Written by alumna Salwa F Darraj (MSc Economics and Strategy for Business 2014) Senior Consultant at EY and Champion of the Women’s Network. She is also a member of the Imperial College Business School’s Alumni Advisory Board, a Fellow at the UK Chartered Management Institute, a member of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut (AUB), and Imperial College London student mentor.
Strong business relationships and collaborations form the core pillar of sustainable commercial existence, where client-centricity dictates the decision-making process. Certain relationships may appear solid, strong, and deeply rooted on a sunny Monday afternoon, but to what degree will these relationships bend on a stormy Wednesday evening before they eventually break? The resilience of business relationships and the true agility of companies in times of crisis can prove to be the saving grace to their post-crisis existence.
Strategise your goals
Strategising your business priorities and planning for various plausible future scenarios can ensure the sustainability of your business. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst, that’s the only way you will be able to adapt to whatever new reality a crisis may create. Realigning priorities and capabilities are not easy tasks, but necessary ones, particularly when unusual times, such as these, present us with unprecedented realities and uncertain futures.
Support your team
None of the above can be achieved without a confident, professional, and well-functioning team. Therefore, amidst all this madness, it is crucial to regularly check-in on your team members. Clear, regular, and effective communication can improve a team’s well-being and strengthen its ability and willingness to achieve its best. Honesty about the business’s current position, revised goals, and operational strategies is key. Managing emotions and sentiments will not only build confidence and motivation, but will also create a sense of belonging, where each team member will feel the need to serve their part to preserve the whole.
Be informed and take initiative
There is no better time to take initiative than during a global crisis. However, this can only be truly valuable if you are well informed about your clients’ industries, their business model, and the impact of the global economy on their operations. Reach out to your clients, identify business challenges that they may be facing, or may encounter in the near future, and offer a solution based on your knowledge of the anticipated market dynamics. Listen to their problems, foresee their needs, and offer reassurance that you are up to the challenge. This will strengthen your clients’ confidence in you and solidify your position as their knowledgeable and trusted business partner.
Strategising your business priorities and planning for various plausible future scenarios can ensure the sustainability of your business.
It is important to always be mindful of our surroundings in order to identify the necessary approaches that unique situations require. Some circumstances allow us to be flexible and relaxed, while others deem a stricter methodology. Tailor your business style to the circumstances, if your clients are facing temporary business difficulties, then help them to manage their problems and don’t be an extra burden. This may mean extending credit lines or increasing the grace-period for the settlement of invoices. Irrespective of the case that you may encounter, always try to see the big picture, envisage the long-term impact, and understand the details before making any business decisions.
Once a week or so call your clients to say hello and just check-in on their well-being. It is very important for clients to feel that their service providers are also their business partners who have their backs during hardships. Professionalism, technical capabilities, and impeccable service can help in winning a new project or in renewing an existing contract, but they don’t necessarily guarantee loyalty. This is why human interaction and trust sit at the top of the pyramid when it comes to maintaining successful business relationships.
Innovate and hedge
It is crucial for any business, irrespective of its size or geographic spread, to hedge against possible market volatilities. But how can businesses hedge against a new unknown, when the present is uncertain and the future is blurry. Despite the presence of multiple variable factors, limiting the impact of what we cannot control can make all the difference between protecting our business or closing the curtain on it. A hedging strategy can take many forms, from hedging against the loss of business to hedging against the loss of talent and capital. This is where the importance of innovation prevails.
During a crisis, the urgency to innovate becomes a necessity rather than a luxury, where businesses must redefine their operations to stay relevant and functional. Innovation is often correlated with technology, which narrows the true meaning of the word, as innovation can take many forms, ranging from innovation in business operations, talent acquisition and retention, client relations, business development, and most importantly in inclusive organisational leadership.