Early this year I came across a Facebook post asking for advice on how to keep businesses thriving during COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews.

My first thought was that it’s time to turn around and burn the proverbial comfort zone box. Looking ahead, it was also clear that we’re going to be in a constant state of change for at least 3 years given that Kenya is having general elections in 2022.

How then can you lead your business from crisis to thriving in such a situation?

The solution: This calls for quick response leadership where you pivot fast to match the changing environment. Over time and with experience, you will learn to anticipate change and pivot before the change arrives.

This was the focus of a Masterclass I taught in October 2020 titled Leading in Crisis. The aim of this class was to help business owners learn how to start acting NOW so that they can SURVIVE the pandemic and THRIVE in the future.

All the people who took part in this class survived the lockdowns. Some are at a better place despite being in industries that were negatively affected by the pandemic.

I summarized the Masterclass in a short post that I shared in the Facebook group where someone had asked for advice. That’s what I’ve expanded on here in this blog post.

Quick response leadership is not easy, but it is learnable. The information in Leading in Crisis is as applicable today as it was then. In fact, it may be more useful at this time because most businesses are now feeling the real impact of this pandemic.

So without further ado, here’s…

How to Lead Through Crisis and Ensure Business Survival During Tough Times

If you want to survive the pandemic and thrive in the future, there are 3 key areas you need to work on right now.

1. Your Mindset

Your mindset is a key factor if you want to bounce back powerfully. When your mindset is right, you will work your way through any challenge or find opportunities even in the most trying times.

For example, the day the first COVID-19 case in Kenya was announced, one of my clients who is a trainer had about 65 clients. By that evening, she had zero.

We had to have a crisis coaching session that night at 8:00pm to get her mindset right.

  • In less than an hour, she came up with a new plan that would run virtually and sent a WhatsApp message to her clients.
  • By 9:30pm the same night, 14 of her clients had come back and paid a little bit extra for the new plan.
  • By the end of that week, most of her former clients were back AND they brought referrals.

She actually made more money during the lockdown than she used to when working physically!

On my side, I now had a new problem because she got so busy that she didn’t have time for her coaching sessions! But that’s the kind of problem I celebrate.

I know this kind of solution may not work for all industries. But I’ve shared it as an example to show that having the right mindset will work wonders.

If you want to find out more about mindset shifts, here are some blog posts with additional tips:

Sample Mindset Checklist

  • Lead by example with your own mindset and actions (business and personal).
  • Focus on helping or guiding at least one person each week. This can be business-related or not.
  • Examine your skillset and which skills will make the most impact and amplify them.
  • Connect with your customers & team personally on phone or Zoom.
  • Have open channels for communication while maintaining strong boundaries.
  • Address mindset issues before looking at challenges.
  • Focus on major challenges you can help with before moving to the little things.
  • Think about how you can leverage your team’s skills in new ways.

This is your time to step up and serve in whatever way you can. While mindset doesn’t have an immediate impact on business survival, as a leader you are uniquely positioned to help, guide, and serve. This will work in your favour in the long term.

2. Cashflow Management

Cashflow is the lifeline of any business and it’s critical to business survival at all levels. Hard as it is to believe, being in a crisis is actually the best time to set measures that take care of your cashflow when things ease up.

Here are some key things to work on to ensure continued business survival now and in the future.

Projected Revenue

  • What’s your current projected revenue over the next 6 months?
  • How will different scenarios affect that projection?

Projected Costs

  • What are your current costs?
  • How do you anticipate your costs changing?
  • If you’re not on a salary, how much do you need for your personal expenses?
  • Can you scale down your personal expenses and keep as much money as you can for the business?


  • What are you currently owed and by whom?
  • How will you collect it?
  • What are your payment terms?
  • Do you need to make your payment terms stricter or close some loopholes?
  • Are your customers able, willing, and ready to pay you?

Payables and Debts

  • What do you owe others (e.g. suppliers, loans, leases, unpaid salaries and wages, employees you had to let go, etc)?
  • Can you renegotiate and get more favourable payment terms?
  • Which debts do you need to clear faster so as to reduce high interest rates?

Revenue Challenges

  • Will you be discounting prices?
  • Is it necessary to discount or can you skate through at the same prices?
  • How do you anticipate sales volume and the number of customers who will be affected negatively by the crisis?

Cost Reduction

  • Where can you cut costs without impacting quality negatively?
  • Where can you cut people costs (e.g. work from home, fewer hours, and/or pay cuts)?
  • What roles can be merged?
  • Are there people you need to let go of? Who are they and how will you do it?

Revenue Opportunities

  • Is there potential to increase sales? Where?
  • Where is there potential to create new offers?
  • How can you repurpose existing assets?

Many entrepreneurs fear looking at cashflow especially when business is slow. You can’t afford to ignore it this time because you need to identify the impact this crisis will have on your revenue.

Since I’m not a financial expert, I can only guide you as to what they need to look out for or work on. Book a meeting with your team and accountant or financial advisor and have this difficult but very necessary conversation.

3. People and Work Environment

This key area can be divided into:

  • Your customers or clients.
  • Your team or employees.
  • The work environment.

Customers or Clients

The needs and desires of your customers have changed due to the personal, economic and health crises brought about by COVID-19.

  • How are your customers responding to the current environment?
  • How is their current financial stability?
  • Which of your products or services do they need most right now?
  • Which products or services are not needed or have become redundant?
  • Do they consider your products or services necessary or a luxury?

Also, there are people who may not have been negatively affected by the pandemic, but they are now making different choices. That will have an impact on your business depending on which side they lean on.

Your Team

One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear from employees is that their bosses and employers have become tyrants.

Work has increased, but productivity has gone down. Additionally, there seem to be no time boundaries. People are having to work long hours and be available during their free time.

  • How are your employees affected personally & collectively by the situation?
  • Do they have the skills they need to adapt?
  • Do you need more people resources or less?
  • If less, how will you handle declaring redundancies and letting people go? Will you need the help of a lawyer or HR expert?
  • If you’re letting some people go, how will you motivate the remaining ones? Remember, they are scared about job losses and also have to work extra.
  • How well are you, the leader, handling time boundaries? I certainly hope that you’re not one of those who are taking advantage and expecting your employees to be available at all times!

You need to be in touch with what your team and customers need from you now. These needs may be different from what they needed this time last year.

Your team also needs to adapt fast to the customers’ needs and ever-changing business environment.

Some shifts are so rapid that they seem to happen overnight. If you don’t have your ears on the ground you may end up missing some key opportunities or information!


Finally, your work environment must match these shifts.

  • Do you need a physical office anymore?
  • Is your business set up to work from home?
  • Are your team members set up to work remotely?
  • What challenges are you facing if you’re working remotely?
  • For those who are working from home fully or partially, it’s important to enhance the home environment for optimum performance. This is a cost for your business and not for the employee(s).

You also need to ensure that those working from home are actually working.

  • Some of those working from home are doing more than one job and priority is given to the job with strict reporting and monitoring.
  • Others are doing the bare minimum…even less than they would if they had to go to a physical office!
  • There’s also the additional challenge of having children and other people in the house, which reduces productivity.

All these need to be taken into consideration so that you maintain a highly productive and effective team. However, you should take care not to spend more of your time policing your employees instead of leading them.

Once you have a clear picture of your customers, team, and work environment, you can then prioritize what to work on first.

To-Do List for People and Environment

  • Talk to some customers and find out their needs.
  • Evaluate your team and make critical decisions. 
  • Evaluate your work environment and that of your team.
  • Prioritize what to work on first. Then DO IT!
  • Continue evaluating your list periodically so that you have the latest information.

What’s next for you?

I hope these tips are helpful if you were wondering, “Where do I even start?”

The good thing is that once you start working on your list, it will be more of maintenance than having to go through this whole process again. Best of all, you’ll now have a clear idea of your business health at your fingertips.

Also, keep in mind that your business may not thrive right now. It might actually get worse. Sadly, some businesses will go under.

However, you can do something with the time you have so that you recover or make a change that will take care of the bills now and after this crisis is over. This evaluation may also give you an indication of whether it’s time to wrap up your business before you get into too much debt.

This may look like a lot of work, and it is at the beginning. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this information, here’s some help from my side:

  • Leading in Crisis has been packaged into a 3-week self-paced e-course. It’s the original Masterclass so you get to learn directly from me and also get ideas from the participants. Contact me if you’re interested and I’ll send you the link to purchase it.
  • You can also book a Discovery Call if you want to find out how working with a Business Coach can help you move from business survival to thriving.

In the meantime…I’d love to hear from you.

  • How is your business doing?
  • Have you survived and even thrived during the pandemic or another crisis?
  • What did you try that didn’t work?
  • What did you do that worked?
  • How would you advise someone whose business has been hit hard by the lockdowns and curfews?

Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the Comments below.

(Image credit: Pexels.com)

Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at Biashara 360. She's an avid blogger and also oversees our content creation. This ensures that we give our readers quality and well researched information and tips.

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