From Nigeria to England and back, Obi is on trial for taking a bribe which he had vehemently refused until circumstances became dire that accepting a bribe was the only way out. If you visited the library at school, you must have read Chinua Achebe’s epic, No Longer at Ease.
It is a story that begins with the trial of Obi for taking a bribe. A 26-year old Obi gets a scholarship to study law in London. While there, he drops law and studies English. He meets a girl, Clara, a fellow Nigerian. Four years later, as Obi is returning meets Clara again and they start a relationship. In Nigeria, Obi gets a job. And so, bribe offers start flowing, which he vehemently rejects. And Obi is told he cannot marry the love of his life, Clara due to cultural norms even when she becomes pregnant with him. Matters are made worse when Obi’s dying mother gives him an ultimatum. While back to work, the mother dies. Obi is no longer at ease. And so, he starts accepting bribes. Turns his life around and finally gets caught.
No longer at ease is a timeless novel that applies today in these #coronavirus times. Take note of the following:
- Look again at your strategy. Carefully examine your business model and assumptions. Change your leadership style. Your business is no longer at ease. You must embrace data to inform your next game plan. It is time to go to the drawing board. This is not the time of “looking outside the box.” It is a time of no box. All business rules have been re-written. Look again at data to study how the first quarter of 2020 has turned out. Compare with the previous quarter and study the gaps. Revise your cashflows, projected demand, and costs accordingly.
- Your team must be agile and adaptable to change. People must be willing to work from home without close physician supervision. You must embrace flexible working arrangements and accountability. New ways of delivering services must be implemented. This calls for investment in IT systems, technologies to match the evolving working requirements. Which staff requires mobile gadgets? How do you connect securely to company systems without compromising security? How do you provide reliable internet connections to remote workers? Which video and audio-conferencing solutions are needed to deliver services?
- Of most concern is liquidity. Do we have enough cash to meet our immediate term (monthly bills), short term (payments within 12 months), and medium-term cash requirements? Prioritize your upcoming bills/payments into due within one week/ month/ year. And match with your immediate cash at hand and expected incomes. Be realistic. This kind of simple cash flow analysis would help you see your cash needs. Remember, cash to a business is like blood to a human body. You want to apply your available cash to payments that matter. Make sure you prioritize payments such that you pay the critical ones first.
- Apply your capital to high impact areas like innovations and technology to serve your customers better. Now may not be the time for new hires, promotions, or salary increases. Instead, defer recruitments. Your focus should be on marketing to bring more customers and bring the required cash flows. Your top executives should consider pay cuts until the situation normalizes.
- Fast track your digital agenda to serve your customers better. Now more than ever, customers need convenient, secure, and reliable channels to access your services. Mobile banking, internet banking, online applications must be prioritized and developed.
- The biggest asset to any business is people. A chief executive all you can to keep the people that you have worked with the develop the company. Everyone understands the state of the economy. Now is not the time for name-calling or lamentations. Sit down and explore ways to navigate this period. Draw the plans together and communicate as a team.
Business is a journey full of turbulence. Covid19 is one of them. Plan and execute to overcome.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.