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Surviving the Pandemic: 6 Lessons from China

This article was written by Shūmiàn's China experts.

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Published by Shūmiàn 书面

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China didn’t make it through the pandemic of Covid-19 unscathed. Just as we have seen in other countries, the Asian giant’s economy has also been strongly hit by the novel coronavirus and its effects. Nonetheless, forecasts from specialized organizations show that China, unlike others, will likely keep growing in 2020. With the virus now largely under control, most Chinese citizens have been allowed to emerge from quarantine and move toward establishing economic normalcy. Below, we have gathered a few lessons from China that can help us to not only survive the pandemic, but also consider how to move forward in the near future 

  • 1. Share information

Building an open, direct, and consistent relationship with employees is the fundamental basis for good leadership. In difficult times, it becomes even more important to maintain an open channel for communication with your team, sharing perceptions, and aiming to build plans and solutions as a group. In China, online communication apps have been used extensively to share information on the crisis in real-time and keep teams in sync. This is a positive habit and should be maintained after the pandemic is over 

  • 2. Establish initiatives for cooperation

It’s worth remembering that the present moment of this crisis isn’t challenging only to your company—but also to your suppliers, customers, and of course, competitors, who are all also experiencing difficulties. To overcome these common problems, it can be helpful to establish new channels of communication with other initiatives, strengthen already existing channels, and search for creative ways to cooperate. In China, large and small companies have worked together to build solutions in the face of the pandemic. In the rest of the world, this approach is also possible. 

  • 3. Make good use of digital tools

Diversifying sales channels is a matter of survival during the pandemic. The current situation demands quick and efficient digital transformations from companies. Social media, e-commerce websites, and delivery services can help guarantee that your enterprise will continue to run smoothly. Practices such as working from home should also be adopted if possible, with clear rules and expectations between those involved. In China, the merging of social networks, working from home, and e-commerce has already become an established and successful practice.

  • 4. Train your team

Crises are times of high unpredictability. Surviving requires your team to be prepared to react quickly and with the flexibility to new challenges that will frequently arise. The Chinese companies that have best endured the impact of the pandemic are those that have been able to foresee obstacles and quickly implement strategies to avoid or overcome them. To do so, a well-trained team is essential—both in terms of strategic planning and reacting to adversities.

  • 5. Create a safe work environment

Adopt novel coronavirus containment measures in the workplace. Keep your employees well informed on daily safety measures through flyers or e-mails. Add hand sanitizer in strategic places around the office and, if possible, measure employees’ temperatures on a daily basis. These measures will create confidence that your company is aware of the team’s health and signal positively to your customers that the business is taking all the necessary measures. In China, these have become common practices in small and medium-sized businesses, with temperature measurements and health check statuses monitored through apps. 

  • 6. Plan for the future

Many Chinese companies have recovered quickly after the relative containment of Covid-19 in the country. Without the foresight to begin strategizing even during the crisis about how to deal with losses caused by the pandemic and how to best prepare for the future, this quick recovery certainly wouldn’t have been possible. From now on, begin to form strategies for how to thrive in the “new normal,” be it through restructuring your business, creating strategies to push sales, or fostering initiatives to show that you value your suppliers and local partners. 

The pandemic has accelerated the urgency for changes to the ways we relate and do business. This is a challenging moment, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises that must find ways to survive the many obstacles they face in the present and future. Sometimes, solutions can be found in-house. At other times, however, answers can come from afar. In this case, from China—proof that it is possible to overcome the crisis and even create something new in situations of adversity. Chinese businessmen and women have had to learn overnight how to adapt their companies and accept that unpredictability will now be a permanent fixture of daily life. By taking note of their responses, we can also find solutions to face our own challenges.

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