By Ashley Goodall.
At this challenging time what kind of activities are businesses undertaking in Iraq and how are they doing things differently?
In canvassing Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) members, we found a consistent pattern of adaptation and response across the membership which can be summarized in three headings:
- Firstly, taking care of staff and looking after their well-being and income. Members recognize that employees are the most valuable element in a business, and for those who wish to sustain their businesses longer term, employee care is top of the list, with regular online calls and management videos to support people working at distance. Ultimately this is good leadership and communications.
- Secondly, Technical adaptation: in supporting employees and clients, businesses are undertaking various adaptations, mainly the move to work from home and using online technology to enable this. Often, home video conferences and use of Skype/Teams or Zoom are the first time these systems have been used and should well lead to longer term benefits and changes. In this way businesses are becoming more flexible and productive delivering work and client activities.
- Finally, Communication: those who work with clients are spending more time supporting them online, especially where an intangible service such as Insurance, Banking or Consultancy are concerned. Communicating, regularly and constantly is key to retaining and supporting client business for the short and long term.
One of the most proactive is Sardar Group who tell us:
"Due to the present lock down across all the cities we operate in Iraq, all our companies are working from home.
"Business, which was very busy until the 14th March 2020, has suddenly come to a halt and effected all our business big time by stopping all the operations and thereby stopped all turnover.
"To support our employees, we have Group-wide travel restrictions that are updated regularly based on changing conditions and on advice from governments and health ministries. As well as ensuring that we meet all local regulatory authority requirements, we have instituted additional measures such as reduced face-to-face meetings, working from home, split teams and locations, and cancelling or delaying community events.
"We are arranging salary payment to all the employees in regular intervals subject to the governments relaxing the lock downs. Many companies are unable to pay for salaries, but Sardar Group is planning to support our employees for a longer period of time."
John Goering of Constellis says:
"Our primary business in supporting the Oil & Gas industry in southern Iraq continues to function. With our staffing, we have adopted a one in one out system, so the majority of the staff in now are probably in for a bit of a long haul. We are operating at full capacity, but remain flexible to our clients' needs and dispositions, it's challenging times for sure!"
Sara Safa Kasim, MD of Al-Maseer Insurance, quotes:
"We are working from home and at a distance - and have put new systems in place to support that. Enjoyably, we are also connecting more with clients to support them at this time."
Mike Douglas of SKA said:
"We stand firm in the face of adversity and get the job done. These combined challenges just make us more determined to succeed. Fuel supplies are vital to industry, transport and power generation and we will keep them flowing.
"Of note, the vital dredging we just completed during the curfew, guarantees that the biggest cargos on LR2 vessels, are not stalled; before we started, that size of ship had never been seen in the river. The company was built on the motto of "doing difficult jobs in difficult places" and now, more than ever, that is true.'
"We thank all our local and expatriate staff, and the Iraq Government, for their steadfast support and cooperation. We realize that it is not easy to be away from homes and families in these challenging times, but together we will continue to ensure that the Iraqi people get what they need to overcome these daily challenges. We hope and pray that SKA as a company and Iraq as a nation will emerge stronger at the end of all this."
Shehad Khudairi from the Khudairi Group reports:
"We are looking into various options such as online ordering and delivery (via Miswag). At the moment, Iraq is essentially shut down, so we are trying to find ways to continue to do business.
"We are communicating internally a lot more and trying to keep morale high in a very uncertain time, via video messages. Additionally, we are trying to keep the employees as safe as possible with our HSE team. Each branch has to report daily on every single touch point of the offices.
"The HSE team is most useful to our business to ensure the safety of our employees. Additionally, being flexible on how we work and our personnel are key to ensuring we are able to ride this out."
Raed Hanna of Mutual Finance, tells of how technology and online communications via Skype and Hangouts are enabling new ways to communicate for them with video conferences and virtual meetings.
Finally, Phil Malem of Serco Middle East says:
"Patients in hospitals rely on us now more than ever. We are preparing for peaks in demand and implementing infection screening and control measures across the healthcare facilities we work in.
"Citizens still need to get from A to B and our frontline staff are committed to keeping vital infrastructure operating. Our business continuity planning and workforce management ensures that sickness leaves of absence do not affect the operational efficiency or experience of those using a service.
"Residents should feel like everything possible is being done to protect them and where we operate in real estate or the higher education space, disinfection is a key priority. Escalating cleaning and sanitisation programmes is increasing confidence within the communities across the facilities we support.
"Across all sectors we operate in, it is our responsibility to ensure all staff are educated and trained on good hygiene practice and understand how they can do their bit to limit the spread of this disease. Increased sanitisation programmes across company provided accommodation and transportation have been introduced. Staff health is being monitored daily with various programmes, including temperature checking, which provides an early warning of the onset of any fever related conditions."
The upshot of all this is that challenging times bring out the best of best management practice:
Do the right things and look after and care for your people, as they are your most valuable asset. Find new ways to adapt and communicate with them, deploy new technology, and ensure your communications are working harder to support clients and staff alike.
While times are challenging, it could be a time to upskill, build in resilience and make your business even more productive for the long term. The future will be different.
(Source: Ashley Goodall, IBBC)