Anca Mihalache

Business strategy in times of crisis

I never though that what is happening right now in the world could be possible in 2020. It is tragic and painful to lose so many people to a flu-like virus. On top of all the suffering that is going on right now in the world, COVID‑19 came with other negative aspects: you can’t visit your parents (you can only seem them online), treatment for other medical conditions is impeded due to the fact that access to hospitals and medical practices is restricted, students that are in their final year can’t finish their studies, socializing with friends over coffee is not possible.

The economy is affected in a totally unknown way. Governments have had to face some challenges they themselves are discovering only now; they get inspiration from other countries for what to do to keep the societal balance, including the physical and mental health of the population. Almost everywhere in the world, for those lucky enough to have the option, one can work from home; shops with non-essential products are closed as are gyms, hair salons, and restaurants. Concert, festivals, weddings with many guests will most likely be cancelled in 2020. There are also professional events that are postponed or canceled. In aviation, for example, March, April and May are the busiest months in terms of conferences, meetings or fairs.

Most areas have been affected. In the Netherlands, for example, millions of tulips are thrown away each day (we are not allowed to visit flower fields, so they don’t even have revenue from this activity). Even the food production suffers because the employees are not allowed to work at full capacity in the plants; distribution is also affected. But probably the most affected areas are tourism and aviation.

Before this crisis, I had made the strategy of my department, approved by the Board and shared with all investors.

But then March came, countries closed, quarantines were imposed and flights were canceled. Currently 70% of the global commercial airline fleet is grounded. An industry that has been growing steadily for over 20 years, which was not so drastically affected during 9/11 or the 2008 economic crisis, was almost shut down in a matter of days. Who would have ever thought such a thing?! For all intents and purposes, in the field in which I work, the “apocalypse” occurred.

I had to rethink everything to come up with new proposals for the company to keep its cash for survival and also come up with new strategies. Naturally, under the given conditions, the airlines are no longer paying their leases, so there is no more capital inflow.

It was the first time in my business life that for weeks I didn’t have an answer; I didn’t know where to start and what ideas to come up with. I couldn’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Employees were waiting for the executive team to prepare a plan to rescue the company. This led to many sleepless nights; on the one hand I was kept awake by the fear of the disease that took lives, and on the other by the despair that there were no easy solutions. I decided to participate in webinars where various market analyses are discussed, where people specialized in statistics express some very pertinent opinions. I read a lot, I did a lot of research both about my industry and pertaining to the virus; whether or not we have a chance to find a treatment or a vaccine in the short term to stop the collapse of the aviation business market. I also watched the capital markets every day. In addition, many customers, collaborators, suppliers, investors make calls during this period. I think in the last seven weeks I’ve talked on the phone more than I had ever talked in six normal months (and I’m working in sales).

I was doing these things with the hope that I would come up with good ideas; that I would wake up one morning, inspired, with a brain full of plans for the near future (at least).

Well, it didn’t happen and I was getting more and more anxious. My employees were waiting for directives, my superiors wanted to know what to communicate to shareholders. I had brainstorming sessions with those in the industry every day.

A week ago, I realized that we are in a situation that very few who are alive today has ever been in. It is a time when we can only assume; a time when those who choose to go right or left must rely on their instinct as well. Of course I know almost everything that happens in my industry and I make decisions based on market research, but eventually I do have to make some decisions and follow them through to the end. And if I notice that the decisions made were not the right ones or need adjustments, I will be very open with both my team and the Board. Because no one can say exactly what will happen, when things will return to normal and even if we will ever have the life we had before. But I follow Baron Rothschild’s idea: “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.”

So my advice is not to stress. Do more research than ever. Trust in yourself, but also accept when you are wrong. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself (the market does that enough) and don’t wait to come up with miraculous ideas because they most likely won’t show up. Try to adapt, to find new opportunities. But act, because the economy never waits and in any time of crisis there are also winners.

I do not give up. I look for solutions until I find them. I have to find them.

Success! And stay healthy!

Share this story

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!