Why Covid-19 can be an opportunity to realign your business

Re-shaping a business can provide employees with needed motivation and the drive they crave, while also helping the community

A refugee from Kurdistan cuts fabric for face covers in Berlin on April 23, 2020, amid a new coronavirus Covid19 pandemic. Men and women refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Kurdistan are producing face covers by the hundreds at the GIZ (Gesellschaft für Interkulturelles Zusammenleben) offices in Berlin's western district of Spandau.  Many refugees, who arrived in Germany by the thousands in 2014 and 2015, are finding ways to help out during the current pandemic.  / AFP / John MACDOUGALL
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The Covid-19 pandemic has altered the business world in unimaginable ways.

With US oil prices slumping down to below zero, factories at standstill in China, the travel and hospitality industries battered, many businesses are desperate. Some are fighting for their survival while others are shellshocked and don’t know what steps to take.

Take for instance an entrepreneur friend of mine who owns a abaya brand in Bahrain. She has not received any new orders for over two months.

Last week another friend explained how the current crisis provides the perfect opportunity to shut down a business, especially if it had been suffering the past period.

Though that may be true in some cases, I believe that the golden opportunity this crisis provides is for us to re-shape a business’s mission in a manner that helps it navigate through this crisis and thereafter.

Re-shaping a business’s purpose could provide employees with needed motivation and the drive they crave, while also helping the community.

Prior to the pandemic, the main objective of your business may have been buried in between pleasing investors and meeting financial projections. But take a few minutes to think about this in the context of today’s developments. How can your business purpose help your community? How can it help your business? How can it help you after the crisis subsides and survive something like this again?

This is the time to pause and huddle with your team and rethink the purpose of your business and value proposition.

Though there is no demand for her abayas right now, my friend decided to slightly modify her business's operation for the time being. She redefined her business from providing beautiful garments at affordable prices to allocating her equipment, fabric and sowing machines to create reusable, environmentally friendly face masks that can be donated to blue-collar workers in Bahrain.

Her initiative will help mitigate the risk of people getting infected with Covid-19, while also answering the call for doing business in a sustainable form.  She shared her journey with our friends and has inspired them to think of ways to give back, help our governments and communities in combating this pandemic.

In repurposing her business one of the questions my friend is addressing is how the realignment will drive her operations in the future? She decided to contribute a portion of her sales to support community initiatives and to source her materials from family owned businesses.

Today, other businesses have also altered their business operations. We see a number of publications providing part of their online content for free as their way of helping the community, and a number of restaurants in the UAE are providing food for free for those who can’t afford it.

Amouage, the Omani luxury fragrance brand, is utilising its factories to manufacture hand sanitisers for the health sector in Oman. Though no one can visit the movie theatre for a while, Vox Cinemas in Al Jimi Mall, Al Ain, have sent out 250 packages of popcorn, nachos, and candy bars to the health workers at Al Ain hospital to thank them for their effort.

We see museums and art galleries providing virtual experiences for free for visitors to enjoy.

Sultan Al Qassemi, the Emirati art collector, columnist, and owner of Barjeel Art Foundation, has moved his Culture Majlis online. Every week, users from around the world could attend and participate in cultural dialogues with the different speakers that Mr Sultan hosts.

In a way, Mr Sultan has ensured that the learning process continues, and more people from around the world are educated about the region’s culture scene. Perhaps it is the most significant moment to do this as more of us have spare time to attend and benefit from such events.

It may take us a while to get back to a normal working day, but as we look to that time, we can now do this with a new more holistic purpose that benefits everyone.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi