Internal CG tech memo offers keys to success for leaders and corporations in times of crisis

In times of prosperity, when markets uptrend and economies are more stable, leadership is about making easy choices, pointing the rudder forward and confidently helming the sail. It is said that in times of profound challenge, when winds are unpredictable and turbulent waters call for hard choices, it is those with the courage to push through the storm that earn their leadership stripes.

Perhaps the same can be said of business leaders in times of economic challenge. A recently leaked internal memo from CG Tech - a holding company based out of the United Kingdom - highlights how CG Tech’s business units maneuvered the resulting economic challenges in the wake of the pandemic.

Penned by CG Tech Chairman Niall Carroll and shared with Chief Ecosystem Officer Jason English and the board of directors of CG Tech’s South African, Middle Eastern and British subsidiaries, the memo offers a glimpse into how CG Tech’s response can offer business leaders and corporations useful and practical insights into favourably dealing with times of crisis and uncertainty.

Know where you are in the cycle

In a recent analysis, Harvard Business Review noted that crises follow two distinct phases, and it is important to know where a company exists along this process.

The first is the emergency phase, leaders must strategically assess and solve immediate challenges in an attempt to shift from volatility into stability, implementing a number of emergency-oriented solutions in an effort to buy time. The second is the adaptive phase, where the leadership team revisits its organisational truths, restructuring the organisation in order to thrive in a new reality.

Get back to basics

Why do companies fail? The most common reasons include inadequate sales volume, unsatisfactory customer support, competitive disadvantages such as market saturation and reduced consumer expenditure, adjusting to unexpected market volatility and insufficient cash flow. If facing these disadvantages, businesses may overcome them by focusing on the fundamental elements that facilitated their growth and profitability in the first place – the “fundamentals.” 

For CG Tech, addressing the emergency phase required bringing in accounts receivable, sustaining its business affairs and safeguarding its internal teams, keeping its commitments within its communities, and forming greater unity within its organization to emerge stronger in a post-pandemic world. 

In its execution, the CG Tech leadership staunchly believes in evolving. In that spirit, they’ve heavily invested and refined their own hardware, software, equipment and training operations. It is the latter that the management has put into practice by launching training programs for their employees on essential skills to manage and overcome challenges. Another major step that the CG Tech leadership undertook was an effort to rebrand The Virtulab during the pandemic, in order to position its relevance in the wider group.

In a volatile world, businesses have recognized that they must protect their teams and communities as much as possible in order to survive and emerge stronger. It is that mentality that drives Carroll and CG Tech’s strategy to confront the pandemic by engaging with their employees and clients in a manner that shows care, respect, and encourages better optimization to their working process. This direct type of action, Carroll and the rest of CG Tech’s leadership believe, is the path to come out stronger, leaner, more efficient, and tech savvy in the uncertain, post-pandemic era. 

“We are sharing the pain at the moment, but look forward to sharing any gains in the future.” 

– Niall Carroll, Chairman of CG Tech 

Carroll articulates a key recognition of leadership during times of crisis - that the short-term challenges can be overcome, and that the hard work and sacrifice being made in the present, is really an investment into a shared upside in the future.

Ask the hard questions

With the pandemic shaping a new reality, businesses have to contemplate and ask themselves some challenging questions about their raison d’etre, their goals, and their roadmap. These questions are fundamental – and demand ambitious answers. In the memo, Carroll poses the group revisit their own fundamental questions.

“Why do we have a group at all? What are we good at? What do we want to achieve? What are we doing today to reach our ambition? And how do we behave?”

For the CG Tech leadership, these questions not only aid in moulding a new relevance, they also readjust the leadership's focus and political will towards restructuring a stronger organization. Challenging times are precisely the key occasions to reflect on these dilemmas, offering a rare opportunity to reflect on the existential principles of the organisation and the value that it creates for its customers. By asking  ‘why does our conglomerate exist at all?’, the question serves to ask if - and how - the company continues to be a relevant market player, and in particular, within changing market dynamics. 

But while some things change, the true purpose of the organisation remains unwavering. In CG Tech’s case, their purpose can be summarised in three words:

“Serve. Solve. Uplift.”

The purpose of the organisation reflects the collective purpose of its individuals. Every purpose has a vision, and in CG Tech’s case, the leadership team has planted a bold flag; build a billion dollar business that impacts a billion people by 2030. After all, motivating teams (and oneself) amidst challenging downtrends requires a clear, well-defined vision with a collective belief to persevere in an improving market. 

Reframe challenges as new opportunities

The sudden onset of the recent COVID-19 pandemic introduced a number of exceptional challenges - unmatched in both scale and impact - that businesses and their individuals had no choice but to solve. While it is important to pay attention to the emerging challenges, it is equally important to take advantage of the opportunities created by solving them; in effect, reframing challenges into unique opportunities.

Right now, there are exciting new opportunities that have emerged – if an organisation is able to identify them, embrace them, and capitalise on them. Jason English, who is also the CEO of Al Laith, a regional construction and events company in the Middle East and part of the CG Tech group, reflects on the new opportunities arising from the pandemic. With access to cutting edge digital technologies from The Virtulab, a technology solutions and digital support team within the CG Tech portfolio of companies, Al Laith is able to leverage modern visualisation technologies to shorten business development cycles, improve planning and increase delivery efficiencies, making them a compelling competitor in a slow-moving world.

But The Virtulab has another trick up its sleeve with the Virtuworx platform, an avatar-based mixed reality environment that has found uses in virtual training, virtual offices and virtual events. With productivity and engagement at home becoming critical success factors for businesses, Virtuworx creates fully customised solutions for the remote working and working from home contexts.

Avoid becoming defined by what you do

So many organisations define their identity by their business vertical, a bond that can easily break in the face of disruption and shifting trends. Building a company that survives downtrends and crises requires a company to quickly adapt in creating value for whatever the market decides. Think fast. Add value faster.

For CG Tech, their competence isn’t defined by a single metric, but instead, by the core value proposition they offer their clients: “We enable superior performance by large teams on time-sensitive projects.” While the subsidiary companies have deep subject matter expertise in key verticals in oil and gas, construction, and event management, the group does not limit itself to what it does, but instead to match capabilities with emerging market growth opportunities. Here, the group capitalises on business specialisation that shares common core competence that can be applied across multiple industries and markets, including a recent expansion in servicing the film and advertising industries.

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