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BW Businessworld

Immunizing Our Businesses

Here are some lessons I have learnt on immunizing my businesses

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The current crisis has clearly taught us two things. The first one is that our world has become more uncertain and hazardous and that we will need to be constantly vigilant and watchful for an unknown potential danger. The second vital lesson is that we can depend upon no one except ourselves. Not scientists, nor leaders of the free world, not experts and doctors, not even our bosses at work, all of whom were caught as unawares as any of us when the pandemic hit with all its brutal force. And so, after the first couple of months of intense panic and a resultant statis, induced by a hyperbolic government machinery (who knew as little as we did) and fed by information which was as diverse as it was untrue, the more sensible amongst us started figuring out, of our own volition and instincts of self -preservation, as to how to deal with this black swan event.

Black Swans by their very nature are events that happen for the first time ever, at least in the relatable past, and thus we had little recourse to historical answers and solutions. So reluctantly we dusted our rarely used common sense to make sense of this undesired presence in our lives. An overload of information later, bits and bobs of which keep trickling in even today, we have arrived at some SOPs which are individual, prescriptive and lean towards prevention rather than cure. Kilos of ginger, turmeric, personalised versions of ‘kaadhas’ and daily steaming’s later I think all of us have realised that the critical need is to work on building our own resilience. Indeed, the only defence against current and future terrors will be the moat of immunity we encircle ourselves with, and this will come not from a pill hastily swallowed or even a vaccine, because who knows what the next avatar of the virus will be like? Rather our immunity will be built cell by cell, by following a disciplined lifestyle, healthy habits and mindful choices which are actively focused on well-being, our own as well as that of our families and loved ones.

At an individual level this pandemic has resulted in a great consciousness of our health and our bodies. We are all trying to improve our eating habits, our exercise regimes, our focus on mindfulness, and a determined move to reduce the pollutants that enter our bodies, whether through the highly processed junk food we eat, the sound pollution we subject ourselves to, or the unhealthy air we live in.

Can this learning also be translated into how we run our organisations? I have been an active proponent of the quotidian-ness of life teaching us the skills we require to run teams, businesses, organisations and yes even countries. Parenting for example has taught me the essential skill of Tough love which I have effectively (and successfully) used in my corporate career to manage teams. If so, then what can managing our health and the vital lessons learnt on building the immunity of our bodies teach us on doing the same for our businesses? Here are some lessons I have learnt on immunizing my businesses;

1.Cash in your business is like having a healthy constitution- It is increasingly becoming clear that the businesses that will survive through this crisis and the accompanying slowdown, are those who have consciously been watching their bottom lines, have believed that cash is king and built up healthy balance sheets in the days of plenty to support them in bad times.

2.Building a loyal team which has worked together for years is the key vitamin which helps you withstand the virus or get just mild symptoms – Longevity in teams who have seen various ups and downs and transitions together are a great foil to any crisis, because they trust each other and understand in what formation they need to work together when they have to defend themselves against challenges. So next time you are trigger happy in your hiring and firing remember this.

3. A disciplined and rigorous approach in operations is similar to the long-term physical training which strengthens organisational muscle – New age founders and even some traditional promoters scoff at the need for regular reviews, setting up systems and processes, cost controls and prudence in investments. Imagining themselves to be visionaries they often become dream catchers allowing their organisations to grow flabby and turgid under the guise of ‘building for the future’ As we have seen, the future is reliable only to the extent of its uncertainty, and not a liner line that excel calculations project. Over-eating today and thinking you are building up strength for a marathon you will run in the future is altogether misguided, and will create unnecessary flab which will slow you down when you are sprinting in the face of a disaster.

4. Constant quality consciousness is the mindful effort you put in building a healthy body through the healthy practises you follow – The quick scaling up and valuation-led top line desire of investors often comes at a cost of sacrificing the product quality and the service parameters you would have ideally liked to follow. Unfortunately, these headless chickens come home to roost in an eventuality where customers and clients alike move back to trusted brands and withdraw from experimentation completely amidst an ambiguous environment. The reality is that trust and loyalty have no quick-fix answers and get built only by ensuring that your car or chocolate or logistics solution is of the highest quality consistently and repeatedly, just like no quick vitamin popping will ever give you the same benefits as following healthy practices over years.

Sadly, it is a myth that people or societies or organisations turn into new leaves after winter befalls. Even if a crisis the mammoth size of the pandemic comes and socks us in the jaw, my personal opinion unfortunately is that people do not change easily or compliantly. But change we must. So that next time around we are better prepared, more resilient and have the ability to handle the next Black Swan that flies onto our horizon. And thus, the single most important and crucial learning organisations and leaders need to imbibe I believe is the overarching meta-learning of all learnings; a willingness and a fervent desire to change!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Apurva Purohit

The author is President of the Jagran Group

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