Where’s the best place to turn for business advice in the middle of a crisis? How about to business leaders who’ve learned to thrive against a backdrop of constant crises?
Bpeace advises entrepreneurs we call Fast Runners in crisis-affected countries, helping them scale their businesses, create significant employment for all and expand the economic power of women. Because more jobs mean less violence.®
For Fast Runners, crises are frequent, long-lasting and often occur concurrently or in quick succession. Trade disputes and labor unrest block ports and highways. Violence shuts down communities while gangs prey on business owners and demand protection payments. Routine weather events become catastrophes due to limited government and social infrastructure for responding.
We asked Fast Runners in El Salvador and Guatemala how they’re handling the Covid-19 crisis. Here’s what they told us:
1. Viva la resistance!
From the French Resistance to Wikipedia, some of the most effective social movements have used a model of decentralized teams to protect against being compromised. Our Fast Runners have adapted this approach to resisting Covid-19, creating small working groups completely separated physically, conducting work in shifts, and segmenting the workweek to sustain functioning while reducing risk of exposure to the virus.
2. Radical reciprocity
Fast Runners are toppling traditional hierarchical approaches to information sharing, by instead opening dialogue with essential staff about finances, challenges and long-term plans. Employees are responding with appreciation for the years of support the company has provided them, and are identifying ways they can now support the business, including through voluntary pay cuts.
3. Wellness 3.0
More than just providing masks and hand sanitizer for employees, Fast Runners are sending precious supplies home for workers’ families, and even hiring doctors to be on call to respond to questions or provide check-ups if necessary. They are basically inventing the next generation of corporate wellness programs.
4. Mutual safety net
“We’re all in this together” isn’t just a slogan for the Fast Runners. They are leveraging their uniquely connected ecosystem of supply chain, companies and customers to build a safety net that supports everyone. By engaging openly and transparently, focusing on long-term relationships and not just immediate financial transactions, Fast Runners are helping to lift all boats in their regions and ensure that capacity exists to return to prosperity when the pandemic subsides.
5. Cash in, not out
Cash is always king in a small to midsize entrepreneurial business, which is why some Fast Runners are extending discounts to customers and clients willing and able to pay in advance, as a way to generate cash flow. Holding to a price point and hoping for better times ahead don’t generate revenue today, as Fast Runners know.
Fast Runners are using digital technology to create innovative solutions for connecting in-demand businesses (supermarkets, logistics companies, etc.) with socially isolated clients and customers. They’re also becoming thought leaders — in one case offering a free whitepaper on how Covid-19 has affected digital media use in Latin America, to generate leads for the company’s technology solutions.
7. Business as usual? Not.
There’s no question the Covid-19 pandemic is a crisis. By admitting that and responding accordingly, Fast Runners are showing leadership and retaining the confidence of their employees and customers. Many have developed high-level crisis management teams responsible for maintaining new safety protocols, caring for staff and families, monitoring supply lines and sales, and sharing regular updates across the company.
Our global remedy: Preserve and create jobs
The Covid-19 virus doesn’t recognize borders, but fortunately neither does business expertise. Bpeace Fast Runners have forged crisis-proven strategies that can help any business large or small, domestic or international, survive to thrive again in better times.
For 18 years, Bpeace has been the sole nonprofit focused on creating jobs in crisis-affected communities.