Top 10 Experts on How to Survive the COVID-19 Business Environment?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly impact and disrupt businesses in all sectors, hitting the education, restaurant, and travel industry particularly hard. With no visibility into when this health crisis will end, small businesses are searching for ways to remain viable in very challenging conditions. In this regard, the Startup Insider team asked this very key question from 10 experts from different industries.

How to Survive the COVID-19 Business Environment?

Expert #1

Kamran Z. Rizvi
Senior Consultant, Lead Trainer, Executive Coach Carnelian.

Our world has suffered a massive disruption since COVID19 hit us. Businesses, large and small, have all been impacted severely in the last one year – a few favorably. But the majority have suffered badly, as they saw their traditional markets evaporate and were slow to respond and change.

When faced with a great crisis like the one we are experiencing, never forget that there are immense opportunities. While airlines, hotels, restaurants and other businesses have suffered badly; pharma, distribution, communication/internet, e-commerce and other industries have flourished.

You just need to be aware of the changing market dynamics and the needs that are uncovered in times of radical change. In such times, startup and entrepreneurs have a significant advantage – smallness of size and hence speed of response.

It is in times like these that you can grow your business in leaps and bounds by being agile and receptive to unfolding customer needs. Flexibility and customer centricity are the crucial ingredients to get your business back on track and on the road to thriving.

Rapidly adapt and focus your business intensely on a problem that people are facing these days. Think of the solutions they need and will value. Mobilize and reframe your team to invest their energies in the new direction that has to be taken.

Lead change, and for this, you’ll need to brainstorm ideas with your team, Innovate, reorganize your business and its priorities and develop a communication strategy, internal and external, to get the word across.

This reminds me of a saying, “A bend in the road, is never the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.” Anon

Expert #2

Farhan Masood
Founder, Soloinsight

Covid-19 downturn which included social distancing and a nationwide lockdown, impacted businesses all over, including Soloinsight, regardless of the many years of experience in our industry. This forced us to reassess not only how we manage and operate our business, but also revisit our business strategy.

Right before Covid, we were set to launch a key product targeted at Oil & Gas sector, for which we had spent innumerable hours and money in excess of over $1.5M. However, suddenly as the O&G stocks fell so did our aspirations with it.

Organizational agility is the ability of a company to quickly change or adapt in response to the unstable and rapidly changing market. It encompasses three major dimensions: insight, foresight and speed to create stability. Being an agile organization we were quick to respond and built a whole new product for the Healthcare sector instead where we anticipated high demand. This not only helped our company win large projects, but we were able to raise additional capital from a strategic partner.

We also leveraged the power of technology and digitization within our own organization. We believe that this has helped us revive quicker. We were among the first to offer flexible, remote work vs. in office safe distancing desk scheduling options to our staff. We utilized our own workplace protection tools to introduce workflows around health safety surveys, body temperature screening, safe distancing capacity management, and contact tracing for the visiting employees. We further utilized and practiced safe distancing by implementing video conferencing and screen sharing for remote collaboration. This significantly boosted the employee morale and efficiency and we were able to see every function of our organization with a single pane of glass.

We are now focusing on helping other organizations with the best practices to reinvent their business environment in the post pandemic era, also known as the “New Normal”. To safely return employees back to work starts with understanding how technology can simplify and streamline new health, safety and security policies and processes. Our flagship PIAM platform, CloudGate helps organizations with creating workflows around automating health, safety, and security processes.

Expert #3

Usman Sheikh
Founder & CEO OZI AUJ & Jolta

As a matter of fact, Covid-19 pandemic is primarily a global health crisis, but it has had vast economic and social repercussions. Unfortunately, the impact on startups or small businesses is way more brutal as they have scarcer cash reserves and a smaller margin for managing sudden slumps.

In my humble opinion, businesses need to work on responding to the current crisis while simultaneously building to thrive in a new reality that focuses on “agility and digitization are new normal”. These two components are interrelated and need focused strategies to ensure success. This encompasses a wide array of elements, including the localization of production and reskilling of the workforce for a digitized economy.

It has become challenging for most businesses to keep their financial wheels turning during the lockdown period due to less revenue and the general uncertainty in the global financial environment. In these difficult times it is important to stand united and help one another in whatever way we can. Stay safe and stay healthy.

Expert #4

Furqan Shamsi
Learning & Development Specialist

In the wake of our understanding the dynamics for new normal, two words have emerged as the prerequisites for both business and the business leaders – Adaptability and Agility. Adaptability is re-imagining with resilience to establish a resolve on Who We Are, What We Do, and How We Work. Agility, while in parallel, supports adaptability to establish a reformed operating model built around the people and processes.

Jobs are changing, ways of doing things or the learned behaviors towards new roles or new requirements are changing. The need for businesses, business leaders, and workers is to strike a right balance to move away from old ways of doings things towards the ways which attract not only us but others towards this change process. The next normal business environment is leveraged by variants of skills revolution. As an L&D professional, for me reskilling or upskilling remains significant, however, my focus must include the qualitative L&D models. I believe, ‘Ability to Change’ is going to be the most valuable skill for workers, business leaders, and businesses. Are we investing in it?

Expert #5

Usman Gulzari
Trainer & Coach

I am a corporate trainer and my 100% bread and butter was physical trainings. It was a horrific experience last year when one by one our all trainings got cancelled and I didn’t know what to do next. In the beginning I kept hoping things will get back to normal. I am glad it didn’t.

Two things kept us going & it can do wonders for all of us:

1- Belief: Things don’t happen to us but for us.

2- Reinvent Yourself to develop the relevant competencies

We learned the tools of online engagement. Attended online courses on Virtual Platform Mastery and that helped. Till now we have conducted over 20 online workshops ranging from one to three days. Our major chunk of business is coming from digital space. We believe online workshops are fun & engaging.

Things don’t happen to Us but for us!

Expert #6

Muazzam Arslan Bhatti
Founder & CEO Alfoze Technologies

The Covid-19 pandemic has become a global health issue and even after more than a year it is impacting each and every aspect of daily life. Global economy slowed down and a severe recession is expected. While so many businesses were impacted, some managed to thrive by adopting better strategies. Though results depend a lot on nature of business as well as on the way strategies are formulated or executed, Adopting Digitalization, Re-Aligning supply chain processes, remote work, improved organizational agility, accommodating customer and partner who are suffering with reduced margins and finding areas where new products and services can be offered could significantly help any business not only to survive but actually thrive.

At this stage, it is difficult to predict how events will unfold and how many waves we will go through, however it is possible to learn from events of the past one year and to see them as opportunities for improvement and growth. Organizations need to focus on responding to the ongoing crisis and at same time simultaneously finding new avenues to thrive in a post COVID time.

Expert #7

Tamjid Aijazi
Co-Founder Makeen Technologies

Covid-19 has increased business dependency on technology. Companies that are providing technology services are not only surviving, but thriving as they are permanently transforming the way business is done. People have more time as they are working from home, and are spending more time on social media. Companies that are smart have used this opportunity to grab attention of their prospective customers and generated new business. The best use of technology is an opportunity to experiment and learn where it can deliver service or enable more flexible work arrangements.

As Sean Silverthorne says, “Leaders need to hold a “working from home” relaunch to help their teams learn to reorient based on the new realities.”

Since, it is difficult to gauge how long this epidemic will last, it is important to be prepared for all scenarios. You should have all the plans for 3rd, 4th or 5th wave. Consider all the possibilities including lockdowns, smart lockdowns, travel bans etc.

Expert #8

Saad Afridi
Founder Scents\’n Stories

As an owner of business which grew phenomenally in COVID, I would say that the first thing to do is to develop an optimistic mindset: That there is much room to grow and improve regardless of the doom and gloom.

Secondly, I would suggest to invest in good human resource talent, specially digital marketing, customer service, and operations since that is the only thing which will give you a competitive advantage. Digital marketing is the arena where small companies often beat their larger rivals. That’s because small companies usually do much work in-house, so there is more energy and vision as compared to big companies who outsource to digital agencies.

Furthermore I would say that the organizations should revisit their purpose of ‘being’. We should be developing a deep connection with Allah, and understanding that we are very vulnerable, and dependent upon his help and blessings. And then conducting our business in a way which would be beneficial for people, and make Him happy.

Expert #9

Sami Khan
Founder Vic Voice

During this contagion, it is of utmost importance for businesses to conduct a proper assessment of their fixed and variable expenses as well as the actual revenues. Its the best time and opportunity to reduce operational expenses and overheads by training people to work from home and to identify innovations and new ways of working that may not have existed before.

If you can not increase the revenues during uncertain lockdown situations, then reducing costs is purely in your own hands. Its not always necessary to make profits by increasing the sales. Sometimes some companies drive more profits by reducing their costs. You need to identify critical resources. This includes key input materials/services, critical employees and skills, re-assess the suppliers, and essential equipment needed for the jobs to be done.

Expert #10

Sadaf Usman
Managing Editor Startup Insider

The world’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in the most rapid transformation of the workplace. Working from home has become the new normal, and we’ve gone from digitalizing the relationship between firm and customer to digitalizing the relationship between employer and employee. The pandemic and lockdown is putting pressure on employees in ways that not only test their wellbeing and private lives, but also that of our society as a whole. Entrepreneurs also need to take the necessary measures to ensure their teams’ safety, health, and by extension, productivity, in the new context.

Secondly, the quick adoption of new, advanced technology is the central catalyst and is likely to lead to an acceleration in the creation of new roles. Young founders and startups are advised to identify, focus, and swiftly address the key vulnerable areas to ensure their survival and business continuity.

Lastly; to navigate through the current turmoil, it is vital for businesses to be agile to respond to today’s changing environment in a timely manner. Many companies will rebalance their priorities in the coming months, so that resilience becomes just as important to their strategic thinking as cost and efficiency.

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