Lou Naumovski: Play on your strengths and incentivise the smart young people to stay in Macedonia and help revive the economy

PrimePoint Partners second webinar hosted 50+ prominent business professionals from across the world and featured an established Corporate Director and International Business Advisor from Canada, Mr. Lou Naumovski. The lively discussion and open debate were intriguing and touched upon some of the crucial dilemmas that we all are currently experiencing, in a sense of how the global economic constellations would change the world and what will that mean for the small countries.

During the 2008 banking crisis, Warren Buffett said: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” So it is with pandemics. You find out which countries have taken governance seriously and which didn’t. You find out which companies are living on credit and which have strong balance sheets. You find out who has a health care system that can manage a once-in-a-century crisis and who doesn’t. You find out which countries, cities, and communities have a high degree of social trust and can pull together and which can’t.” – Mr. Naumovski quoted New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman while discussing the importance of strong national culture, governance, and effective leadership in dealing with any crisis.

He also highlighted the key principles of business leadership:

  • Develop a clear and understandable vision for the organization
  • Act as social architects for the organization by changing/building the organizational culture
  • Create trust throughout the organization by making explicit their values and views; stand by these even when the going gets tough
  • Consistency of behavior will increase the trust that people have in the leader which will make changing the organizational culture considerably easier
  • Identify their own strengths and weaknesses and encourage followers to do the same.

“Leaders learn from failure, create empathy and create great groups. Adverse circumstances and a series of failures is a more valuable learning route than early and continued success.” – he emphasized.

He also presented a few case studies of exceptional leadership during crisis, such as the case Canadian company Maple Leaf Foods which confirmed the value of the five “Cs”:

  • Care: communication should indicate that the company cares about the problem and empathizes with those affected.
  • Commitment: the company must declare and act to demonstrate their will to solve the problem, find the cause, and prevent it from happening again.
  • Consistency and Coherence: all communication and all spokespeople should say the same thing.
  • Clarity: crisis problems should be clearly explained and should clarify the company’s position and actions

Mr. Naumovski highlighted a few personal examples of dealing with crisis situations from his leadership positions at Visa International, Kinross and CESO. Here are some of the lessons learned:

  • Sound strategy and business model can withstand stresses;
  • Don’t be afraid to confront your “enemies” in business;
  • Respond to erroneous or destructive allegations with clear, effective communications and consistently stress with all stakeholders your value proposition and strategy;
  • Modify or improve your strategy based on what you learn from these challenges/ crises;
  • Think out-of-the-box, be innovative and embrace change.

Following a lively Q&A, and asked about overcoming the crisis and validity of government subsidies, Mr. Naumovski stated: “You have to play on your strengths, where can you sell Macedonian products to help sustain the economy? Clearly agri-food and the IT/outsourcing opportunities. Create opportunities for new business development and make sure that the companies and foreign investor can freely invest in the country. Individuals and companies that are struggling to survive, should be supported; but not wealthy corporations. Look at sectors that are key to the survival of the economy, open them in a safe manner and make sure you help them sustain the crisis.”

With respect to the massive brain drain that Macedonia has been facing, Mr. Naumovski considers that now more than ever it is of utmost importance for the government to make sure that the most capable and intelligent people stay in the country and help revive the economy. The government needs to incentivize them (not only financially) to stay in the country, open businesses, innovate and develop relief solutions. Good leadership in the government will be crucial to give a positive inducement to the people to stay in the country.

“This crisis is the right time for us as individuals, the governments and the companies to prepare for the inevitable next crisis.” – concluded Mr. Naumovski.

The webinar was organized by PrimePoint Partners and M6 Educational Center and it was moderated by Zoran Martinovski, IFC World Bank.

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