International Business and the Coronavirus


The coronavirus outbreak has certainly affected our lives and our businesses. Sectors like luxury and construction are suffering severe decreases in demand, paired with the obligation to shut down stores.

Meanwhile, medical suppliers are finding themselves unable to meet an abrupt rise in demand, and there’s the fear of drug shortages after lockdowns threatened the international supply chain.

What should we do in this context? How could an international business continue to operate during this crisis? And what sacrifices do we need to make to keep ourselves, our customers and our colleagues safe?

We aren’t short on information about the coronavirus. Our problem is an excess of contradictory information from less-than-reliable sources. So, our first challenge is cutting through the noise. We might be eager to give some reassurance to stakeholders. To do so, we need to understand the role we play, communicate responsibly and clearly, and don’t add up to the noise.

Becoming purpose-driven

Don’t lose your identity. Your agenda should be congruent with your day-to-day activities, reflecting the “why” behind your company’s operations. If you”re in the business of providing security (through antivirus software, for instance), how can you communicate that function during the crisis? Who will need you the most? How can you help them?

Your communication efforts should have your company’s mission at its core. Think beyond your product, reflect on what your brand means and the value it creates on a day-to-day basis.

Rethinking your marketing

According to a recent study from IAS, 54% of users believe that ads from travel, food and beverage, banking, automotive and retail companies should not appear beside COVID-19 content. While making sure a website’s ads match its content is a responsibility of publishers and advertising networks, as advertisers, we should understand that it’s not the right time for aggressive marketing tactics. Instead, we should use our platforms and communication channels to offer support and a sense of security. Conservative, low-budget communication methods will come across as more honest than anything too costly or premeditated.

Addressing your supply chain

One of the main areas of concern regarding the effect of the coronavirus on the economy has to do with supply chain interruption. For instance, the U.K. government published a list of resources and possible ways to resolve supply chain interruptions or handle international projects.

Reach out to international partners, not only with your needs but also with an eagerness to help them navigate the crisis. Reliable online business translation services can be crucial, helping us maintain effective and sensitive cross-cultural communication. Speaking your partners’ language is always an effective way to let them know that you care. Sending a flawlessly translated message of support can make you stand out as a loyal and constructive partner.

Aside from correspondence, there are two types of documents you might need to translate if you operate at an international scale:

Press releases, in which you make your policies public, and, if you have employees and subsidiaries in other countries, manuals, guides and recommended procedures. Keeping your internal communications effective is key to keeping your business operative during the crisis.

Shutting down locations

Establishments such as grocery stores might do more harm than good by shutting down. But other businesses need to do so. Some are within very affected areas. Others will go the extra mile to make sure they don’t put their employees at risk.

Deciding whether your business should shut down might carry financial concerns. Mitigating the financial effect of the epidemic could be possible through technology. Can you deliver orders? Could your customers shop online? Can you provide your services online?

But the financial concerns of shutting down are not exclusively yours. Your employees might also be concerned about the effect that being unable to work normally might have on their finances. Providing them the security and reassurance they need might be crucial to guarantee high morale during these trying times, and to keep them from making risky health decisions.

Companies across the world have implemented special policies to keep employees safe during the outbreak. Remote work (which we’ll discuss in the following section) is one of them. But, for instance, Starbucks is offering “catastrophe pay” to baristas exposed to COVID-19. Catastrophe pay helps make sure that employees who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus don’t decide to go to work regardless out of need.

Adopting remote work

Remote work is at the order of the day. Some companies have had to rush through what would have been months or years of preparation and training, in just a few days.

Digital transformation tends to be a long-winded, slow and progressive process powered by training and a throughout assessment of our options in terms of tools and processes. Compassion and understanding are key. The challenge of adopting a new work dynamic adds up to the stress of the crisis

How do we make it work? It’s worth remembering some remote work best practices:

  1. Transparent communication is vital.
  2. Have clearly set and organized tasks and schedules.
  3. For those members of your team who have “a maker’s schedule,”, as Paul Graham put it, workdays shouldn’t be an endless stream of Zoom meetings.
  4. Tools that save you time are good tools. Tools that waste your time should be replaced.

If you’ve already implemented some remote work policies, it might be the best time to test how those policies were adopted. Are some teams more adept at remote work than others? Is this locale-dependent or discipline-dependant?

Key takeaways

These might not be your most prosperous times. They surely haven’t been for industry titans in China and across the globe. During the outbreak, we can reaffirm our brand’s purpose and find a new way to continue providing what we’ve always provided: be it comfort, security or entertainment.

Be responsible and compassionate in the way you communicate. This might not be the right time to flood the internet with new flashy ads. Tweak your message so its content and tone don’t come across as insensitive or manipulative.

If your business operates internationally, keep your communications clear across locales, both internally and externally. An expert language service provider can make sure nothing is lost in translation.

Accommodating to the health choices your team has to make is crucial to keep stakeholders safe. And offering extraordinary benefits can be the difference between an employee going to work and spreading the virus, and an employee staying safe at home.

If your company adopts remote work, make sure you maintain productive dynamics. The best tools are those that you don’t have to think about a lot.

Be understanding of the stress that this outbreak might carry. Especially for those in risk groups. This might not be an opportunity to continue growing, and it might not facilitate aggressive expansion strategies or hyper-productivity. Instead, this is an opportunity to test your brand’s purpose and show, once more, how your business makes the world a better place.

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