No one working within a company is alone in their role. Nor is a company an isolated individual. Its successes and failures, its expansion or downsizing, its future and its past, all involve many different parties, also known as stakeholders. The way these different parties relate to each other and coexist creates an ecosystem for each company that gives it meaning, making it unique and different.
Turbulent times, like the ones brought on by COVID-19, lead to changes in priorities, and necessarily affect the relationships of trust built between companies and their stakeholders.
In times of crisis, like those we are experiencing with COVID-19, the company’s relationship with its stakeholders cannot follow the usual patterns. We are flying in the middle of a massive storm, with severe turbulence, a lot of uncertainty, and very little visibility; we don’t know where we are going to land, or even if we will manage to do so. But we’re not flying alone. The same storm envelops us all. Priorities have changed and relationships of trust built between parties are being called into question. In situations involving a large amount of stress, risk or panic we often discover what people are truly like free of any pretence, and ultimately whether they will behave like heroes or villains. Likewise, in these kinds of situations, a company’s relationship with its stakeholders also changes and becomes more extreme.
These are my brief reflections on the stakeholders you should focus your attention on and the foundations you should build your relationships on:
- Your team is absolutely crucial: tell them so and take care of them
Communicate with them daily. Let them know what’s going on in the company. If they are aware of the problems, they will understand and even anticipate any decisions. They will know that they have a lot to contribute to solving those problems.
- Your clients are your future: make them see you as an ally
They are going through their own ordeal, so make them see your company as an ally that will fight for common goals. The relationship you forge now will shape your future relationship with them.
- Your banks are your partners: be transparent with them
Don’t risk losing the trust you’ve earned over the years. They know what you’re up against, so explain to them what you need without any qualms and with total honesty. Sowing seeds of doubt now is foolhardy.
- Your suppliers are necessary: respect them
Remember that you are also someone’s supplier. That should say it all. Maintain the association. Look for ways to adapt their ability to provide you with their services given the current circumstances. There are more options than you might think. They are already experiencing similar situations and reaching agreements with other clients.
- Your partners are the backbone of the company: they should be even more committed
They must know that their main responsibility is to safeguard the company’s continuation. Even if they feel they are the owners, they must not forget that the company is the livelihood and future of many others.
- Be an active member of your business cluster
Your company is part of a larger supply chain. Sometimes you compete with each other; sometimes you form partnerships. Now it’s time to unselfishly defend the industry you’re a part of. Share information and experiences, unify messages to the outside world, and take joint action to achieve greater impact. You must remain highly united in order to safeguard your region’s place on the world map. You can’t do this alone.
- Society will shape your destiny: take action and contribute
You won’t come out of the current situation well if everything around you is falling apart. The stronger your environment is, the stronger you will be. Your ability to contribute your expertise to the crisis that surrounds you will give your company new meaning and importance, without having to occupy the limelight.
- Your family is unconditional: this is a shared life project
Those who love you want to help you. It’s not a question of sharing your problems. Turn your concerns into challenges, into actions, into decisions that have to be made. What would they do? What solution would they come up with? Your children and your partner will be glad to know what worries you, what occupies your mind, and what they can do to help. Your company is a shared project within the family.
Remember, neither you nor the company are isolated individuals. You don’t have to be a hero or a charismatic leader; your journey through the storm will be all the safer if you are accompanied by others. Do your part, and remember to help those around you so they can do theirs. Together we will be better able to make a safe landing.
We are stronger #together