We have seen how Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has already impacted the global economy, in particular countries like China, Japan, Italy and Spain. The forecast is that the rest of Europe and Asia will follow with similar consequences. The United States has shut down air-travel from Europe and the measure is expected to expand to other regions in the near future. The governments of Latin American countries have not provided clear guidance and it seems that the general population in the region does not have the same level of information as European and American residents do. The purpose of this post is to provide international companies with operations in Latin America a set of decision making guidelines to follow during this critical stage.
First things ﬁrst: COVID-19 is a global pandemic. A human tragedy that, at this point, has affected thousands of people and is expected to affect millions. All decisions made by businesses related to COVID-19 must prioritize people ﬁrst.
1. Employees come ﬁrst● Protect your employees physically and emotionally throughout this situation. ● Make it safe for employees to speak up and raise concerns. Do they feel safe? What to do in case they have doubts? Do they feel OK? What should they do? ● Share information that is consistent with the WHO, CDC and other health-agencies. ● Make your "work from home" policy more ﬂexible and plan to make it mandatory if need be. Don't have one? Now is the time to create one, learn and perfect later. ● Re-evaluate travel and be conservative. Leverage communication technology as much as possible. 2. Cash is king ● Adjust your 2020 forecasts and prioritize the critical variables impacted by COVID-19 (e.g. supply chain, travel, production). ● Rebuild 2020 scenarios focused on your company's liquidity and how your company must react under each scenario. ● Look into strategic projects that may be delayed, accelerated or cancelled. ● Search for liquidity and be conservative under current circumstances. 3. Sourcing and Supply Chain ● Understand which products/services your business provides may falter due to an unstable supply chain. ● Time to reach out to your secondary suppliers in case your primary ones have been impacted. ● Watch your inventory and consistently re-evaluate inventory forecasts to avoid drastic peaks and valleys. ● Aim for resiliency and agility throughout this time, being afraid to try something new should not be the norm. ● Support your suppliers re-engage in operations in case they were deeply affected by COVID-19. 4. Practice makes perfect ● If your business was prepared for something like COVID-19 you deserve a standing ovation. Most businesses are not. Device an operational plan with stages 1, 2 and 3 and, if time allows it, practice it. E.g.: ○ Day 1: Non-priority roles work remotely. Test VPN bandwidth and response times from remote workers. ○ Day 2: Non-priority roles + some key functions work remotely. Adapt based on Day 1 learnings and perform tests. ○ Day 3: Everyone who can work remotely, works remotely. Gather learnings and prepare for a real-life situation. ● No time for practice? Simulate it. Gather stakeholders and do a walk through of the plan for different scenarios. Clearly deﬁne: ○ Roles and responsibilities ○ Decision owners ○ Communication methods 5. Care about your customers ● Find different ways to reach your customers. ● Communicate early and often with your clients. Among others, explain: ○ The actions and reasons for your actions in response to COVID-19 ○ How their experience and/or business might be impacted ○ Any speciﬁc measures you will take in case a speciﬁc scenario occurs ● Prepare your clients for the future. What will happen as things go "back to normal" and collaborate with your key clients to ensure all respond appropriately next time a critical event disrupts your business.