Exclusive: Make sure you act with integrity amid the crisis, warn business leaders

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The way we do business in the future will change and it might be for the better, say business leaders on Teesside – and it will be those who acted with integrity during the crisis, from the members of staff to the teams, companies and services in supply chains, that you will remember the most.

Speaking exclusively to Tees Business, three of the Tees Valley’s leading CEOs discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their sectors of industry.

Wilton Engineering boss Bill Scott, Tees Components MD Sharon Lane and Frans Calje, CEO of PD Ports, said it is important to remember this crisis will pass.

And when it does, said all three, it will undoubtedly shape the way business is conducted.

“This crisis came and will go and what we will remember is the people that stood by you in your hour of need,” said Frans.

“The people that we employ have stepped up to the mark and I am really, really proud.”

He added: “It is what it is. Life as we know it has come to a bit of a standstill. I can’t control the pandemic, I can’t control the way business is functioning, the rule book for CEOs is not there but you try and pick your way through hoping you are doing all the right things.”

Since lockdown, the way the UK conducts business has changed out of all proportion. Forecasts are already warning the country is facing a significant recession in the year ahead.

If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown, says Sharon, the reigning Tees Businesswoman of the Year, it is the importance of having a great team – and looking after them.

“It is important to keep perspective. It is important to know that this will pass and at a time when lots of things are changing around you, you can choose to be the constant in that change.

“That’s a good place to start, both personally and at work.

“Now is the time to show people are your asset. Do your actions back up your words? Showing we care about people. The most important thing is that your people feel safe at work – the support we have had from our team is incredible.”

Bill agrees. Port Clarence-based Wilton Engineering has, like thousands of other businesses, had to adapt its way of working. Teams who can are working from home to keep vital project supply and delivery services moving, others who can’t are adapting to new and essential socially distanced measures on site.

“You have got to work with what you have got, it is a moving target,” he said.

“But you do what you have to do to ensure the people who work for you are safe.”

Bill, like his fellow business leaders, also believes new ways of doing business will be the way forward. Lots more meetings, decision making processes and business is being carried out via online platforms, he said, where previously long travel trips might have been involved.

It has certainly made him take stock.

Frans too. “I think looking forward it will change the way that we work, there’ll be no need to get in the car or jump on a plane to see clients. We will still have to do it – I do believe in human interaction and in shaking hands – but we won’t do it every time,” he said.

Frans, Sharon and Bill were talking on Tees Business Leaders Q&A, the weekly online video chat between Tees Business and leading lights in local companies. Don’t miss it every week on Facebook Live.