Every day right now, the news about coronavirus keeps getting worse. As of the moment I'm writing this, in late February 2020, more than 80,000 people in over 30 countries have been infected by this new strain of virus, and close to 3,000 people have died. Attempts to keep the disease contained are causing major problems around the world. 

Global supply chains are feeling the pinch as Chinese factories remain closed and shipping slows, and markets are showing their uneasiness with the situation -- and the uncertainty. 

As the CEO of a global company -- Techstars has partnerships, programs, accelerators, and employees in 22 countries -- I've been paying close attention, and like many others we've already had to act quickly to cope with this evolving situation. The Demo Day for Eastern Pacific Accelerator powered by Techstars, based in Singapore, was scheduled for February 21. Demo Days are usually public celebrations, when investors and other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem come out to learn what our newest alumni companies are up to. On very short notice, we turned this Demo Day into a fully remote event. We reached this decision shortly before the Singapore government advised against holding public events. The remote event went great, with the added benefit of knowing that we did the right thing for public health. 

We're working out plans for more programs and events -- in Italy, Korea, China, and anywhere else coronavirus has been confirmed -- right now. 

Wherever in the world your company is, you need to be prepared so that you can act quickly and do the right thing for your employees, your business, and your community. 


Say what you know

This is the most crucial thing you must do: communicate. Even if you don't have all the answers, say what you do know. Use the facts provided by local, regional, and global authorities. In the absence of information, people will make up their own stories, and too often go straight to worst case scenarios. Good information from a reliable source is your best tool to keep people acting sensibly. 

Keep communicating

Depending on the severity of the situation, this could be hourly, daily, or weekly. If the situation changes for the better or worse, provide another update. It's better to over-communicate than leave your people wondering what's going on. 

Speak with one voice

This can mean that you have a single person who speaks to this subject, but it doesn't have to. The key is that your communications must align with each other and be consistent. Contradiction fuels uncertainty and fear. 

Communication goes two ways

Make sure that you have ways to hear from your employees or customers as well as speaking to them. Leadership needs to know the worries that are circulating around a crisis -- and employees and customers need to feel heard. 

Be a leader

In uncertain times, people need someone to bring them together and provide direction. As the company leader, you need to be that person. Don't lie or tell people that everything will be fine. Do share the information you have, let people know you've got a plan, and bring them together to deal with the situation. 

Have a plan

In fact, you need more than one plan. Create plans for your employees, your business, your community -- and the future. 

Take care of your people 

People are the top priority, always. Make sure that your employees are safe, feel safe, and have lines of communication open so that you can hear their concerns and support them with whatever they need. 

Assess the business realities

It's easy to keep running business as usual if you're not yet affected. In this situation, however, denial is unlikely to be a winning strategy. Instead, force yourself to address the issues, and explore possible impacts of the situation on your customers or supply chain. What's the worst case scenario? Figure it out, and create plans for various likely possibilities. 

Consider your community

The communities in which you do business are larger than your current customers. Are you hosting or attending events, conferences, trade shows? These may need to be cancelled or changed into remote events. Fortunately, technology now gives us many options for sharing experiences even when we are far apart.  

Prepare for the future

There's nothing like a looming emergency to make you realize how unprepared you are. In addition to reacting to today's crisis, how can this help you to plan for the next disaster? Everyone benefits from having business continuity plans in place, doing scenario planning for the next predictable crises, and knowing that you're prepared to communicate these plans. 

Stay well, stay safe, and we'll get through this together.