There is no management handbook that tells you how to deal with a crisis like COVID-19. For all of us, it has represented completely uncharted territory. In the case of our company, SADAFCO, I believe clear and calm heads and a relentless focus on fulfilling our main mission as a manufacturer of food products are what have brought us through this crisis.
In order to fulfill that main mission, our key challenges were to maintain an extensive manufacturing and a cross-border raw material supply infrastructure, implement additional health, safety and environment (HSE) measures, keep all our staff safe and continue to fulfill orders.
In the early stages of the crisis, there was an initial rush of activity as we procured the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and organized more accommodation and bed capacity for our employees to ensure controlled and managed living facilities. Throughout this period, communication was vital to ensure everyone understood the situation and what was expected of them.
Unlike many of our fellow businesses, the lockdown saw growth in demand for our products as people stayed at home. We were able to meet this initial spike from our existing product inventories, which we had already begun to increase in anticipation of increased demand ahead of Ramadan.
As lockdown progressed, however, it became more challenging to maintain consistency of operations. Shipments into the Kingdom that we rely on became less predictable, customs clearance understandably took a little longer than usual and we were unable to bring specialist personnel into the country.
For me, the key throughout has been to ensure that our valued colleagues do not suffer from exhaustion, additional stress and overwork themselves.
Employees now returning to our offices after extended WFH (work from home) know exactly what to expect — social distancing, regular hand washing and mask wearing are now the norm.
At SADAFCO, we place great emphasis on following the correct procedures and policies when it comes to cybersecurity, data protection and online security. It is no use having great technical infrastructure in place if employees are undermining security by clicking on email attachments from unknown senders, and using personal email accounts and unauthorized file sharing services to exchange files.
With all our employees fully instructed in the basics of safe computing, we have avoided the types of data leakage and cybersecurity breaches that many feared would be a feature of extended WFH. I believe this represents another victory for our policy of very clear and regular communication.
• The writer is the CEO of SADAFCO.