How busi­nesses are adapt­ing to the ‘new nor­mal’ – Part 1

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - De­mola Cun­ning­ham GUEST COLUM­NIST De­mola Cun­ning­ham is a dig­i­tal mar­keter and com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant, It’s JUS Mar­ket­ing. Email feed­back to edi­to­rial@ glean­erjm.com and it­sjus­mar­ket­ing@gmail. com; @it­sjus­mar­ket­ing.

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.

For ex­am­ple:

• 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’.

So:

• 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!

COM­PANY TWO

Name: An­dre Liv­ingston

Ti­tle: Owner

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’.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Stephen Price, FLOW Ja­maica coun­try man­ager, says the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany has adapted to the new COVID norm.

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