14 May 2020 - Deborah Wilkes
Companies need a clear vision of how to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, says Reiner Christensen, chief executive officer of Germany’s Chameleon Pharma Consulting, and should prepare for future crises by identifying weaknesses in their business models.
Offering seven tips to help international companies survive the COVID-19 pandemic, Christensen also stresses the importance of securing your supply chain, digitalising your business, keeping your international partners and teams updated, and being flexible and responding quickly. Furthermore, he says you need to adapt to changes for doing business after COVID-19 (see below).
- Have a clear vision to overcome the COVID-19 crisis
- Identify possible weaknesses in your business model
- Ensure your supply chain by all means
- Digitalise your business
- Keep your international partners and teams updated
- Be flexible and respond quickly
- Adapt to changes for doing business after COVID-19
Christensen’s tips are based on 20 years of experience in the consumer healthcare industry with companies including Germany’s Merck Consumer Health, Belgium’s Omega Pharma, Denmark’s Ferrosan and Austria’s Richard Bittner. He has also worked on more than 100 international consulting projects with medium-sized OTC and pharmaceutical companies in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the US.
Have a clear vision to overcome the crisis
His first tip is to have a “clear vision to overcome the crisis”. “If leaders have a positive mindset and attitude, they will inspire others to overcome challenges,” he says. “Be realistic but positive and come up with a plan that your team and your international partner companies will buy into.”
He says it is a good time to analyse the potential for entering new markets and launching products as well as calculating the cost of taking your products into a new market after the end of the crisis.
You can start work on obtaining the required product registration or Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificates for entering new markets, he says. “Any product registration can be easily pushed forward via electronic processes,” he adds, noting that international travel is not necessary.
Furthermore, Christensen says you can identify new local partner companies to take products into new countries. “Companies have more time now to talk to you,” he adds, “and would always listen to good future cooperation offers for the end of 2020 or after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He also suggests that the time is right to spend time systematically identifying and analysing potential acquisition targets including products and companies.
Possible weaknesses in your business model
The second tip is to “consider possible weaknesses in your business model”. “Think about how you can adjust your business model to have fewer impacts from future crises,” he says.
“Do not depend too much on your home market,” he comments, advising that “a minimum of 70% of your sales should be generated in different regions of the world”.
He also says it is important for medium-sized players to “establish your international business in at least 15-20 countries within two, or better, three continents”. “This diversification will further support you in any financial dilemma,” he says.
Christensen also highlights the benefits of “diversifying your indications”. “Specialising in one indication might bring you a great business in good times,” he says, “but this is risky as well.”
Ensure your supply chain
His third tip is to “ensure your supply chain by all means”. “Delivery of goods and sourcing of raw materials is essential in these times,” he says, suggesting companies “find creative solutions for the supply chain”.
“Try inviting your partners in other countries to explore alternative delivery options,” adds Christensen. “Deliveries might be hit by delays, cancellations or losses, for example, so consider dividing bigger deliveries into two or three parts.”
Digitalise your business
The fourth tip is to “digitalise your business”. The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing companies to allow staff to work from home, he says, as well as adopt digital processes and use online meeting platforms more frequently than ever before. “It may be a good time to think about the future and digitalise your business,” he comments.
His fifth tip is to make sure your international teams and partners are kept up-to-date. “Regular updates are the key to success with your partners or subsidiaries in different countries,” he comments, adding that you need to “find a channel of communication that allows people to ask questions”.
Christensen suggests that you should give people “open and frequent updates about how the COVID-19 pandemic affects your joint businesses”.
“It is also important to find some positive aspects to report, even if they are small,” he adds. “This makes your partners in other countries feel that you value the relationship with them and are trying to make the best out of the situation.”
The sixth tip is to “be flexible and respond quickly”. “Any crisis requires flexible solutions,” he says, adding that it is “amazing to see how people can come together in emergencies”.
Prepare for future crises
Finally, the seventh tip is to “adapt to changes for doing business after the COVID-19 pandemic”. “New ways of doing business will not retreat after the pandemic,” he states.
He points out, for example, that many processes and business models have shifted online over the past few weeks. For example, Russia has just legalised the online sale of OTC medicines, says Christensen, adding that experts assume the push came from the COVID-19 pandemic.