Thousands of managers and executives around the world have a small plastic sign in their office, with the phrase “expect the unexpected.” But even the most creative mind could not foresee such a significant global event as the Corona epidemic.
Even the most extreme science fiction writer might sound a bit melodramatic if they describe a reality in which an unknown virus spreads to every country and continent, creating chaos and over 4 million patients, and governments adopting a home-quarantine policy that puts more than 2 billion people into domestic isolation, freezing the economy for months.
In business strategy, such a global crisis is categorized as an “unpredictable” event that no one could expect or prepare for. In such an event, the only thing a manager can truly know is how the company entered the crisis. Unfortunately, no one can really say how it will perform once the crisis is over.
A new reality
We are now living in a whole new era. Recently, after weeks of lockdown, multiple African countries started lifting restrictions, opening up economies and workplaces. While going outside, returning to work, and soon (hopefully) having cultural events, we all face many restrictions, risks, and dare I say – opportunities.
The first decision we made at Ignite Power (and which I recommend all business executives to think about) is not to address the new situation as a “temporary phase”. Taking this approach under heavy consideration, we are investing great efforts and resources to adapt our operations to the new needs and requirements.
We are all excited to see the employees return to work gradually, from office staff at the headquarters to agents in the most remote villages. The weeks of lockdown were not easy for any business or employee, but we are now full of optimism more than ever before; According to the levels of employee motivation, new collaborations, market maturity, and increasing demand for solar solutions, we are on our way not just to re-ignite operations, but to a tremendous year and an even bigger impact.
Alongside the joy and excitement of seeing the employees back in the office and on the field, we take great care of all hygiene restrictions. We are also adjusting the nature of the field agent’s interaction with customers, developing new products and practices, and conducting repeated checks on the health of employees.
The Corona crisis and the lockdown policy are not yet an anecdote in history books. While many governments are now fading out the restrictions, in the future we expect more outbreaks of the virus, resulting in repeated closures. The hope is that those will be limited to only certain areas and short periods of time, enough to stop the virus from spreading widely. Therefore, we must adapt our activities to the new reality. This is not a simple challenge for any company, especially for off-grid solar operations: Smart adjustments, creative thinking, and resilience will significantly improve the chances of successfully dealing with the unclear future.
As mentioned, alongside the difficulties and challenges, there are significant opportunities. Our greatest pride as a company are the employees, who have returned to work charged with extremely high motivation and energy. The village agents, HQ employees, executives, and the most senior strategic investors are all focused, imbued with a sense of mission and filled with a strong desire to lead the solar sector towards the future, taking notice to the important part our sector has in the new shaping reality.
The reasons for optimism go beyond the company. Collaborations among the various stakeholders are thriving, customer demand is increasing every day, and the entire sector has matured during the crisis, with many companies now presenting a more established, sustainable business vision.
The solar sector has a central place in this new era, and it is our responsibility to realize the potential and maximize the impact on the lives of as many people as possible.
These were challenging weeks for all of us. Seeing employees coming back to the office, wash their hands, put on the vest, and go out to the village, to connect one more family to home electricity for the first time, has never been more exciting. The sense of mission and motivation of the employees is not taken for granted: It is the true power that will lead Ignite and the entire sector to an astonishing year, impacting the lives of millions all over Africa.
First published: The New Times