by Radu Magdin*
Preparing the -and for the- New Normal
It has been an incredible month of Covid: in Europe we witnessed a horrible "Ides of March", with April becoming the same for most of the world. Asia was first affected, and now faces a comeback, of local or imported cases. Societies across the world are paralysed economically by justified immediate health concerns, with state of emergency being declared across different countries. All because, like Macron first put it, and then Trump magnified it, "we are at war". While on the personal side people seem to have accepted that they need to stay home, on the institutional and business side, the notion that we are not going to “get back” to a normal situation, but that there will be a new normal, is next in line. Various authors have coined (and reframed the religious) B.C. – A.C. formula, while the world is only seeing the Before Corona era. We need to already start looking and planning towards the After Corona New Normal, and superclans can lead due to the fact that both community and national destiny is partly on their shoulders, particularly in times of perceived lack of political leadership. Global success families are eminently "international", "exporters" and "supply chain" extensive users, so changes in how globalization works will affect them concretely. "Drafts" of the future need consequently to be imagined by them as well; otherwise rising populists and nationalists may shape our AC world.
Superclans can help themselves and others too
We need to take knowledge management further. After so many wonderful op-eds and advice from major business practices have been posted online, from around the world, over the past three weeks (everyone is now an "expert on covid19"), one needs a summary (after too much info) and an implementable road map for the new normal. What superclans now need is a combination of foresight and forceful action before entire sectors of economies are affected. With 2-2,5% of national GDPs vanishing per month, securing jobs in local communities and offering ideas to political leaders on swift steps, has never been more important. In May, or really the latest in June, we need to act on clear, preferable coordinated, national, regional and global roadmap(s).
At the same time, major business owning families do need help too. They are the ones that have to work closely with governments around the world to keep people employed, maintain the value of industry, ensure supply chains keep doing etc. They are, in fact, beyond pillars of globalization, also the neck between government and the country, ensuring that there is an economy to go back to when the health emergency is over. Whether you are a Walton, a Gates, a Boehringer, a Rothschild, an Ambani, a Sawiris, a Dangote, a Chan or a Kwok -and many more - , society has high expectations from you, your business and/ or your family foundation. Some of the plans need to be continued, looking into coronavirus-related adjustments, some have to be dropped, but definitely there has to be family business continuity, for both family and societal sake.
A multinational team of advisers, offering strategic insights and concrete actionable advice, becomes a must; this is the equivalent of a personal "war room" of insiders and outsiders at the Family’s disposal, a special crises addition to the traditional Family Offices and suppliers.
Acting strategically: some concrete steps
Crisis communication is only one side of the coin – the mitigation part. Sometimes, when you need to effect change through communication, developing a capability to speak “society” is required, and not all businesses are prepared to speak beyond marketing and balance sheets. Situations like the interactions between governmental fiscal measures in the background of economic crises can really put families on the spot and their values and core beliefs surface. The moral - business choices they are confronted with are amazing, choosing between their own stability, being a family owned business, standing aside from the public limelight to not attract populist “public wrath”, and, on the contrary, leaning in, knowing that they can do something to help. In context, a previous EBR article about how during the 20th century family businesses changed their production line in times of crisis is available here.
Being agile, prepared, and anticipating what you may be confronted with is also about looking into all possible scenarios for how the world will look like, and (pre)defined lines of action for keeping the family and businesses safe. Point of reflection: sometimes being prepared to sacrifice something early can avoid having to sacrifice more later. Also remember that “Superclans” is not just a label, but a functional concept as well. To make it more explicit: when families owning business form “meta-families” by working together to save industrial sectors, investments, or regions, they can form true temporary superclans, that have the might to keep things afloat when governments’ means are just not enough. This is based on an earlier concept we started (re)using at the beginning of the crisis, that of coopetition. This notion has been thrown around quite a bit since the beginning of Great Power Competition – so in a geopolitical context, but against a rising stock market and other seemingly positive developments prior to the Covid19 crisis, businesses were not really inclined towards cooperating with competitors. However, it turns out, if you want to have an economy in the end, even competitors can work together, alliances of the willing "to save us all" are starting to take shape. A philanthropic "alliance" is proving workable across countries and continents, and so should it’s economic crisis future equivalent.
Lead, there may not be others able to do that
Initially, beginning of March, when we didn’t know how serious this was going to be, we advised our partners at national and global level to go for a ‘hearts and minds’ approach and we started providing scenario planning documents at national and international arenas. As things are starting to turn dramatic for people around the world, we have increasingly started recommending a deeper engagement with both society and governments, and with the broader international system. In this context, Superclans can play their role in maintaining the morale and confidence of peoples around the world through communication and through their concerted actions to keep economic trust and things afloat. As the global situation keeps evolving towards deeper and accelerating changes that go beyond public health and the economy, innovation of ways and means will become the mantra of governance thinking for governments, superclans, and other global players. Covid19 and the ensuing 2020 economic recession are leading to the new normal; in such a complicated environment, superclans, it’s your time to lead, there may not be anyone else filling leadership gaps or correcting leadership mishaps. Act now, swiftly, seriously, strategically!
*strategic communications analyst and consultant, he advised the Prime Ministers of Romania and Moldova