A new world order requires new frameworks for businesses to operate in a post-Covid19 world. Our series on how companies are adapting to WFH, pivoting their business models, redefining business functions and processes, and more.
“If there is anyone secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own,” said Henry Ford. The American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company lived and led his business by this principle of empathy all throughout.
Being an empathetic leader is as relevant or even more today as was back in the days of Henry Ford.
“Empathy is something which is a must right now for all the entrepreneurs to the other entrepreneurs, your vendor, your service provider, your partners, please make sure that you are keeping yourself in their shoes as well,” said Ashish Tulsian.
The POSist cofounder & CEO drilled deeper into this point in a candid #StartupsVsCovid19 ‘Ask Me Anything’ session with Inc42 cofounder and CEO Vaibhav Agarwal.
Tulsian is optimistic that the world is definitely going to come back to its normal and that cutting budgets does not equate to burning bridges, neither with employees nor with customers, partners, landlords or vendors.
In his own company, Tulsian made a list of expenses which are fixed expenses which are going to happen even if they are not at the office, even if no sales happen and even if there are no employees. “We started talking to our landlords all the offices and we have seven offices. And we started talking to them about number one, you know, force majeure or, can we completely let go of the rent.”.
Communication Is The Key For POSist
In all cost-cutting exercises, Tulsian believes that it is preparing for the post-coronavirus world. “So, communication is actually the key here. As I said, everybody is in it together. So that’s a good thing. Everybody’s going to understand what you’re saying. They may or may not agree with you, but they will understand, they have no other option but to understand.”
The company started talking to all its vendors, all the fixed expenses, subscription services and started looking at relief packages from everywhere, trying to understand. Most of the time the communication was designed around maintaining relationships and empathy — “Hey, you know this is the situation. We have conserving cash flow. Business was healthy, as of, two weeks or three weeks back. We expect it to be healthy, once this ends. We want to continue with your services.”
It’s also important to help out partners and vendors in a tough time in any way possible. With the situation being bad, there will be people agreeing with founders when it comes to mass layoffs, but then there will also be some who will not understand and act badly.
“We are giving this messaging to all our vendors and I think so far we have received mixed but interesting responses, we haven’t received a response, where we say oh, it was appalling and somebody said that I don’t own this up.”
Being Transparent With Employees
“So for employees we are also looking at, who are the ones who we can have a deferred cost to, what it means is that I may have a hire who is really costly, who is supposed to create long-term value.”.
Hiring is a major challenge for startups too and now they are forced to reevaluate the value of a recruit for the next three to six months. This throws up a lot of uncertainty for startups. And that’s not even considering the personal feelings of the employee, who may be going through challenges in this reality. Attrition rate might even spike in the near future if people believe that working from home independently is an option.
According to Tulsian, it is important to define the ways of the future, based on how the founders are planning the cash flow and how the organisation operates. “In case you are empathetic in your composition, you’re clean in your conversation, you are more transparent and you’re more understanding. Being a little empathetic is gonna go a long way, you will actually receive help from the quarters which you never thought existed,” he said.
Role Of An Entrepreneur In Good And Bad Times
An entrepreneur is the captain of the ship, Tulsian believes, and employees find their security in them. “You know there are employees around us who are almost our cofounders, they have lived the journey neck to neck, shoulder to shoulder with us. They’re not bad people, they are not cowards. They are not wrong. They joined you, they work with you because they believe in you, they believe in your vision, right and they are little better than others because they have more ownership of the situation but that ownership is also under your umbrella.”
Yes, pay cuts can be a hard pill to swallow for many, but many investors and entrepreneurs believe there is a way out such as mergers or strategic alliances with bigger players or even ESOPs to offset the loss in income for startups that have the momentum to make ESOPs an attractive alternative. Not being able to understand this right now is the worst mistake, but employers also need to understand if employees have certain expenses in life that are overpowering their every other thought right now.
“You will realise you never knew exactly what was going on in their life and just because they were coming to work happy every day, they were following in the command and the vision, you might have got that blind spot. So my request will be that this is a time for conversation. This is a time for also not being the hero and the macho, but at the same time, not being completely off your responsibility.”