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Building an Agile Company: Stay Afloat in the Midst of Uncertainty

  • An online panel discussion on building an agile company in order stay afloat in the midst of uncertainty
  • Covered strategies on how entrepreneurs can adapt when the globalised economy has been disrupted by COVID-19
  • Panelists included Mr. Low Boon Seong (Founder & Managing Director, Align Group), Mr. Herre Wieger Roelevink (Founder & Director, Manifera Software Development), Mr Paddy Tan (Co-Founder, Blackstorm Consulting)
  • The event was moderated by our BlackStorm Consulting Co-Founder, Ms. Jeslin Bay

April 23, 2020: With the global pandemic ravaging across various nations and causing major disruption to economies, businesses are struggling to stay afloat and may be faced with tough decisions related to shutting down businesses and laying off employees.

It was a honour to invite distinguished speakers from various field of business in Singapore to share with us how businesses can deal with this situation and stay prepared for future similar incident.

Common Concerns Faced by Business Owners

The panellists collectively agreed that the uncertainty of the time frame of this pandemic makes it difficult for businesses to strategise and plan their actions.

Paddy asserted that cash flow is the biggest concern with the current situation of dismal sales, and the economy is not going to return to normal before the whole world recovers.

Boon Seong, on the other hand, pointed out the importance of balancing between survival and innovation. Companies have to relook their business models and restructure their manpower to stay relevant, but this begs the question of whether leaders and employees can adapt and how much they can change. He also advises his clients to tap on grants and subsidies rolled out by the government.

On the bright side, Herre suggested using e-commerce to help companies survive this period, as he raised the example of certain companies in China doing livestream promotions online earning more than what they did from brick-and-mortar stores.

Our panellists have also made positive observations about this situation, such as increased productivity, more digitalisation, and increased demand for IT personnel.

Ensuring Business Continuity

Business as usual is no longer a norm during this pandemic, so how should companies approach this matter and pursue business continuity.

Founders have to be very realistic, noted Paddy. The definition of business continuity can be seen as making sure the whole company, including its employees, survive, or it can also be seen as making sure the founder survives. He pointed out that as much as founders can try to delay this by burning cash, they will come to this point where they have to ask themselves realistically whether they are going to let go of other things just to ensure survival.

In some extreme cases, Paddy also advised companies to look into the possibility of shutting down the business. Even if some companies tide through these 3 to 6 months, they may incur bigger damages of debt after the crisis is over, which can spiral into deeper trouble if they are unable to pay creditors and employees. Boon Seong agreed and noted that entrepreneurs tend to be too optimistic.

With the high cost of living in Singapore, employees would also have to evaluate their current predicament and consider whether they are fine with this situation or if they should seek new opportunities.

Paddy also input that shutting down is not just about giving out a retrenchment package and moving on. You can also slice and dice, do a barter trade, joint venture, or combine with other companies. You can even convert employees into shareholders as the mentality will be very different because everyone will be working together for survival. This will help you retain talent and customer base.

Possible Permanent Changes After the Pandemic

Each panellist came up with insights in their area of expertise, with Boon Seong predicting that leaders would be more mindful about adaptability of their team and how they can improvise amongst this confusion.

Paddy anticipates that larger companies may start to adopt a decentralised business model as this would make the company more agile and nimble. On the other hand, Herre states that many clients may continue to use e-commerce facilities as they get used to meeting and buying online, and this would be a good boost to the sector, while having a positive impact on the environment.

Tracking Employees’ Performance When Everyone is Working from Home

All panellists agreed that trust is the most important element in this situation, and tracking results would be a good indicator for performance.

With a multitude of experience in HR, Boon Seong asserted that leaders will have to change their mindset from managing through tasks to managing through outcome, and they have to be clear of the goals to achieved. Align group has a daily goal and a weekly goal such that the empowerment of responsibility is given to employees. He also noted that if you have employees that want to take advantage of the situation then they should not be on your team in the first place.

One Last Important Advice

Herre suggested to diversify your type of clients into normal SMEs, start ups and government related clients because in bad times, government will usually still have the financial ability to spend. He also advised to diversify your clients based on their geographical markets. Some countries are recovering from the pandemic earlier than other countries so their economies may start booming earlier, so you should have clients from various regions so that there will always be clients in your portfolio who is not affected by disruption.

If you are looking to shift your business online, Herre also reminded entrepreneurs to keep a couple of things in mind – are your products still popular currently? Can you still fulfil your sales, get the supplies to make your products at the moment and are you able to ship your products? Companies can go online for sales and services or back end processes, noted Herre.

Boon Seong advised entrepreneurs to constantly experiment with new technology. Don’t leave till the last minute to scramble for it. He encourages using 10 percent of your resources to explore new technologies so that you can be prepared and equipped when the time comes. However, even technology is based on people, so it is important to build a strong culture and focus on the psychology capital of your team. One way to do that is to look at your team and see whether they disband or come together closer in times of adversity, because whoever is left with a stronger team will be able to move up very quickly.

Ask for help, advised Paddy. You will find that you are not alone, and you can pick up what may be useful to you, as third parties can look at the situation from a more objective stand point.

Many top companies were born in the darkness – out of the financial crisis – sometimes we call them cockroaches who can survive in harsh environment, being rigid and flexible enough to crawl into tiny gaps. These companies may stay unsighted and have multiplied without many notice. What are the measures you can put in place to best weather a downturn? Are you doing it the right way? How can you survive against a financial crisis? How can you leverage on opportunities in the midst of chaos?

Book a free 30-min consultation to review your business situation and find out how we can help you.


Watch the full playlist of the panel discussion here: https://bit.ly/3awRgJX


About BlackStorm Consulting

BlackStorm Consulting (http://blackstormco.asia/) is a Singapore-based boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management. We scale businesses in Southeast Asia. Our clients and connections are internationally present and range from small and medium sized businesses, MNCs, to government agencies.

About Align Group

Align Group (http://www.aligngoc.com/) is the fastest growing people-focused management consultancy helping fast-growing enterprises in transformation for growth. This is achieved through a combination of Human Capability Development projects and HR solutions to maximise performance and potential of your people. Our goal is to support companies create sustainable productivty, strong alignment and to bring the best out of their teams, thereby transform their human capital and grow their business. Over the years, we have serviced more than 100 SMEs with high service ratings, and with many of them remaining as our business partners in their growth journeys.

About Manifera

Manifera (https://www.manifera.com) is an international software development company. Working with SMEs and MNCs from Europe, USA and South East Asia and with a team of experienced software developers and quality engineers, she provides clients with Offshore Software Development teams and custom made software application development services.

To expand your company’s software development capacity in an easy and cost-effective way, Manifera can provide you with a team of software developers who act as your own extended team. You will have full control of the developers and you will work with the developers directly and daily.

With custom software development services, Manifera helps you design and develop the right software application for your business needs, based on your requirements and ideas, with developing web applications, mobile applications for iOS and Android and desktop applications.