remember, governments tend to be very scarce in answering questions and explaining concerning issues, your employees need you to sometimes help understand things that apply to their personal life, not only work.

Show empathy. Many of your employees will likely be worried and looking to understand what it means for them. Be outwardly empathetic, recognise that this issue is top of mind and that people's morale will be affected. No matter what your management style, remember that it is in moments of adversity that you define who you are.

Offer work from home. I have never been a fan of working from home, but in the current circumstances it may be something worth taking seriously. Make sure that all understand the moral contract: you can work from home, but the company expects high performance from you.

Set priorities. Exceptional times require sacrifice. As an organisation, you will not be able to accomplish all the goals you set when planning for 2020. The challenge for you and your team is to arbitrage what really matters. When you have done that, accept nothing short of total dedication and team wide commitment. In these times it will be so easy to blame Covid-19 for everything.

There is little doubt in my mind that stress is coming for most of our companies, and yet I am supremely confident their leaders will take the appropriate measures to manage the imminent situation.

Champions strive in adversity, will you?'

So, stay cool... and be a leader,



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