Ben Dansie, CEO, joined the BMC’s inaugural webinar to discuss Covid-19 and how we can support our industry through the challenges we face at this time. Ben captures his thoughts inspired by the discussion and shares advice on how to continue moving your business forward during this time.
Omobono was invited to join the inaugural BMC webinar’s panel on the subject of Covid 19 (C-19), its impact on the industry and what we can do to support our industry.
The panel was led by Dave Stevens, who asked me to join to represent the agency point of view. We were joined by great panelists; SMEs were represented by Laura Hughes of PayDashboard, major brands by Mark Larwood from O2 and finally Simon Tracey from Vibration Events. Hats off to Simon for joining because events businesses like his are under enormous pressure. If nothing else this piece is to support him.
This is a summary of my thoughts. You can listen to a podcast of the whole discussion here.
We have been doing a lot of work over the past six months evolving Omobono into everything we think it means to be a successful modern business in an industry that is changing rapidly. We now realise it has been preparing us for C-19. At the crux of our training was the concept of dealing with uncertainty. More than that, it taught us about embracing uncertainty. You can read a fantastic piece on it here by Sarah Pettinger our brilliant COO.
Sarah references a very resonant quote by Brené Brown:
“The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.”
I think the more of us who say they feel very overwhelmed by what is happening, the better. In our company. In this industry. Let’s put it out there: it’s ok to feel like that.
Our main priority with C-19 has been our colleagues. For most C-19 will not be a physical battle, mostly likely it will be a wealth and mental health challenge. Since last week we have re-run our Business Continuity Plan and we have established comprehensive and regular communications with the whole company. Our main focus has been to get everyone set up and working remotely whilst retaining a sense of community. A huge highlight was a company-wide creative catch-up on Tuesday this week. Over 50 people joined and as work was presented, people were chatting away in the comments; praising, congratulating and celebrating all the fantastic work. If that’s what remote working can be like, then we’re going to be ok.
We’ve tested all our systems and we are good to go. We’re set up so we can connect with any of our clients’ Teams which makes working as one team seamless. So far, so good.
After people has come a focus on the commercials. At times of crisis cash is king. I’m a junkie of Japanese business. The Japanese Topix list of big businesses is stuffed with companies awash with cash. They cite successive shocks as a reason to withhold cash from shareholders. This time they might just have got it right. We too in our 20 years of being an independent business have been very careful with cash, so we go into this strong. We’ll model scenarios of the potential impact on revenue and tighten our belts as far as they can go.
Tomorrow things may change but as of now there is no government support for SMEs. In Sweden and Denmark the governments are reimbursing the wage bills of workers who would otherwise be laid off. All Rishi Sendak’s billions are going into providing liquidity for big companies. We’re trying not to watch too much news. Pick an industry source of information and balance the remorselessly depressing news cycle. We’re members of the CBI and they are a good source of information.
Longer term, all of us are going to have to think about external finance. We have already had precautionary discussions with our bank about if we need cash in say six months time. If you do have debt facilities then you should draw down all available cash now. As an example, ABInbev today called in $9bn of cash. They have no need for the money now but they clearly believe they might.
We are in the very early days of this crisis. Take those saying be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful with a pinch of salt. C-19 is hugely complex and changing by the day. With our clients we are seeking to simply meet their needs. This is not a time to sell.
Our advice is:
Here are a few thoughts:
All of this is going to change our world profoundly and it’s only just beginning. Make small moves, communicate often, be humble and be helpful. Our family’s small move this week is once a day we are taking chairs to the gate and sitting on the opposite side of the lane to our elderly neighbour, who will do the same, and having a chat. Unimaginable.
A positive to end on. Working remotely will give us a huge amount of time to think. Those thoughts will take us in new directions, and that is hopeful.
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