It is hard to believe that just on Monday I wrote to you to inform of the physical closure of our office, but the fact that our team would be working remotely with the objective of providing you continued service during these unprecedented times. I spoke of how the week before had been extraordinary and, to be honest, I have no description to exceed that. But we need to find one!
On Monday evening we received the announcement of a physical lock down for South Africa which has now put all of us into the same position. I am fully aware that this time has been extremely difficult for all of us. But I am also acutely aware that these actions by our President are of the utmost strategic importance to our country. One of my mechanisms to cope with this unprecedented rate of change is to write mini-essays with reflections. I am finding that these provide objective line in the sand assessments of what we are facing. And often, they provide the catalyst for critical strategic actions. While I would normally not do so, I share my reflections from last night with you. In looking back, it is astounding that our President took the actions he did, when he did. At the time it seemed extremely risky. But the new emerging reality is proving him to be one of the most profoundly significant leaders of our time. I do not say this lightly.
The key theme of my reflection last night was around leadership. My overwhelming conclusion was that in times of these, it is those who are resolute in setting clear, unambiguous goals and then relentlessly pursuing those goals, that bring about the profound changes in human nature that ultimately achieve victory. This Coronavirus is actually one of statistics. Our State President has given this country an unprecedented head start in taking these courageous actions. This gives us amazing hope, but this hope is massively dependent on each one of us cutting down person to person contacts – or to use the new term, to embrace “Social Distancing”.
With this in mind, we as a team have identified that face to face interaction with our clients is more important now than ever. We aim to be proactive in that. But please bear with us at the moment. This is a whirlwind of activity and upfront I apologise for those areas where we may be falling short of your expectations. As per my last communication, we have a very clear set of priorities that are in the interest of our wider client base, and the economy as a whole. This prioritisation is becoming clearer and clearer with time. Please, if you are feeling that you have a matter that is not getting the attention it deserves, reach out to us. Please also work with us in negotiating the timing for the priority. The reality is that these new circumstances it is not possible to work at the pace we did, but are resolutely committed to meeting the essential deliverables that will look after the wellbeing of the human beings involved, while also ensuring that the strategic goal of all of us in remaining in business is achieved.
This theme of achieving business sustainability is front of mind for all of us. It is a fundamental question and another one where we, as business leaders, must be resolute in our goal. Let us set an objective that all of this will get through this. I know all of you are desperate for advice and support to ensure that you have access to the much needed government relief that has been announced. But this is an area where will have to “go slower to go faster”. To illustrate, Clive had prepared a document on Monday setting out details of the then available plans and it was ready to send out, subject to a final review by me. As it turns out the President set out a raft of new and meaningful measures on Monday night and what Clive had written was instantly obsolete – perhaps just another symptom of this virus. At this point proposals have been made, but they have not been gazetted. There will be rules and processes to be followed, and there is no point speculating until we have the accurate information.
In the meanwhile, there are two economic interventions that you may wish to start engaging with:
1. The Solidarity Fund – www.solidarityfund.co.za
2. The Small Business Development Fund debt relief – http://www.smmesa.gov.za/
I know that your expected role of us is as Professionals who should have most of the answers. We fully subscribe to that. But I also need to say that the rate of change here is beyond anything we have encountered in our lifetimes. I therefore want to propose a slightly different approach. We will do our very best to keep abreast of everything. But in the meanwhile, please share any information that you may be aware of, as soon as you are aware of it. Also, if you a document that clearly explains everything, please share it.
Often this sharing of ideas and information would be counter-intuitive against the principles of competitive advantage. But we need to change our mindset now. We are at war against an unseen virus, and that virus has given our economy a virus. Our ruthless objective must be that we ensure that businesses survive this. Every business that goes under or cannot pay its bills, will in turn impact on our businesses. So please, let’s do our best to work together in resolving this. Please will you share any emerging information you have with myself and Clive (firstname.lastname@example.org). And please don’t assume we have it. With things changing so quickly, it is just not possible to be 100% up to date all the time.
We fully appreciate that there is now no “business as usual” when it comes to face to face meetings with clients. You will also appreciate that there are so many hours available in the day. We are busy working with protocols that will ensure we are able to meet your expectations, while also ensuring that we are ruthlessly focussed on key objectives. As an entry point, please will you communicate with your allocated staff member. In many instances they may well have the information, and may just give you the comfort you are looking for. Thereafter, we will schedule a meeting with you just as soon as is humanly possible. And in this new surreal reality, it will be face to face but not in person. Our chosen platform is Zoom ( https://zoom.us) and I request that you download it to your computer, cellphone or tablet in anticipation. If you are not a technology fundi, one of our team will gladly walk you through the process (although probably not this week). This platform is also excellent for large board and other meetings, so any such meetings that I have scheduled with you will now also be on that platform, unless you have a platform of your own.
In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary effort being made by our staff team under changed and extremely difficult circumstances. They are positive, motivated and are striving hard to keep the wheels turning. Please give them your understanding and support, in the knowledge that they are doing the very best that they can at the moment. More is not humanly possible.
While these are times of trial and tribulation, I am seeing much cause for hope. There is definitely going to be a lot more pain before things get better. But our President has given us just a fighting chance of victory. From here it is up to us as to how we act and what our future will look like. There is no doubt that we are stronger together, even if the call right now is to be stronger apart!