The coronavirus is keeping the German economy in a stranglehold, but in addition to many losses, it also offers new opportunities.
Many companies had to stop or at least reduce their production because of the coronavirus. Some products are currently not in demand and others – such as protective equipment and disinfectants – are no longer available on the market because production capacities are unable to cover the huge demand.
Some companies have switched their production at short notice to goods that are virtually non-industrial for them, thereby supporting the acute demand for products that are in high demand and in some cases urgently needed. The automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance has been producing breathing masks in China since the beginning of March. This does not primarily serve external demand, but primarily because in the Chinese plants with government regulations, workers have not been allowed to work without face masks since the outbreak of the corona crisis.
Italian car company Fiat Chrysler currently plans to produce more than one million masks a month. In addition to respirator masks, disinfectants are also urgently needed goods. Some alcohol manufacturers are providing agile support here, such as the companies Jägermeister or Berentzen. This change in production is not the core business of these companies, but at the same time it shows that it is possible to produce articles that are not part of production or at least to expand the depth of production.
Restaurant operators have switched to ‘to-go’ to keep themselves afloat. Book and toy shops run their business online. Need or virtue? Both: The business models are being revised and partly restructured.
The current situation worldwide can clearly be described as very diffuse, sometimes even chaotic: Nobody knows when or how things will continue. But nevertheless, those involved should remain level-headed, plan with the currently known circumstances and look ahead. Of course, managers must not make promises to their employees, customers or creditors that they ultimately cannot keep. But good managers should be able to focus their attention – both internally and externally – on both the present and the future.
First of all, it is advisable to carry out a kind of inventory and analyse what resources are available. Based on the questions: What skills, networks, resources distinguish us, what else can we do to act in the market at short notice. Are there any restrictions in the current situation? If, for example, it is currently not permitted to enter the company premises for quarantine reasons, but remote access to IT resources is available, operations can be kept running, for example, via an IT partner network and its resources.
The second question, which is crucial in the long term, is: What are the company’s strengths and potential? What are the potential fields of action for future business. Do employees have creative ideas for new opportunities in the market? This is where visions that were previously taboo must be realized. Can the company completely reorient itself? Automobile manufacturers have already thought about the fact that the old core competence – manufacturing vehicles – will be transformed into the competence of making transport possible. With digital networking, the provision of platforms and cooperation with other service providers.
Can banks combine their business models in such a way that they both offer digital services and once again attach great importance to personal advice? Are services also possible remotely and require infrastructure? The models currently still in existence must be questioned. Yes, here, too, the question of necessary disruption arises – caused by viral factors. Consistent change in business, vision forward. But without completely neglecting the core competencies. The time is now – unintentionally – there to critically question business models.
On the personnel strategy side, too, companies are faced with the question of which paths they want to take after the Corona period in order to be well equipped in terms of personnel. Joy and sorrow sometimes lie close together: the current situation on the labour market can result in the acquisition of missing personnel data that would otherwise not have been available. But also existing, good employees can be bound to the company in the long term through concrete action if the right signals and measures are taken now.
Employees need security now and opportunities for the future. If there are clear regulations to secure jobs and the location, but at the same time flexibility is granted to meet the current needs of the employees, they are usually loyal and grateful.
At present, companies and management should systematically examine what conditions they have in place and what additional resources may be needed to be prepared and to implement change as an opportunity with new strategies.