April 29, 2020
How long can we keep the lights on?
An uplifting session on adapting personal and professional lives with the current situation, accepting hard realities and helping each other in the time of COVID-19.
In continuation with the live webinar series, Creative Zone conducted another stirring session which hosted Donna Benton, CEO Benton Group, H.E Dr Sara Al Madani, a renowned entrepreneur and a board member of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO, ekar as panelists.
The focus of the webinar was to understand how business owners and their employees are coping with the situation, what approach can we adopt moving forward and prepare for the future. When asked how the ongoing scenario was handled, Dr Sara Al Madani gave an encouraging response, “Of course there is panic and some my businesses have taken a hit but I choose to invest this time on myself and adapt to the situation and come up with something that will cater to the need of the hour instead of being melancholic”. Her tech-based company in the US is now involved in data collection to help stop the spread of the pandemic, and she considers this time an opportunity to be with her family and focus on completing her book. Donna Benton who is also a mother confessed that it is difficult to manage children’s study schedules which many mothers can relate, but she holds the similar view that this time can be productive provided we change our attitude and prepare ourselves to transform when things get better.
Vilhelm, whose company is still in the growth phase corroborated with SME owners’ fears and insecurities and advised people to invent and innovate their products and services for post COVID-19 era. As things will certainly be different and people will move and operate differently, this is the time when one can prepare for the future, and it will be these individuals who will flourish in the times to come.
The three speakers reiterated the idea of safeguarding and being honest with their employees. Sara and Donna both have foregone their salaries in order to protect their workforce and strongly believe that it is the CEOs and top executives who should first take a pay cut before administering to the junior staff as chances of their staying afloat are better. Vilhelm took a more realistic view and opined that businessmen should focus on the cash flow and how long can they go and readjust contracts and finances accordingly.
The webinar took a very warm and encouraging tone as everyone concurred that the times are hard for everyone and it is up to us to make or break it, Dr. Sara gave an interesting example of businesses modifying, a dating app in the US is now facilitating dates virtually and doing good at it. So, it is all about one’s mindset and attitude.
Donna was her best case study, she started the Entertainer in 2001 having gone through the recession and several other challenges that came her way, she surpassed them all and emerged a winner in the end. Benton believes in giving back and ever since the outbreak COVID-19, she purchases all items locally made in the UAE, to protect small businesses and also encouraged others who can do it. Vilhelm whose industry was one of the first to be affected still has found a way to remain agile and help. Ekar donated 100 cars to Saudi Arabian Government and is helping 10 UAE hospitals by providing them means of transport in this crisis.
One popular question that was asked was about if getting funding was still possible and what has changed. Dr, Sara Al Madani said the only difference now will be that investors may become more picky and will focus on scalable industries but investors are and will still be there.
The session ended on a positive note that one must do what they have to do, and being there for each other and the community is what everyone should do as these are unprecedented times and which either break us or make us.