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By Deepankar Mishra. 26 August 2020
Chartered Accountant and Founder of an Advisory and M&A Firm Manages Crisis

Opposition and crisis in business or employment is inevitable The harsh fact ‘Life’ will throw challenges, irrespective of being in a job, or being a businessperson!   We all live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, and COVID-19 has just shown us the severity of the VUCA situation!

The challenges I faced and continue to face as an Entrepreneur includes both external and internal such as:

  • Clients delaying payments,
  • Issues of bad debts,
  • Change or new regulations impacting business,
  • Deadline pressures,
  • Managing customer expectations,
  • Incorrect employee choice,
Working capital pressures…I can just go on and on… And yes, in those moments, the doubts to continue entrepreneurship do emerge!  
Luckily, I have learned two essential principles quite early in my entrepreneurial journey which keeps me going:

  • First: I realized that life is like riding a bicycle…I need to keep moving to keep my balance! So, the more I persist, having faith in myself, and demonstrate patience, the journey becomes less strenuous and more exciting! Because it becomes exciting, we no more chase ‘Success’ but pursue peaceful ‘Success’ i.e. chasing Success the rightful way to ensure peace of mind.
  • Second: We entrepreneurs often think that the journey is to seek Success, but then Success is always relative! The moment we achieve one Success, our mind moves to the next so-called ‘Success’ target! We hardly celebrate that Success. Over a period, I realized that Success is a temporary milestone, so celebrate that Success in all possible ways for the mind to capture the joyful emotions. This has helped me cherish my journey and remain positive and enthusiastic.
So, what to do in a crisis like COVID19?
Remember this equation derived from the above two principles: The longer I persist, the greater I will benefit and the true benefit is experienced by those who not only pursue ‘Peaceful Success ‘but also celebrate joyfully all forms of Success!   Of course, accept failures as feedback and develop an attitude to unlearn, learn, and re-learn.   Planning for things you ‘cannot predict’! I have seen Entrepreneurs with scalable ideas, amazing teams, and Information Systems…but what truly sustains the success of the business is their continued ability to ‘Anticipate Success’.   And to me, ‘Continued Ability to Anticipate Success’ is the most critical ingredient to remain successful as an Entrepreneur….and I am always finding ways to strengthen this one crucial ingredient!   However, one can anticipate winning only if “one prepares to win”.   To cite an example from ANOVA’s journey, each M&A deal starts with a timeline chart and activities.   In most cases, given the nature of the transaction world, one cannot predict the reasons for the delay, whether internal, external, and/or both.   In those moments what keeps the momentum ahead is ‘the ability to keep the Clients engaged and make them aware of the possible solutions and outcomes.   Sometimes, getting the Clients to accept that ‘things could be different, and that difference can be better’ can be tough!   But this needs to be planned and the preparation to plan does the magic!

Advice to small business/ MSME and startups in a crisis like COVID-19?
An important part of my advisory is to startups and small to mid-size businesses. So, I know first-hand what challenges they are facing and will continue to!   All I can say is – ‘We need to demonstrate our “resilience” as an Entrepreneur and prepare to win.’   Those who persist succeed. Period.   We should remember that we are not the only ones in this situation, but to look around to gather and assimilate the gravity of the situation. Time has come to stake stock of the situation very closely.  

Hence my suggestions would be as follows:
  • Identify core team members and form a ‘war-room’ team to evaluate the business and financial situation and come up with plans.
  • Put efforts to gain agreement on short term plans which would be easier to manage, unlike mid to long term given the greater uncertainty.
  • Re-visit the business model and remodel as required but with a sense of urgency i.e. to come up with scenarios such as good case, worst case, etc.
  • Offer Cash Discount for faster collection
  • Freeze all discretionary expenses
  • Negotiate, negotiate and negotiate – don’t feel shy
  • Take the courage to write to Banker(s)/Lender(s) for deferring EMIs, other payments as well as to the Creditors.
  • Protect your assets Deferment & conservation is the need of the hour.
Look out for business opportunities to given the situation such as manufacturing sanitizers, masks, ventilators, hospital beds, AI/ML platforms on discovery and isolation, other tech support, etc.

Talk to your employees!
  • On managing contractual obligations including employee emoluments, we should have open conversations with employees on what can be paid and what will get deferred!
  • This situation is no secret, everyone is aware of the magnitude of the impact on business, economy, and confidence.
  • So long we help them understand that we are under risk and all efforts are towards mitigating the risks, we will gain acceptance and support.
  • My personal belief is that anything and everything is possible but calls for a mindset shift to look within and not outside for help.
  • We all are blessed with infinite powers within us, and we must tap those powers. Let us develop inner strength and combat this current challenge together.
How are we managing the current crisis and 100% work from home?
A major part of my advisory is to startups and small to mid-size businesses and as they are affected by the current crisis so are, we!   But as it is said that ‘change’ is the only constant, one must simply “accept the stark realities”. Learning to adapt is key!   We have created the ‘war-room’ the team which is coming up with approaches to ensure minimal disruption as well as scenario planning.   As a business owner, I am aware of the imminent real challenges we would be facing such as:   Recession impacting MSMEs largely and their cash flows. This is a clear and present danger. Therefore ‘selecting the right clients takes the utmost precedence’ but can be time-consuming. Network and connectivity issues impacting the workflow. Staff availability, given a health scare and sustained motivation when working from home Availability of finance from Banks, NBFCs, other lenders The elongated timeframe on M&A and Fund-raise gave the availability of key people, social distancing, etc.

So, what is our ‘Plan of Action’ to tackle this situation?
We are focusing on the present condition and challenges and coming up with plans to face and manage as well as strategize for sustenance and growth.   Since our plan of action is limited to the current situation, we have suitably named it COVID as an acronym to combat it, which means:  

Chase short-term assignments
Our team’s focus is on short-term assignments. We are confident of dealing and sealing assignments such as
  •  Business Valuation
  • Business Model Canvas and Financial Modelling
  • Corporate structuring exercises and similar ones.

These can be completed without the need for a face to face interaction either with the client or with the team internally.

Outlast cash crunch possibilities
Our objective is to ensure that the smaller and shorter time frame assignments are backed by advance payment to keep the momentum until we tide over the situation. We are also optimizing various costs and resources to ensure that we are on ‘conservation’ mode for the near term.

Virtual connectedness
The team is imparted knowledge to use Zoom, Google hangout, WhatsApp video calls, Skype, LinkedIn, Emails, etc. to ensure seamless connectivity. When we are facing the internet connectivity issues…we are switching to usual phone calls/conference calls! Initiate opportunities   There is a lot of encouragement to initiate business opportunities and team development E.g. online sales expansion, imparting knowledge, dig into old business contacts and connect via emails/phone calls, seek and provide referrals, explore LinkedIn connections, etc. Daily Focus   Each of us is sharing the focus areas on a daily basis, limiting it to a maximum of three or four. This way we are busy backing each other, which, besides being motivational, is a lot of fun too!

In Conclusion…

So, in the situation, my constant communication with the team has been: “When we accept whatever is happening, whatever happens, continues to leave us peaceful.”   We have fully accepted the situation. We are now devoting our energy and time to combat and win over this situation.