Interview given by João Moreira, CEO of Ábaco Consulting, to Revista Líder: [PT Only] https://lidermagazine.com.pt/radar-covid-19-a-ASE-2-2-contencao-alargada-da-abaco-consulting
Líder Magazine does not want to ignore this great leadership challenge called COVID-19 and, for this reason, is talking to some of the main CEOs of Portuguese companies and organizations to answer some questions. In this case, João Moreira, CEO of Abaco Consulting, explains how he is managing the Portuguese multinational with 200 employees spread across Portugal, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Abaco Consulting has a contingency plan prepared, which includes different scenarios, in the various countries where it operates. The Portuguese multinational based in Porto, has offices in Lisbon, São Paulo, London and Geneva.
The recent evolution of the spread of COVID-19 made João Moreira, CEO of Abaco Consulting, move to the alert level 2.2 “Extended Containment”, thus requesting all employees not to go to the offices and start working from home.
At this moment, João Moreira considers that the most important thing is to reassure employees. «It is important to give priority to internal communication and to send messages that encourage tranquillity and respect for the imposed rules. Now, more than ever, it is important to demonstrate to our employees that, for us, the most important are people and their well-being », he explains.
In an interview with Líder Magazine, the CEO of Abaco Consulting also shares that he is already taking measures for “after the pandemic” and leaves several pieces of advice to overcome this moment of crisis.
What is most frightening about this global public health crisis?
I think the most worrying thing about this pandemic is that we are not very aware of this disease. As much as we think we already understand it and have identified how we can stop it, there is still a huge lack of knowledge and, above all, we still cannot get the whole society to understand the seriousness of the situation and start to avoid spreading it all over the world. On the other hand, the fact that today we travel much more than ten years ago made it possible for this pandemic to spread to all countries, without anyone noticing, and when we realized, we, the population, had already relativized its speed too much. and we were inundated with information from the media coming into our homes and the social panic was already in place and this, if not controlled, could be quite scary and much more difficult to control.
What measures have been implemented to ensure the health of your employees?
Following the recommendations of the Portuguese General Directorate of Health and the detection of cases in Porto, Abaco Consulting cancelled, first, its internal event that was going to take place at the beginning of the month. Currently, and considering the recent evolution of the spread of COVID-19, Abaco has passed the alert level 2.2 “Extended Containment”, thus requesting all employees not to come to work and start working remotely, except for some employees who, for reasons of force majeure, they must fulfill “minimum services” at our physical offices or at customers. They should only come to the office if it is strictly necessary, and the meetings should also be held remotely, except in situations where the urgency justifies it. On the other hand, Abaco’s concern for its people has led the company to also bet on conducting internal communications on a regular basis in order to keep its employees informed and up to date.
What is the impact on the business?
As of today, we have not yet been able to assess the impact of this crisis. It will certainly be high, not least because we have a presence in many countries outside Portugal and, at the moment, they all have a large number of cases, which makes it impossible to keep some of the companies running at 100%.
How to get around this impact? Is it possible to start designing some measures at this level?
Abaco is a company that adapts and we are, at the moment, already changing our ways of contacting partners and customers. Currently, we are working remotely and, through digital tools, we will keep in touch with them, once that we argue that it is essential that they realize that we continue to support and help them in whatever they need. However, this implies adapting the way of working and choosing more suitable methods for this model of work. On the other hand, we are already taking measures for “after the pandemic”, in order to take precautions and somehow manage to reduce this impact on our business.
Complex situations in concrete that Abaco is facing and how do you think to act?
Currently, we have defined and prepared a contingency plan, which includes different scenarios, both in Portugal and in the other countries where Abaco is present. We believe that the most important thing at the moment is to remain as calm as possible and strengthen our ability to adapt, because only then will we be able to overcome this moment of crisis.
Have you ever experienced such a challenge?
No. We know that there have already been other crises, namely that of the H1N1 flu, but there has never been such a widespread quarantine or if such drastic but precise measures have been taken, such as those now taken. This situation is a challenge to our collective capacity to overcome complex problems, reinforce team spirit and solidarity inside and outside the organization.
What role should the Government take on companies?
The Government must, now more than ever, be the partner of companies and must support them, when they need it. The impact that this pandemic will bring to organizations will not be the same for all, some will feel more than others, and this is inevitable and uncontrollable. But it is essential that the Government realizes the importance of implementing measures focused on companies, regardless of their size, and that they will help them to recover or at least reduce the impact they may feel, such as: treasury management; economic incentive measures that stimulate consumption after a crisis; reduction of measures that have a negative fiscal impact on the lives of companies.
What advice do you leave to the Portuguese who lead other companies or organizations?
I believe that the most important thing is to reassure employees. At this moment, it is important to give priority to internal communication and to send messages that encourage tranquility and respect for the imposed rules. Now, more than ever, it is important to demonstrate to our employees that, for us, the most important thing is people and their well-being. It is equally important that between customer and supplier, partner and competitor, bonds of solidarity are established instead of each looking for individual survival strategies. Success in overcoming this crisis can only be collective, never individual.
And to the Portuguese people in general?
I appeal to you to respect all the recommendations indicated by the Portuguese General Directorate of Health, they are not measures to harm the people, but rather, to protect us all. And, it is very, very important that you realize this. When comparing this pandemic to a war, it is essential to respect discipline in complying with GDH recommendations. Implementing hygiene measures, giving priority to isolation and avoiding social contact is essential for us to be able to eliminate this pandemic. Keeping calm, acting responsibly and, above all, not contributing to the dissemination of non-credible information are the essential tools to avoid impelling social panic.