How businesses are adapting to the ‘new normal’ – Part 1
THE WORLD is changing, hence we must change with it and find ways to adapt to a ‘new normal’. With the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, many companies are now forced to rethink strategies and business models just to survive. Unfortunately, several businesses will not survive, and many will be forced to make drastic cuts. But one thing is certain: the resilient, crafty and creative Jamaican entrepreneurs will always find ways to make it happen and succeed.
In fact, already several have been adapting to the changes in innovative ways.
• With a substantial increase in online interactions, business owners are making use of the digital space, utilising multiple platforms to reach target audiences.
• Designers are now making creative and functional protective face masks.
• Industrial businesses like Central Belt and Hoses are narrowing product lines to sanitation-based equipment, such as power washers, or bulk bottles for hand sanitisers by Packsmart Jamaica.
• Promotional production brands are no longer being used to only brand cups, pens, pillows or any of the norms, but they’re now printing instructional signs for safety reasons and changes made to brands (opening and closing hours), and are even branding face masks.
• Restaurants are partnering with courier brands to deliver takeout (not a bad time if someone owns a ‘reng reng’).
The reality is that we have to ‘tun we hand mek fashion’, as old people used to say, in order to survive. We all have families to feed and bills to pay, hence, as the economy gradually reopens, businesses – small, medium and large – are working to revive and function as we find ways to ‘living with COVID’.
• What are businesses doing now to adapt to the new normal?
• How has COVID-19 affected your business operations?
• What have you done to cope with the restrictions and adapting to the current changes?
• How do you see yourself returning to business post COVID-19?
Here’s what some companies are doing:
Name: Stephen Price
Title: Country Manager Business name: FLOW Jamaica Type of business: Telecommunications provider
1. How has COVID affected your business operations?
The pandemic has completely changed the way in which we do business – from how we deliver products and services to our customers to how we work and how we engage with our team members. The safety of our employees, their families, our customers, and our communities where we operate is still our primary concern.
Our parent company, Liberty Latin America (LLA), activated our Pandemic Response Plan for our group of companies shortly after we became aware of the pandemic early in the year, and we continue to monitor the status of the COVID-19.
Some of the proactive measures implemented to date include:
• The suspension of business-related travel (from early March);
• Placement of hand sanitisers and additional cleaning supplies in all offices and stores;
• Increased frequency of cleaning across all company facilities;
• Provision of ongoing educational information to employees regarding the virus and how to prevent infection;
• Working with local governments to issue PSAs to local communities;
• Activation of our local crisis management teams and business continuity processes to continue monitoring and to make appropriate decisions.
This crisis has led to more innovation and agility across the business.
Currently, approximately 70 per cent of our team members are working from home. We have reduced opening hours at our retail stores, and we have accelerated the digitisation of our customer touchpoints.
Fortunately, we had begun to automate many of our processes for efficiency, and have taken the opportunity to introduce some awesome, new initiatives.
Even before the virus reached our shores, our technical and commercial teams had developed strategies to support our customers and ensure that Jamaicans were able to access robust connectivity services. One of our LLA philosophies is: “Our work has purpose and what we do makes a difference”. This has pushed us to look at how we support Jamaicans as they homeschool their children, work from home, and keep in touch with friends and family during this challenging time.
2. What have you done to cope with the restrictions and adapting to the current changes?
As a large company, our efforts to cope with the restrictions have been twofold:
1. Ensuring the safety and welfare of our team members; and
2. Safeguarding the well-being of our customers while supporting them.
Internal: We have increased the extent to which we leverage the virtual tools available to connect with our employees. I provide weekly updates on the state of our business and conduct biweekly livestreamed townhalls with the entire FLOW Jamaica team. In these uncertain times, it is impossible to over communicate and so I ensure that we keep the updates going. Our LLA CEO and C&W CEO also host weekly touch points with employees across the group.
The well-being of our team members and their families are of primary importance. We therefore moved to provide transportation for our retail team members, counselling sessions to help our employees cope during this emotionally stressful time, and twice-daily virtual fitness classes with our gym manager. Our teams also conduct team-building activities in their smaller groups through weekly movie nights, games nights, and virtual lunch-and-learn sessions.
We also implemented new operational procedures for our customer-facing teams in the retail space as well as for our technicians. For employees in the field, their protection is paramount. We have outfitted all our retail stores with sanitising stations and restricted the number of persons in our stores at any given time to maintain social distancing. Our team members who interact with customers in public spaces, including our mobile and recharge teams, have also been outfitted with the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety.
Vulnerable team members who would normally work in the customer-facing areas or in the field have been redeployed to work from home.
External: This experience has given us the opportunity to look for innovative ways to support our customers. This led to the introduction of 17 virtual stores which offer all the products and services accessible at our retail stores. The virtual stores operate alongside physical stores and in the event of the closure of physical stores, such as in St Catherine, we are still able to serve our customers.
In a bid to further support our elderly and at-risk customers who are required to stay at home, we introduced roving stores (equipped with security guards) to visit various communities across Jamaica to deliver products and services.
Under C&W Business Jamaica, we moved with alacrity to meet connectivity requests from the essential services and businesses which require work-fromhome solutions. Our technical team has also ramped up network monitoring to meet the additional broadband demand. We understand that the transition for our customers is very difficult and have done all that we can to make the process as seamless as possible.
The reality is that we now meet with our clients via video-conferencing instead of face-to-face, and our technicians must call ahead to ensure that the locations they visit do not put their and our customers’ safety and health at risk. We are mindful that we must keep our customers and their families safe, even as we do business. For us, communication is key, and we work to keep our customers and stakeholders updated via direct communication, updates on our social channels as well as statements and interviews via the media.
3. How do you see yourself returning to business post COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped us to understand how much we can do in times of crisis. For example, there was some scepticism around the productivity of remote working. Now, we have proven that it is possible, and productivity is high. These lessons will impact how we do business going forward, allowing us to look at a wider range of possibilities for how we work and serve our customers.
No one knows what the future holds, but we will continue to follow the guidance from the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, as well as the pandemic policy and plan of our parent company, Liberty Latin America. We also have several cross-functional, multinational teams working through this crisis as we share best practices and learnings from markets across the region.
What is clear, however, is that it will not be business as usual for the foreseeable future. This disruption must be embraced. Individuals and businesses alike have had to adapt to and/or employ a digitally driven lifestyle or business.
We are in this together and we will come out stronger than ever!
Name: Andre Livingston
Business Name: Wee Design Limited Type of Business: Graphic design and brand strategy agency
For us, COVID-19 has seen a spike in request for graphic design for digital spaces, as everyone is putting out one COVID-related communication or another. It has also meant a spike in design-related requests in the music industry which we service as well; artistes are putting out music at a higher volume, and so the request for associated content has naturally increased.
Luckily, based on our field, working from home is second nature, so this has really played into our hands; but the increased volume of work has also shown up where we can be more efficient in our remoteworking practices and processes.
I think, currently, we’re in a position to plant ourselves as experts in design for digital and social media spaces. With the current social media content flood, we’ve had to become more clever with what platforms we use and how we use them for our clients, but this has inadvertently allowed us to innovate in ways that will be relevant post COVID.
Digital and social media marketing companies, such as It’s JUS Marketing @ itsjusmarketing, offer many of the services and training companies will need to be highly efficient in the new normal.
Next week, we continue to look at how companies are adapting to the ‘new normal’.
Stephen Price, FLOW Jamaica country manager, says the telecommunications company has adapted to the new COVID norm.