Webinar Roundup: Coping Through Crisis with Geoff Williams

Along with many organisations, we’ve opted to take our networking events online during this period of social distancing. What better way to kick off our new webinar series than with a digital event on how to cope with crisis as a business? With the coronavirus outbreak having sent businesses across the globe into panic mode, we wanted to find out what the best approach to business continuity was.

With many businesses taking drastic measures such as making mass redundancies, supplier cuts and cancelling their Q2 and Q3 projects – it begs the question of whether we should all be following suit. The truth is that every organisation is unique and should respond to crisis differently, but something that came out of our webinar is that the approach to digesting the problem at hand should be the same.

We were lucky enough to be joined by our long-standing associate Geoff Williams, an experienced operations leader and a former Deputy Chief Constable. Having worked with the likes of London Gatwick and Manchester Airport Group, Geoff’s wealth of experience in helping organisations of all sizes to improve operational performance get back on track during a crisis made him just the person our network would want to hear from in such uncertain times.

Geoff kicked off the session by acknowledging how different people will be reacting to the current crisis, suggesting that the first thing to do is to try and instil some order back into what appears to be quite a chaotic time. However, we shouldn’t try to lean blindly on processes that worked for us in the past as these may become entirely unsuitable for the new scenario.

Drawing on how the military responds to crisis as an example, Geoff adopted a pragmatic approach, urging us to assume a strategic, compartmentalised and stratified mindset rather than try to tackle the crisis in its entirety. He suggested looking specifically at how the crisis impacts you and your organisation, breaking it down into smaller manageable areas: strategy, people, product and reputation.

Not only is it about carving up the issue into those core areas, it’s also about true collaboration with the rest of your business. Ensuring each facet of your organisation, from operations to marketing, understands the path you’re choosing to take and as a result feels able to play their part. Geoff stresses the importance of good communication in crisis, having clear channels available between your strategic team and business functions.

Another attendee reiterated how crucial communications were and mentioned how well the retail sector was responding to the COVID-19 crisis in keeping regular communication both externally and internally. Anyone wondering what sort of comms they should be having with their clients and target market needs to look no further than Tesco, Sainsbury’s and other major supermarkets who have handled the situation particularly well.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons were among the first supermarkets to introduce social distancing measures. They’ve not only transformed their in-store and online experiences to make shopping safer and easier during the coronavirus crisis, but their marketing and communication has been second to none. They’ve resisted the temptation to dial back on their external communications and have instead opted to bring their customers with them on their journeys, truly listening to feedback and making changes accordingly. This ties in with Geoff’s point about communication being key, and its link to reputation can easily be seen in this case.

Something that we all need to remember is that, even when the crisis itself is long forgotten, the way businesses responded to that crisis will form a part of their reputations long term. So it’s important not to make any rash decisions: approach the situation calmly and strategically, protect the people in your organisation, assess the changes to your products or services and communicate in a way that you’ll want your customers to remember for years to come.

Having a reassuring voice during such times is what we all need to help give us some steer on how to rationally tackle crises. We plan on hosting regular webinars with our network to provide insight to help businesses take on a variety of obstacles from business continuity to recruitment. If you’d like to be a part of our next one, fill out the form on our networking events page and one of the team will get back to you. 

Mike Weston

7th April