Ann Marie Puig


Ann Marie Puig discusses the challenges businesses still face after the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic has affected the balance sheets of many Spanish companies and has made the viability of some of them a challenge. To get ahead, they have opted to reinvent themselves, look for new lines of business, request financing and keep their employees united and connected with formulas such as teleworking. Ann Marie Puig, an entrepreneur and global business consultant, explains the challenges businesses are facing and how they can overcome them.

Now that the restrictions to contain COVID-19 are relaxed, companies are facing new challenges such as the reorganization and cohesion of their departments, the management of remote work, the retention and recruitment of talent or the restructuring of the debts contracted that have allowed them to stay afloat. A circumstance that, at the same time, is an opportunity to change our mentality and understand the crisis as an opportunity.

The changes in the world of work that have occurred since the outbreak of the health crisis have led to an increase in the work of certain departments of companies, especially in the human resources teams. These have had to reorganize workers and establish health protocols, but also in technology, which have served remote employees.

After the rise of teleworking as a formula that has allowed many companies to maintain their activity during the pandemic, they are betting on a gradual return to offices or hybrid models that combine face-to-face with remote work. This has meant a change in the needs of employees.

It is no longer enough to carry out occupational risk prevention work based on manuals. “Now workers want the company to really care about their physical, mental and social health,” explains Puig.

Face-to-face messages are more often replaced by video calls or digital communications, so companies must allocate resources to train this department in new technologies. Before, you were looking for someone who knew how to communicate. But if he doesn’t know the technology now, the professional won’t be able to carry out his task effectively.

Human resources operations have undergone a great transformation, especially in the process of hiring and training new employees, since face-to-face treatment was key to transmitting the knowledge and operation of the company, in addition to the values of the company. To ensure the training, online courses have been used, but this expert recommends resuming face-to-face training as far as possible.

Although the enthusiasm of companies for teleworking has waned in recent months, experts reiterate that applying this work methodology in a structural way increases competitiveness and promotes its digitalization, something essential in the current situation. It also offers flexibility to its workers.

“Any company, regardless of its size,” adds Puig, “will have to apply three trends if it wants to be competitive and profitable. These include technological innovation, the flexibility of professionals in their jobs, prioritizing their safety and satisfaction, and the development of new work models.

The impact that the health crisis has had on companies has led many workers to look for new job opportunities, something that businesses can take advantage of to attract talent. The companies that make the most efforts to retain their employees and attract the best candidates will be those that have a competitive advantage.

Companies that applied for loans during the pandemic to continue the business are now facing payments and although many have regained muscle, others are still recovering, which is a great effort for them. Making an assessment of the conditions of these loans is a factor that will help to soften the situation of businesses that are in difficulty.

To know if a company is able to face the payment of the debts contracted, it must pay attention to its income – not only to the current ones but also to the forecasts for the following months. At the moment, when six months from now, they will not be able to meet their payment commitments, businesses should start a refinancing process.

It is also possible to calculate a company’s default risk using its leverage ratio, obtained from the division of net financial debt over EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). Experts insist that there is no exact ratio from which it is impossible to sustain a business, but they do recognize that if the debt is more than four times higher and is not well structured, it is a warning sign.

Even so, in the current context, the leverage ratio has been somewhat outdated, since it is possible that EBITDA is unadjusted by the temporary fall in sales. Therefore, businesses should make the calculation with the income of a normal year. However, given the wide variety of casuistries, analysts reiterate that it is always best to ask for external advice to restructure the loans of a business.