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Managing a Global Team through a Global Crisis

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We, like many of you, are working hard to continue operations and keep our people safe in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. An added challenge for us is that our team is spread out around the world, and our headquarters sits right in the middle of the current epicenter.

To prepare and respond to the evolving crisis, our offices in New York City, Myanmar, and Turkey started moving to teleworking on March 12th and fully transitioned on March 18th, 2020. This was made possible by the excellent work of my colleagues whose fast action allowed us to swiftly develop operational and program plans to keep us going, keep us healthy, and do our part to keep others safe.

Below is an overview of how we are managing, and what’s next for us at Building Markets.

As a first step, we set the following 4 principles that are guiding our global team:

  1. We will prioritize our people and their families and especially those who are vulnerable to this global pandemic.
  2. Beyond our team, our concern is for the communities in which we operate, including our partners, stakeholders, and the wider public.
  3. We will maintain clear, regular and transparent communications with our colleagues and our partners.
  4. If it can be done safely, we will continue Building Markets’ important work, while adjusting for this unique environment.

In regard to that last principle, one of our biggest challenges is making telework actually work for us. Here are some of the tactics we’ve adopted:

  • Maintaining normal working hours, but encouraging everyone to take breaks, exercise, and get fresh air when they can (while practicing physical distancing).
  • Moving all regular internal and external meetings to Zoom or Skype and using video wherever possible. Seeing each other can leave less room for miscommunication and helps us stay connected.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open, internally and externally. In particular, connecting frequently with colleagues to collaborate. This takes time, especially at first, but we are making it a priority.
  • We are working to ensure clear guidance is in place that will help our colleagues carry out their roles effectively, including adjusting work plans where needed.
  • We have outfitted our teams with the necessary supplies and technology to work from home to reduce unnecessary stress and optimize time.

What’s next for our programs? 

Our work is very service focused, so teleworking is pushing us to think about how we can best engage our network of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), buyers, investors, and other partners during the weeks and months ahead. As a start, we are taking our in-person matchmaking and other events online where we will continue to engage via apps like Zoom, and Facebook and Instagram Live. Similarly, our surveying, training, and other business development efforts will move to video and phone calls. Fortunately, we have existing technology in place, including our matchmaking and online training platforms, which will continue to support our efforts.

We still don’t know what the economic implications of this pandemic are going to be. But we know that small businesses will be hit very hard. As we did during the Ebola crisis in Liberia, we will be leveraging our ability to quickly collect data to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our network of local businesses. We will use our findings to improve our own strategies and we hope they will also be valuable to others who will be developing economic response plans that include SMEs. We will also be carefully following demand so we can connect our SMEs to opportunities where they emerge.

In addition, on an ongoing basis, our team will be sharing resources on social media that can support SMEs in our countries and regions of operations, as well as globally. So stay tuned.

If you are interested in learning more about how we are adapting to this new world, would like copies of our operational and program plans, have ideas for us, or suggestions on how we might be able to collaborate, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at newyork@buildingmarkets.org

In the meantime, we are all in this together. So, thank you for everything you are doing. And most of all, we wish you and your families good health.

We look forward to being in touch.

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