In this interview we sit down and speak with Simon Attard, Founder and CEO of MYC, touching important points about how businesses are impacted by crises and his recommendations on how these can be navigated through. In view of the events we have experienced and the life we are living today, the subject of crises has come under the spotlight, with several businesses understanding that a solid plan to tackle these can be the difference between surviving and closing down.
What would you say defines a crisis in business?
A crisis in business may be defined as an event, or a series of events that lead to major disruptions. In most cases, a crisis comes about suddenly and would bring with it significant and unprecedented difficulties. These situations typically allow very short timeframes for tough decisions to be taken. In the context of business, a crisis may be created internally, or brought about by external factors, such as most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant shocks to businesses globally and locally. A number of businesses had to shut down their doors permanently in view of the financial haemorrhage. What do you think has been the critical factor as to why certain businesses have thrived whilst others failed?
History teaches us that those businesses that are most successful in adapting to evolving realities, are the ones which make it through. In such circumstances, being the strongest does not necessarily mean that you will weather the storm. Over the past two years, we have seen strong businesses with established names facing liquidation or significant downsizing in view that the existing model of their operations could not cope with the disruption. There were two main types of approaches throughout this crisis. There were those businesses that adopted a flexible approach to the way they work to adapt to the restrictions. Others adopted a wait and see approach, in the hope that things would revert to normal within a few weeks. Such an approach hindered the business strength of many organisations. In a world that is constantly changing, not taking any risks is the worst form of risk.
You highlight adapting as a key component when navigating through a crisis. Can you give us tangible examples about how businesses managed to adapt in the challenging circumstances of the past months?
During the worst months of the pandemic, when most restrictions were imposed, several businesses understood that the likelihood of customers visiting their premises was significantly lower. In this respect, a number of businesses understood that in order for them to sustain some volumes of revenue, they had to target consumers through digital means. Whilst the value and necessity of digital marketing has been around way before the events of 2020, the pandemic has also exasperated its importance. Businesses would optimise their platforms and digital channels to be able to accept payments online and deliver the products requested by customers. We also saw restaurants adopt an approach whereby they would prepare food for delivery, something which was less common prior to the pandemic.
Another critical aspect for businesses is how quick they were to react in transitioning their employees to work from home. Some businesses never fully managed this transition and are solely reliant on their employees working from the actual premises to ensure productivity. This put these businesses at risk considering that quarantine or infection meant that they would operate with reduced staff members, obstructing operational efficiency.
What would you say is the value of employees throughout such a crisis?
Colleagues and team members are critical in safeguarding a business especially throughout these trying times. In my view, it is a duty of business owners and senior management to constantly communicate and keep all employees abreast of the latest developments. This should apply to the good and less pleasant news. Through my own personal experience, I have found that the significant efforts made by all the team members at MYC were absolutely critical for us as an organisation, to cushion the impacts of the economic turmoil. Unfortunately, we have heard several stories of businesses abandoning their employees during the worst moments of the pandemic, which in my view translates to a tarnished reputation that cannot be resolved in the short-term.
How are you as a business owner and CEO of MYC using these recent events as learning lessons?
Whoever has been in business over a long stretch of time understands that economic growth and prosperity cannot be taken for granted. It would have been folly to assume that the economic performance of the years prior to the pandemic will remain consistently successful forever.
The pandemic has served as a notable reminder that successful businesses must also be sustainable and adaptable. The learning lessons of crises include prudence, humility and the importance of a plan in place to ensure that your business is prepared to withstand an economic downturn. I also emphasise on the fact that this is not the first crisis which has impacted businesses significantly. The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 also taught us that as businesses we cannot assume that the sun will always shine bright. This underscores the importance of careful long-term planning, considering also potential problems that might arise due to one reason or another.