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This article was released for publication by Howard Griffiths, MD SSC, South Africa’s longest established and privately owned Security and Investigations business. Howard emphasised that “without in any way whatsoever wanting to be patronising, the primary objective of the article is twofold.

Firstly, to share in outline, SSC’s own planning for post Covid 19 business survival – with those SSC clients and others who have either not yet begun the process due to lockdown, limited resources or other reasons or who, as was initially found by SSC, are finding it difficult , in the unprecedented circumstances, to arrive at a structured, comprehensive and disciplined approach that ensures all the necessary bases are covered.; and

Secondly, to assure SSC’s long standing and future clients that SSC is taking the overall adverse Covid 19 created circumstances seriously and is committed to positioning itself in the post Covid 19 period to continue providing the products and services which clients expect.

Background To The Coming Business Environment – When an Unprecedented Global Black Swan Event is accompanied, as in South Africa, by a Perfect Storm Situation

In the broadest terms, the holistic view of what has befallen, without exception, every country in the world and almost all businesses in those countries is an unprecedented catastrophic event with significant ramifications for health, social and economic situations. In the case of South Africa, this event and its ramifications  were preceded by an already seriously adverse economic situation with a recession looming. In the aftermath of the pandemic, South Africa will be facing a perfect economic, social and health storm as the aggregate impact of the continuing adverse circumstances have to be dealt with.

The Covid 19 virus pandemic has caused , according to many media reports, what will qualify in history as one of , if not the greatest , economic, social and health setbacks ever experienced by humanity. It qualifies in every respect as a true Black Swan event.

Planning for the Aftermath

The management of all businesses in South Africa of whatever size and whether or not operations have continued during the lockdown, are surely applying their minds to the critical need to plan now for business survival after the Covid 19 pandemic and the return of normality. But it is increasingly evident that normality will not be the same as it was prior to the Covid 19 pandemic. SSC’s own experience together with extensive media coverage of the topic, predicts that in many respects although not all, the new business environment and the enforced changes to business operations and risks to be faced will require a total reset and will be in uncharted territory.

SSC has discovered that the post Covid 19 planning for survival process which might have seemed to be quite straight forward – something like the standard annual strategic planning process update, was anything but that because, although the process milestones might remain similar and business risk has always been evolutionary and dynamic, the acquisition of the necessary input information concerning identifiable trends and the likely business environment to be faced after the pandemic is over has been challenging. In the unprecedented, catastrophic global Covid 19 generated circumstances now being faced, the overall exercise is proving to be something quite unique.

Admittedly, SCC’s management initially found itself to be out of its depth – despite years of accumulated in depth knowledge and experience of the SSC business and traditional operating environment -and that additional, independent, unbiased professional input was essential to complete the process. Howard confirmed, “the situation foreseen and the approach finally now being followed by SSC, was found to be analogous to a mature business establishing itself uniquely in a new geographic situation and planning or reviewing and rethinking all formerly proven aspects of the historical business operations from scratch for all the new, albeit guesstimated, projected situations in a new market which itself is dynamic.

This will not mean, for SSC, that management will just defensively or re-actively respond to external and apparently overwhelmingly adverse circumstances. There will still be the primary responsibility to meet client expectations and proactively drive the business objectives as usual within the constraints imposed by the seriously considered assessment of the new uncharted territory circumstances.”

SSC’s Now Chosen Planning Approach

SSC is aware that its basic operations are consultancy and service based with a heavy emphasis on broad security and due diligence risk related investigations .The assets are its staff and associates, local, regional and worldwide income generating associate memberships, customer base, annuity contracts and income, retained income, debtors, brand, reputation and going concern credentials and specialist internal and customer facing operational software. Fixed assets are minimal and there are no supply chain, manufacturing, raw materials, warehousing, finished goods or other material inter-dependencies which directly impact survival. However, these latter issues do significantly impact many client operations and therefore do have a material influence on traditional and expected client usage of SSC’s products and services.

SSC’s post Corona planning, currently a work in progress and to the extent possible, must take cognisance of its own projected operating circumstances and those of its individual clients. It must also incorporate a higher than usual level of flexibility to cater for the expected iterative return to normality and dynamic nature of the post Covid 19 business environment and the inherent risks.

SSC has divided the planning exercise into four discreet sections. For each of these sections extensive media and other open source information has been gathered to supplement in-house and external experience and input. In some cases the links overlap different Sections because they have before and after content. Extracting relevant data and information and deriving specific takeaways for SSC planning – which remains proprietary – will be different for other types of businesses and their specific circumstances. For this reason links to carefully curated published information which best generally encapsulates the circumstances for each section have been included with each section below. SSC saw this as a necessary educational and platform building process leading up to the Section 4 process.

1. The Known Operating Environment before Covid 19 – the Essential Need to Understand What the Situation Was Before the Corona Pandemic Began  See also in Section 3 below

2. The Covid 19 Black Swan Event and Trends During The Lockdown – What Has Been The Impact On Business And What New Circumstances Are Being Or Have Been Created Which Must Now Be Addressed

3. The Projected Operating Environment (The Impact of a Global Black Swan Event Coupled To A Perfect Storm Situation) After the Lockdown Restrictions Are Lifted and What Strategy and Plans Must Be In Place for Survival in This New Environment

It is now well known that imposing the lockdowns internationally was a relatively straightforward exercise i.e. relative to the significantly more difficult search for the best exit strategy which will restart economies without the risk of any resurgence of the disease. as-economy-after-covid-19/

4. How The Survival Plan Will Be Constructed And How To Ensure All The Bases Are Covered.

Many will share SSC’s view that Section 4 decisions will remain a work in progress until certainty is reached about when and how authorities in South Africa will announce their exit plan. The consensus reached in the media appears to confirm the exit will be staggered over several months with some residual precautions imposed , perhaps for a further 12 months, until a proven vaccine is available.

It is quite obvious that planners must be fully conversant with Government’s Covid 19 strategy in presentation form which has been published and made available here in the link below:

SSC intends to aggregate all the takeaway lessons from the information gathered in Sections 1to 3 above as the basis for its revised operating Strategy and Plans going forward. The links provided in this Section 4 – especially the PWC diagnostic tool – provide guidance on exactly which questions must be posed and which answers are necessary to cover all known or anticipated events and situations.

NB: Either of the above two links can be used to access PWC’s diagnostic tool to measure business readiness. It also prompts the right questions to ask and can be used as the key navigator towards structuring an appropriate post Covid 19 focused plan.

Many will share SSC’s view that Section 4 decisions will remain a work in progress until certainty is reached about when and how authorities in South Africa will announce their exit plan. The consensus reached in the media appears to confirm the exit will be staggered over several months with some residual precautions imposed , perhaps for a further 12 months, until a proven vaccine is available.