Survival Toolkit for Swiss SMEs & Startups

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About the Guide

The main goal of this guide is to help every entrepreneur build his own survival guide and learn how to be resilient in time of crisis.

It is the resulf of a free collective work for challenge #62 during the swiss VersusVirus Hackathon.


a) Resolve urgent issues to maintain operations

b) Adapt the organization

c) Re-position strategically to new market environments

d) Build resilience capability to cope with future threats

Get Informed (a1)

An entrepreneur needs good information in order to react, adapt and become resilient in a crisis.

We provide below a list of curated links to Swiss government agencies and economic bodies

Leverage Digital Tools & Technology to maintain Business Continuity (b3)

To ensure the continuity of your business operations, our current times offer very fortunately many online solutions and opportunities to cover many aspects of your needs.

Identifying which solutions you need, installing them swiftly, and getting your people and partners trained and supported on them also via online channels can empower your business very rapidly to restart and pursue your activities.

Maintaining and facilitating continuity with your teams and sites, your customers, suppliers and business partners:

Examples: New tools to install on home computers or laptops or smartphones. Arrange daily or weekly teleconference calls/videos with teams for projects and training.

  1. Keeping in touch and meeting virtually:
    Zoom, Teams, Skype, Whatsapp Groups, etc…
  2. Working on and managing specific operations:
    ERP, CRM, Cloud versions of existing on-premise solutions used by a business:
    Electronic supply chain platforms, electronic marketplaces (to replace on-site, physical transactions)
    • Microsoft Dynamics 365
    • Sage ERP cloud,
    • SAP ERP Cloud
    • ,
    • Sugar CRM Cloud
    • (Connected, electronic planning)
    • etc…

    Electronic selling and distribution/supply chain platforms:
    Amazon, Local market and electronic platforms, Industry specific electronic platforms,
  3. Sharing and working on projects, ideas:
    Collaborative tools to manage projects, ideas, more in-depth types of team and transverse work:
    Google Drive and Google Docs, Slack, Teams, Miro, Jira, Atlassian, Aha, etc..
  4. Online Trainings on any topic or technology:
    Training and education platforms like or Youtube in general can tremendously help you to be trained and discover information, tips and advices on any necessary topic or solution or technology related to the current crisis. It can also be an opportunity for your employees and partners to be trained, educated on topics and questions that will be important for and after the re-launch, in particular if the level of activity of your business unfortunately reduces their level daily work.

Also, you can decide yourself to create trainings, courses or videos/tutorials for your customers, employees or partners on these same platforms to share necessary knowledge and information.

Example: E-learning/Tutorials/Videos on how to use electronic communication or new selling platforms efficiently.

Partner-Matchmaking tool (c1)

How do I find a partner that I trust in?

  • public-private-partnership (with local cantons)
  • network events for smes local business leaders network (-> rotary club, soropimists)
  • banks as a facilitator to bring businesses together
  • community relationships, expert workshops to bring together entrepreneurs

Learnings of corona crisis (d1)

The University «Fachhochschule Bern» launched a survey in connection with the corona crisis in start-up- and sme-companys. The focus of this survey was “Building resilient and agile organizations”.

SMEs and startups facing challenges to:
a) resolve urgent issues to maintain operations,
b) adapt the organisation,
c) re-position strategically to new market environments
d) build resilience capability to cope with future threats
d) in all steps: ensure timeliness and optimise resource deployment. It also appears that organizations that have developed agile innovation and management methods have been more resilient in the covid-10 crisis. Unfortunately, most companies and organizations have not learned agile innovation and management methods before the crisis, and these methods are mostly taught during in-person seminars or hackathons.

Due to lack of time during this Hackathon, only about a quarter of the total survey feedback could be evaluated. Nevertheless, with the 126 responses evaluated, a fairly clear picture is already emerging.

The evaluation has shown that the largest share (around 90%) of the problems caused by the corona crisis can be attributed to the loss of orders. The majority of customers have postponed or cancelled orders.

A further problem arose from the respective supply chains and the dependencies on suppliers and transport. Many suppliers had to reduce production efficiency or even stop production due to the physical distance rule and risk group protection. Furthermore, products and materials could often hardly be procured or delivered.

Interestingly, relatively few difficulties due to home office activities were mentioned. Only the more cumbersome implementation of meetings and the increased need for communication, as well as communication difficulties were mentioned in a small percentage of cases.

List of further threats (health, security) (d2)

This time, the trouble came as a virus. Last main crisis was about subprimes. But mainy other threads can impact our system because it is not resilient by design. Here is a list of potential risks that we can imagine:

  1. Natural disasters
    1. Big huricanes or typhoon in the Altantic or Pacific oceans have the potency to alt large part of the industrial countries (USA, Japon, Taiwan, China, …)
    2. Earthquake (such as San Andrea split in California)
    3. Tsunamis, …
  2. Financial
    1. Banks and/or credit system collapse
    2. Money supply collapse
  3. Industrial disasters
    1. Nuclear plants
    2. Biochemical leaks
    3. Key resource supplier (remember RAM memory shortage some years ago, from one factory fire or local disaster)
    4. ...
  4. Wars
    1. Between states
    2. Internal in a state (civil war)
    3. Terrorism
    4. ...
  5. Viruses
    1. Natural
    2. Human build
  6. Digital risk
    1. Internet collapse
    2. Electricity network collapse

Resilience by design (d3)

  1. Supply chain  [ref: challenges faced in d.1: adapt the organisation / build resilient capability]
    Supply chain should be spread other many different routes, in the structure of a network, rather than a tree (i.e. different possibilities to access a specific resource):
    1. Suppliers in the vicinity: the longest the supply chain, the less resilient, so (if possible) choose nearby suppliers (survey: “we are dependent on closed suppliers and can therefore no longer work. Domino effect”). The nearby suppliers will be close at time as the client, so no Domino effect).
    2. Suppliers need to be partners, i.e. build strong relationships with them, not just choose them by lowest price. This is easier if condition a. above is done
    3. Multiplicity of suppliers: have more than one for the kes/strategic parts of services needed
    4. Rediscover some sort of stocking for key parts or services. Just in time might be more efficient, but also less resilient
  2. Customers and trade [ref: challenges faced in d.1: reposition to new market environment]
    As for suppliers, spreading the risk between many entities reduces risk of collapsing. Customers should also be diverse in characteristics: large and small companies, different industries, different type of relationships, based in different countries (survey: “Export slump”), etc. As in every ecosystem, diversity increases resilience because in one group collapses, others might not, or not at the same time.
  3. Financial situation [ref: challenges faced in d.1: adapt the organisation / build resilient capability]
    Companies should be encouraged to have some cash-flow always at hand. May be it should be mandatory (by law) that companies have a few months in cash flow at the bank, in order to be able to survive droughts (at least for large “too big to fail” companies). (survey: Finance:“lack of reserve” and Trade: “Cancelled  orders or postponed -no investments at the moment-” and ”Customers postpone orders until autumn or later”)
  4. Employees [ref: challenges faced in d.1: adapt the organisation / build resilient capability] (survey: Employees: “Employees are insecure” and “Home office is inefficient”)
    Employees should be trained to be able to support the  resilient organisation, i.e.:
    • Digital knowledge, how to handle new digital communication tools
    • Better understanding of the organisation procedures in case of crises
    • Management should also be closer to employees (holacratie, participative management, etc.) to reduce fear, anxiety in time of crises

  5. Customer channels [ref: challenges faced in d.1: adapt the organisation / build resilient capability]
    Digitalise everything that can be … but at the same time keep “analog” tools too! The next crisis might take away the Internet!? We don't know. Keep different channels open (survey: “Trainings, Events and Workshops were all cancelled”)
  6. Production [ref: challenges faced in d.1: build resilient capability] Organise production with small and autonomous units (survey: production: “Due to the 2m distance and hygiene rules a production collapse occurred”)
  7. Product [ref: challenges faced in d.1: reposition to new market environment]

    Diversity of product offering, think of “low-tech” product alternative (survey: “Basic supply is in the foreground. Premium products are not in demand.”)

    User-centered design (maximize utility)