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The challenges from COVID-19 on MSME day 2021

Ensuring safety and business continuity in times of uncertainty. A conversation with Dr Jens Tülsner, M.D.
Maria-Eleni Mageira
Digital Marketing & Communications Manager

Micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) account for more than 90% of all businesses and around 70% of jobs worldwide. One can only imagine how hard it is for them to survive in a fast-paced global environment, especially when they're competing with large companies. However, they have demonstrated on several occasions their resilience.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 27 June as Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day in 2017. Since then, topics discussed include the impact of MSMEs on the economy (2017), the importance of MSMEs to youth employment (2018) and the SME Competiveness Outlook (2019). In 2020 and 2021, the "Great Lockdown" and the COVID-19 crisis have been the focus of discussions. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, MSMEs had to combat with the uncertain environment and remain more resilient than ever.

We at Movingdots are joining the celebrations this year. To mark the occasion, we invited Dr Jens Tülsner, CEO and founder of Marine Medical Solutions for an interview, which was an eye-opening experience. Dr Tülsner has been supporting Movingdots since the early stages of the pandemic.

Dr Tülsner, it's nice to talk to you again. The COVID-19 crisis saw you move beyond standard procedures to implement a tangible pandemic plan, which put you in the spotlight by other enterprises. Why is pandemic preparedness planning so important?

Allow me to answer in a little more detail. This pandemic, in my view, has a few key aspects that need to be considered here:

First one is that COVID-19 is ultimately an infectious disease. Although it has different risks and specific characteristics, it's ultimately comparable to gastrointestinal infections, influenza, tuberculosis, HIV or the plague: There is a pathogen that is passed on through contact that then infects the "new host" with the disease.  We have seen that until we have profound knowledge about the pathogen and the disease it causes, routine measures must be put in place – social distancing, maintaining hygiene, limiting contact – that, when consistently implemented, are able to contain the infection and thus reduce the risk for society. Anything on top of that is an extra.
Secondly, our world is more inter-connected than ever. The moment a pathogen becomes known that is not dependent on the characteristics of a certain locale such as the climate or other natural conditions, there is the potential for it to spread globally and rapidly. What this then essentially boils down to is risks for each individual, regardless of the company, location, country or continent.
Last but not least, we often hear the slogan "Our team is our biggest asset", but where is the company's responsibility towards and appreciation of employees, no matter their hierarchical level, more obvious than in the area of healthcare?

But to get back to your question: Ultimately, a pandemic plan can be considered to be detailed specifications for a company's internal handling of infectious diseases, depending on the extent of the measures required. Accordingly, together with your colleagues from Movingdots, we have defined the "worst case scenario" – adjusting the level of employees in the office, implementing operational procedures and taking precautionary measures. We have also defined simple hygiene measures, such as regularly cleaning the kitchen refrigerator.

We often hear the slogan "Our team is our biggest asset", but where is the company's responsibility towards and appreciation of employees, no matter their hierarchical level, more obvious than in the area of healthcare?

Which types of enterprises approached you more during the pandemic?

Companies from the logistics sector, companies with office buildings – like Movingdots – medical equipment and pharmaceutical companies. As was expected due to the main activities of Marine Medical Solutions, shipping, yard and yacht companies contacted us to get advice and recommendations on how to cope with the challenges faced on ships and in ports and to prepare for the restart of cruise companies.

What are the key elements or principles to make the pandemic preparedness planning most effective for enterprises?

With a subject like this, where there is often no profound in-house knowledge, it's important to acknowledge that a company must be willing to make health a top priority and, if necessary, reconsider operational processes.

As you have been in the DotQuarter for some time now, how do you consider Movingdots' response to the pandemic and efforts taken to promote a safe and reliable environment for our employees? Are there any lessons learnt from this process?

The Leadership at Movingdots began to take action as early as April 2020, which is well ahead of many others in the timeline. For us, this was as impressive as it was gratifying in terms of our desire to work with a company whose management not only realised the points I've mentioned from the outset, but also focused on the health, safety and emotional wellbeing of its employees. Thanks to this attitude, our cooperation went beyond simply developing a pandemic plan to recommending and procuring materials for sanitation, disinfection and testing and even included a case-by-case consultation for issues that occurred due to COVID-19.

What is your advice in 2021 to micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises? With what you know, would you say that we should start preparing for a return to normality after the pandemic?

If companies have not already done so, they should address the issue of health protection for their employees in general, but also with a focus on infectious diseases – this is an issue that will remain relevant for the foreseeable future. This might mean creating internal resources or seeking external partners that are competent, reliable and willing to develop recommendations adapted to the specific needs of the company. Even if the underlying principles are the same, each company needs its own solution.

When our leadership decided that it was essential to go the extra mile to ensure business continuity and reduce uncertainty for Movingdots employees, clients and prospects, Christoph Kappler (Chief Operating Officer) and Armando Boccardo (Head of Human Resources), appeared on the front line. "The impact of a pandemic to businesses can be dramatic. Above all, it's a threat to the physical and mental health of the workforce. Our first move was to minimise the risk for our employees, equip them with knowledge and ensure a safe working environment within our Movingdots family. Preparation and knowledge are of paramount importance in times of uncertainty and we therefore want to thank Dr Tülsner", says Armando Boccardo.

Christoph Kappler adds: "As a tech company, the COVID crisis did not really raise the issue of survival for Movingdots. Our teams, in cooperation with our network provider, immediately moved a few pieces to the virtual space. It was then a matter of adapting and of coping with change. Within our team, we managed to stay connected and keep working together in an agile and effective way. We all developed a new level of emotional intelligence as we realised the struggles that some colleagues went through in their private lives and therefore developed a new level of understanding. In post-pandemic times, I'm sure that this will bring added value to our business, to our relationships and to our solutions. 'What do clients want, why do they need it and how can we provide it?' took a deeper meaning in our efforts to ensure safety and innovation in mobility and to support our shareholder's vision to make the world more resilient".

'What do clients want, why do they need it and how can we provide it?' took a deeper meaning in our efforts to ensure safety and innovation in mobility and to support our shareholder's vision to make the world more resilient"

Dr. med. Jens Tülsner is CEO & Founder of Marine Medical Solutions GmbH. He has a specialization in Emergency medicine, Intensive care and Anesthesia. In the past he had been Chief Physician at the Clinic for Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine, in Berlin and VP of Medical & Public Health: Carnival Maritime (Costa / AIDA / Costa Asia). During the period of the pandemic in 2020 till present he has been consulting companies regarding their pandemic plan implementation. At the same time he offers lectures in the field of Maritime Medicine at Greifswald University and at Renafan Academy, in the field of outpatient intensive care / outpatient ventilation therapy. Other current activities are the re-launch of the cruise industry and providing medical support for commercial shipping. Co-Author of „Maritime Medical Handbook“, published November 2019 (German), November 2020 (English).

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