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News@Ivey · Ivan Langrish

Strategy in the face of uncertainty

Jun 8, 2020

Tony Frost

“If you open will they come?”

In this time of uncertainty as the Canadian economy begins to re-open, this is a key question posed by strategy professor Tony Frost and a leading panel of business leaders. Joined for an interactive webinar session by Kevin O’Brien, HBA ’93, President and General Manager, WW Canada; Frances McRae, Assistant Deputy Minister, Small Business and Marketplace Services, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED); and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, HBA ’92, former president of StubHub they discussed how business models have evolved during COVID-19, government response to the pandemic, impacts to the start-up community, and balancing physical and virtual interactions, both in a work and commercial context.

“If we open up and consumers don’t come back, will business models be viable,” said Frost. Questions around industries which rely on gathering in groups such as live music and restaurants are just some of the many unknowns facing entrepreneurs and big corporations alike.

It’s becoming clear there isn’t a playbook for re-opening and it can take both a professional and personal toll.

“As leaders I think we have to manage an extended period of time when people are naturally uneasy,” said Singh Cassidy. “Finding a way in your professional work to feel stable and cared for while being adaptable if going to be challenge.”

Having a measure of flexibility and agility will be key as different jurisdictions ease restrictions at different times and in different ways.

“We are planning for the complexity of re-opening while also not being sure what is going to happen in the near-term,” said O’Brien. “The goal is to open judiciously, take advantage of where we can push the envelope a bit, such as the East Coast and the Prairies, learn from that and fast cycle. An agile operating model is going to be true.”