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Thriving Through the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond Requires Steady Leadership and Open Communication

Krishna Sudheendra, CEO at UST

All the while demand volatility is increasing dramatically, forcing organizations to react and adjust their inventory and supply allocation strategies. This presents a significant opportunity for organizations who can deploy responsive supply chain capabilities.

Krishna Sudheendra, CEO at UST

As the COVID-19 pandemic crisis continues unabated, the global economy is getting disrupted. Industries will transform, and many companies will struggle to regain their footing, and, unfortunately, some will not survive. The role of a leadership team in steering through uncertainties becomes more critical than ever, guiding its clients and employees to emerge stronger.

As we have seen, it has been important for any company to place the health and safety of its employees as priority one. Enabling working from home for employees swiftly to eliminate the potential risks due to proximity, was the first item on the checklist. Companies that have successfully gone through a digital transformation journey, have found much more ease in making this transition. Elements like virtualization and real-time operational visibility will continue to be major facets of this survival strategy. Below, I discuss some of the most important lessons from this pandemic and beyond.

Take Care of Your Employees

One aspect that many companies undervalue is the impact these restricted working conditions have on the mental health of their employees. During this time, your organization is a major lifeline for employees to keep abreast of health, wellness, and connectedness best practices. Prioritize internal communications and do everything possible to stay connected with your teams.

We at UST, channelized our longstanding internal newsletter News@Noon to take on a new, grander purpose during the pandemic. While we still educate our employees about key initiatives, we’ve increased our focus on health and wellness, highlighting ways for employees to fight boredom, stay healthy, and feel a greater sense of connectedness with their teams. Our free telemedicine offering to our employees made sure that they do not have to worry about their families’ mental and physical health. We do this because it’s the right thing to do, but it also gives employees peace of mind so that they can focus on their critical work on behalf of UST Global.

Our extension of a helping hand is not just for our employees. Throughout the pandemic, we have kept close contact with all our clients and partners, exchanging best practices, and containment strategies. During this time, open and transparent communication with your clients is key. Proactively reach out to your clients, especially if you are the CEO, and share what you’ve learned so far. Not only will you be a valuable partner, but you may also learn something valuable from them.

Think Critically and Proactively on Behalf of Clients

Many of your clients might be going through disruptions never encountered in their lifetime. For instance, COVID-19 has fractured the cohesive global supply chain, turning real-time supply chain visibility and orchestration into a must-have. In the healthcare industry, telehealth will be the default standard for a long time to come. For retail organizations, the future of shopping is contactless and frictionless. In this scenario, encourage your employees to rise above preconceived notions and focus on what you can do, not what you have historically done.

Our approach at UST has been to prepare our clients to respond to this disruption by increasing their adaptiveness and responsiveness through digital transformation. We believe that this transformation is as much about values and purpose as it is about technology, an aspect about which our clients have been very appreciative. An organization that has embraced fully the human aspect of digital transformation is ready to tackle the infrastructure requirements as part of the puzzle.

Embrace Servant Leadership

What draws these clients to UST Global is our dedication to servant leadership, which stipulates that leaders serve their employees, not the reverse. Organizations with servant leadership demonstrate early on that employees are encouraged and empowered to solve problems and introduce solutions, not merely execute orders. This primes an organization to succeed during complex times as individual workers feel like they can contribute to solving the massive problems found during a pandemic. Through servant leadership, you ask your employees what resources they need to help your clients, create revenue opportunities, or save cash. Create incentives for them to think beyond their duties and innovate.

While you embark on your digital journey, learn to prioritize what is important. No one can accurately predict when this will end and so your organization needs to be prepared for the revenue shortages expected to extend for months. Delay any launches not critical to the core businesses and look for cash-saving initiatives with immediate results like virtualization. This will help you conserve cash as much as feasible and reasonable, to ensure liquidity during these difficult times.

Conserve Cash, But Spend Where Advantageous

As careful as we can be with our cash - as we advise our clients to be - we continue to invest in critical resources that serve our long-term strategies. Right now, many are still in various stages of holding patterns, while others are moving into different phases of opening up. As we are seeing, there will not be a floodgate opening where everything returns to normal; there will be multiple sprints where businesses open-up and regulations relax. Now is the time to selectively invest and prepare for those days in order to stay ahead of the competition.

While the pandemic has introduced completely new variables, we have the blueprint from the financial crisis of 2008 in front of us. Organizations that leveraged the shared economy succeeded when life returned to normal. We strongly believe that those who embrace digital transformation, balance safety and health with opportunities, and provide care to the needs of their stakeholders will leverage this crisis to better provide for their employees, clients, and community.

We at UST Global are using this crisis to drive ingenuity for ourselves, our clients, and the world at large. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I have communicated to all our employees the need to speak up when they have concerns, fears, or ideas on how to make us better. I extend that to community-at-large. We are here to listen, share, help, and act however we can. To quote Hellen Keller, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."