Navigating the business impact of COVID-19

The Verdane support guide for business leaders

Daily status updates on COVID-19 measures

Download our overview, updated daily by Verdane’s COVID-19 coordinator Christian Melgaard, of government information links alongside an overview of economic and public health measures across Scandinavia, the UK and Germany.

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Best practice guides

We will continuously update and share operational support guides that we have distributed to our portfolio companies below. Check in regularly for the latest content.

Adjusting your marketing activities to the challenging market situation

 

How our portfolio companies can help

Connecting COVID-19 relevant talent with organisations supporting the relief effort

Talentech has created a job portal for Norwegian health care and relief positions that need to be filled during the COVID-19 crisis, and Cool Company has done the same for Swedish schools and hospitals.

Handling supply chain management disruption

Scanmarket is offering customers a free period (with no obligations afterwards) of their Supply Base Management module, for companies to get through the Covid-19 crisis.

Keeping the Swedish restaurant industry alive

Trivec Buddy helps stave off restaurant industry bankruptcies in the wake of COVID-19 by offering guests a simple way to select and pay for their orders (including takeout) directly in their phone. An important step in keeping some of the global economies hardest-hit industries on its feet.

Helping the public communicate with regional health authorities

Staff at Zisson have been working weekends to get the Norwegian pandemic hotline up and running, as well as training staff to handle call volumes and improve service. Zisson is also providing crisis communications solutions packages and support to Norwegian regional health authorities and municipalities.

Getting your annual report done on time

Clausion is offering price reductions for businesses who need to finalise annual reports but have been hit by COVID-19 related absences. Reach out if you are a Finnish company in need of support.

Further developing your skillset from home

StudyTube has made over 250 online trainings and 500 microlearnings available for free via their Learn Together until the end of April for Dutch residents

 

COVID-19 is sending shockwaves through the global economy, and each business ends up facing unique challenges as a result.

Whilst it is impossible to provide a one-size-fits all solution, below are the general insights, tips and principles we are sharing with all our portfolio companies as a starting point for deciding how to deal with COVID-19.

Given the rapidity with which circumstances continue to develop, any analysis must be viewed in the light that even fresh data ages quickly. As in any crisis, no guarantee can be made for the ultimate outcome, but the more we collaborate and share knowledge, the bigger the chance that we all emerge victorious on the other side.

 

What we are seeing so far

Our team conducts weekly surveys to assess the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on our portfolio. Whilst responses are not directly comparable between weeks due to slight variations in who responds, they provide a snapshot indication of what the situation looks like for a subsegment of the economy at the time data was collected. The latest survey was conducted in week 13 (March 23-29).

E-commerce reports are a mixed bag – essential goods businesses (food, pharma and cosmetics for example) that deliver to your door in nations where postal services may still be relied on by businesses, report strong online sales. Others, who are affected by stringent lockdowns (mostly in continental Europe), report both sales and supply chain disruption. Even with China up and running again, there are reported delays and worries of future supply chain disruption.

All holdings report disruption to labour and operations from sick leave or decreased efficiency from working at home, with the added strain of massive order increases requiring added manpower for the businesses finding themselves in high demand from stay-at-home citizens. Physical retail is taking crippling hits, and businesses are cutting orders to reduce inventory risk where sales are significantly down due to societal shutdown. Expectations exist of an upswing in online sales generally, where lockdowns permit delivery, if the spread of COVID-19 does not slow down.

Advanced Industrial holdings were the amongst the first aware of COVID-19’s impact due to supply chains and sales in the APAC region, but now report a lower impact on sales than previously. 50% now report ‘some’ or ‘large’ effects on sales vs. 75% one week ago, with the remaining reporting a ‘slight’ effect. Labour and operations, as for software and e-commerce, have become more impacted since week 12. No advanced industrial holdings now report ‘large’ effects on supply chain and vendors, but over 80% do report ‘some’ effect.

Sticky revenue models are protecting sales for a number of software businesses, but software is continuing to increasingly feel the impact of delayed investment decisions, prospective clients focusing on companies they already have a relation to and staff working from home or being on sick leave. For certain software companies with a positive connection to consumer market activity, revenues have been hit hard where affected by shutdowns in travel, tourism, and hotel, restaurant and café (HoReCa) business.

As businesses get over the initial shock, more are realising that digital tools are required to keep navigating the market and drive in revenues – which may drive an upswing later in lead generation in the weeks to come. For now, software businesses as a rule expect very little new business, higher potential churn as businesses shut down or reduce OPEX, and late payments as companies hoard cash.

 

 

 

As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we do well to keep in mind that big shifts in power and between players often occur after a crisis. It’s a tough ask, but whilst you navigate present realities, you also need to plan for how to take market share and grow both during and after the crisis.

 

 

Business and leadership principles to keep in mind

Don’t overpromise. Impress on all employees the gravity of the situation. There is nothing to gain in downplaying the possible effects COVID-19 may have on your business. Stay calm and collected, gather data, assess it, reflect and then act. Remember that leadership done right at this time can forge a team more united than ever post-crisis.

Overcommunicate. Uncertainty and fear of what lies ahead can be at least partially assuaged through transparent, regular and trustworthy communication. Better too much, than too little.

Defend against revenue decline. Take a customer-centric view to this situation – how will you build trust, loyalty and market share through and beyond this crisis?

Generate antifragility through strategic optionality. Systematically pursue ambitious projects with limited downsides and large, open-ended upsides. Options, any options, by allowing you more upside than downside, are vectors of antifragility. This is why you lead generate and pursue growth projects even when your organisation is at capacity. That way whatever happens, all you have to do is evaluate the option once you have all the information and make a rational decision.

Play offense, not just defence. Define how you will outperform competitors and take share through and beyond the crisis. Prepare for ‘bounce-back’ and recovery. Plan for and leverage a ‘leap-frog’ change in customer behaviours.

 

Actions to take right now

Protect and give purpose. Provide clear policies and guidelines, ensure transparent two-way communications, monitor issues on a near real-time basis, with rapid response and track adherence to policies.

Hoard cash and review your cash runway. You need it to stay competitive and to come out guns blazing as the dust settles. Draw on generous government support, review your financial setup and – if the option is available to you – talk to your investors! Do you really have as much runway as you think? Could you withstand a few poor quarters if the economy sputters?

Review your sales forecasts. Shift forecasting focus to daily updates, if necessary. Even if you don’t see any direct or immediate exposure for your company, anticipate that your customers may revise their spending habits. Deals that seemed certain may not close. At this time, you don’t need to hit annual budget targets – just stay ahead of the competition.

Secure whatever revenue you can and cut costs to the bone. Where can you trim your expenses without fundamentally hurting the business? Set up a revenue team if you need to in order to secure the strength of order commitments and drive in every last bit of revenue outstanding.

Consider the impact on fundraising. Private financings could soften significantly, as happened in 2001 and 2009. What would you do if fundraising on attractive terms proves difficult in 2020 and 2021?

Sequoia Capital, Bain and McKinsey have all produced thought leadership that have contributed to parts of this section of our guide, and that make for useful further reading.