A Note To Business Leaders: Don't Hit That Stop Button, No Matter How Tempting In our experience, agile, future-facing companies that are willing to keep the wheels turning, and adopt an operating model that accommodates the extreme and unprecedented levels of uncertainty facing businesses are the ones that are already poised for recovery, and will hit the ground running when things do return to "normal."

By Camilla d’Abo

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I recently read that the abbreviation B.C. could soon very well stand for "Before COVID-19," and the Boston-based magazine, The Atlantic, is already referring to the children that are being born today as Generation C. Indeed, it's clear that the lives of these Gen Cs and billions across the globe will be molded by the decisions and choices we make today and in the coming few months. And when facing these challenges, business leaders are rightly concerned about how their companies will be affected, and what they must do next.

The most important choice they can make right now is to refrain from hitting that stop button, no matter how extenuating the circumstances. Every day we are witnessing businesses, governments, and clients that are tempted to make knee-jerk decisions, and either "freeze" or "pause" existing services, plans, and projects.

There is no doubt that the impact of this unprecedented new reality means there will be a dramatic restructuring of the traditional economic and social order in which we are used to operating. But while facing the future, it is extremely critical to discuss and debate what the "next normal" will be, and seek solutions to overcome tomorrow's challenges, and make clear, decisive, and committed decisions.

In our experience, agile, future-facing companies that are willing to keep the wheels turning, and adopt an operating model that accommodates the extreme and unprecedented levels of uncertainty facing businesses are the ones that are already poised for recovery, and will hit the ground running when things do return to "normal."

For economic considerations, it should be sooner than later, because as the World Bank forecasted, economies in the MENA region will face US$116 billion in costs from the impact of COVID-19, as well as the drop in crude oil prices during the year. Here in the MENA region, as around the world, curfews and lockdowns are starting to be lifted, and slowly, people are starting to return to work. And around the world, it appears that the companies that never stopped or paused, are the ones to kick-start the recovery.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, even as the state's namesake city is battling the worst onslaught of the virus: "We have to start planning restarting life." Cuomo added, "This is not a light switch that we can just flick one day, and everything goes back to normal."

Related: How UAE Businesses Can Protect The Ecosystem While Navigating The COVID-19 Pandemic

One measure that will really help companies, even while ceasing their essential operations, is to create a recovery team. They will oversee gathering forward-looking intelligence and developing scenarios, while identifying the options and actions needed to act tactically and strategically. It is imperative to keep planning on delivering across different scenarios and the corresponding recommended actions.

These are unknown and unchartered waters for business, but private and public sector organizations must still look for opportunities amid the constraints. We must win this -there is simply no other option- but winning here is not beating the competitors, but finding solutions and being able to rebound after COVID-19.

As we navigate these extraordinary times, we have found that speed and decisive decision making is more essential that building that perfect plan, because plans become outdated by the day or even the hour. Recovery teams need to continue to operate at high speed -even as the rest of the business slows down- and reimagine and reinvigorate the playbook regularly. We must remember that speed rather than perfection is vital, as scenarios will be refined and enhanced as more information surfaces over time.

At APCO Worldwide, we have been instrumental, in many instances, in setting up these teams. While this may not be the time to pitch clients on new things, what they do welcome is sound counsel. From helping them prepare to qualify for stimulus packages, and advising best ways in communicating business changes, to outlining what they can do to help address the pandemic, these are things that appear to be which is in serious short supply.

Engagement is another core characteristic of companies who are focused on recovery and not retreating and becoming ultra-defensive. APCO has and continues to help countless companies stay relevant and engaged with their stakeholders through effective solutions, from webinars to competitor benchmarking.

The time to prepare for the COVID-19 crisis has long passed– it is now, more than ever, the time to act. Use the time we have won from not commuting or flying as we wait for the coronavirus pandemic to abate, and invest in focusing on a comeback strategy.

Will your brand be the first to conquer the post COVID-19 landscape?

Related: Six Steps To Take When Leading Your Business Through A Crisis

Camilla d’Abo

Managing Director - Dubai, APCO Worldwide

Camilla d’Abo, a recognized business leader with more than two decades of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the Middle East, is the Managing Director of APCO Worldwide’s Dubai office.

Having lived and worked in Dubai for nearly 40 years, d’Abo possesses a unique knowledge of the region and brings exceptional credentials and reputation for managing global brands and meeting client needs for integrated communications strategies.

In 2004, d’Abo co-founded one of the region’s most innovative integrated communications agencies, DABO & CO., and over 12 years, the business grew to become a 80-strong team, representing some of the world’s leading brands including Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, BMW, Rolls-Royce, Nike and HSBC. 

Prior to joining APCO, Ms. d’Abo served as an executive director for Sport In Life Distribution, a retail distribution company based in Dubai, overseeing the firm’s transition to B2C channels and developing crucial customer engagement strategies, including the launch of an e-commerce platform and the adoption of an omnichannel operational model.

d’Abo started her career in corporate finance, having worked in asset management for Credit Lyonnais Rouse UK and for the chief economist of Bankers Trust Australia.

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