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24Jun

Resuming Business in a COVID-19 Economy: Insight from 14 CEOs

The last few months have been tough on everyone. After a couple months of indecision, many political leaders took the advice of epidemiologists and shut down all but essential businesses. With people ordered to shelter in place, LSPs around the world operated remotely with staff working from home. Our surveys over the last few months have shown the economic impact of the resulting decreased demand and uncertainty about how long they’d be shut down.

Since early May many countries have gradually eased restrictions, allowing some workers to return to the office and raising the possibility of the economy fully opening over the coming months. But even if governments say it’s okay to go back to work, what will companies do? Business leaders face tough decisions. Do they feel safe bringing their employees back to the office? Will there be a resurgence from a second wave of COVID-19 caused by packing people back into offices? Can business ever return to pre-pandemic conditions?

CSA Research asked members of our two LSP Leadership Councils to share what they’re thinking about their next steps in business. We present the thoughts of 14 CEOs – in their own words – on what it means to them to get back to business.

How should leaders get back to business? On our COVID-19 page we have anonymous feedback from constituents at different phases of the pandemic including the perception of 115 CEOs from our global rankings on the uncertainty about the length of the pandemic.

Figure5-ExpectedLeng...
 
Fourteen of our LSP Leadership Council CEOs share their thoughts. Their advice ranges from a focus on business basics to taking advantage of near-term opportunities to self-assessment to energized reinvention all the way to very contemplative essays about leadership. Many companies are using this time to reimagine their businesses and the language sector. And all of them want to make sure that when they do go back to work, employees are safe and they take care of all their business constituencies – staff, clients, and investors. To learn more about their ideas, read on.

Note: We listed the CEO statements by company, in the order of ranking from our report, “Who's Who in Language Services and Technology: 2019 Rankings.”

JohnFennellyWebInsight from John Fennelly, CEO of Lionbridge (US$705 million) 

Lionbridge is a crowd company, so it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that we’ve performed very well while operating in a virtual state. Going through a crisis is like creating a real-time stress test for your leadership team. You learn a lot about your team and your company.

We had a feeling that leaving our offices would be much easier than returning! And we were right. We were ahead of the curve getting our team to work from home and we’re using this opportunity to rethink what we’re calling the “future of work” while accelerating the timetable for a number of planned initiatives. We won’t look the same when we come back to our physical offices.

Plan for the worst case while acting boldly. That has been our guiding principle since the pandemic hit. My takeaway from the financial crisis was that the bold were ultimately rewarded, and those who waited for the storm to pass missed significant opportunities. We have acted very quickly where we’ve seen opportunity, while acting with equal speed where we’ve seen problems arise.

Insight from Scott Klein, CEO of LanguageLine Solutions (US$530 million)ScottWKleinjpg

They say, “the same heat that melts butter hardens steel.” We feel like we’ve been tested and emerged stronger than ever. The stakes of our work have never been higher than in the past two months. We’ve had to rise to the occasion while working at a distance from one another. This could have brought us to our knees. In our case, we are communicating better than we ever have, our bonds are stronger, and our value to our partners has never been clearer.

We’re returning to our offices with a new strength and resolve about the importance of what we do. Should there be a second wave of COVID-19 as some have predicted, we’re secure in knowing we’ve developed the muscles necessary to transition seamlessly. For now, we look forward to being in the same room once again and capitalizing on this momentum.

During a time of uncertainty, hearing from fellow leaders helps. When everything we know becomes unclear and we have the responsibility to lead a team, honest feedback from leaders from various geographies can be helpful and very supportive. As Abraham Lincoln said, "The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Read insight from all 14 of the CEOs. 
 

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