The 3Cs: how manufacturing leaders can respond to COVID-19.
by Karen Friendship, Managing Director
The COVID-19 situation is presenting challenges which the manufacturing sector has never experienced before – we are all learning as we go. At Aldermans we are still manufacturing (safely, of course), still serving customers and responding to some exciting new enquiries too.
As a leader I’ve found myself developing a mantra over the last couple of weeks – the 3Cs. It’s a way for me to keep in mind, and in balance, my key leadership priorities at this time.
Compassion. None of us has experienced anything like this before, and everyone is responding differently. Some take each day at a time; others feel more unsettled, or fearful for themselves and their families. My first role as a leader is to recognise these differences within my team and respond with compassion – with humanity – and encourage everyone else on the team to do the same. I may not have all the answers (I’m working on it!), but I can listen to the questions and give my time to my team. I can also be compassionate in practical ways, such as emphasising that the team must wear their PPE and work responsibly. We’re now checking their temperatures every day, too. We’ve always tried to maintain a family ethos at Aldermans, coupled with a fighting spirit and positivity, and I believe this will help to see us through.
Communication. Social distancing is testing us all. Our need to connect, interact and belong is at the heart of what makes us human. Our teams are fragmented. We miss the daily office banter! Right now, I believe we cannot communicate too much. As well as holding remote team meetings, I’m still walking the factory floor and sending e-bulletin updates to the whole team regularly (even if it’s just reminders of the same key messages). They need to hear from me often – it’s an issue of trust and motivation. We’re maintaining personal communications with key customers, of course. And we’ve instigated live chat on our website! – the more communication channels the better! We’re keeping in touch with our business networks, which are a vital source of support for us all. There are still good news stories to hear and to share.
Cash. “Cash is king”, it’s said, and this is certainly true now. Manufacturers are conscious that supply chains are fragile at present, so it’s vital to maintain good relationships with suppliers as well as customers. While government business support is there, in some instances we need to pay out before we see the money coming in. We’ve taken action early to manage overheads and are keeping commercial terms closely monitored to ensure there is cash in the business. Nonetheless, we are still looking to the future and potential investment, exploring all sources of funding (such as R&D grants). Because when this time of uncertainty is over, we have every intention of seizing the opportunities; and the time to prepare is now.
Although this is a challenging time, it’s also a precious, rare opportunity to reflect and reprioritise, at work and at home. We’ve all had to stop taking normality – and each other – for granted. History is being written; yet as leaders we are also shaping the future of our businesses through the decisions we take now, and the culture we build. That’s what the 3Cs is all about, and it’s a sound mantra for the future as much as the present.