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Five perspectives on succeeding in uncertainty

For businesses battling the COVID-19 crisis, it may be hard to envision what the world is going to look like in the future. What is clear is that uncertainty will remain constant. These insights from five CEOs on how they manage in uncertain times — which were published before the pandemic — are a reminder that resilience and agility are important drivers of success, whatever the economic and business environment.

All illustrations by Melinda Beck

Be transparent

Spencer Fung, CEO, Li & Fung

Spencer Fung,
CEO, Li & Fung

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“When we started our Supply Chain of the Future initiative, one staff member asked me, ‘Can you tell us what’s going to happen five years from now?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’ There’s no way anyone can predict what will happen over the next five years. How, then, were we supposed to choose our investments? The solution I came up with had three parts. Being humble and looking for disruption outside the industry are the first two, and the third is being extremely agile.”

Stay flexible

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO, Linamar

Linda Hasenfratz,
CEO, Linamar

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“I think in any times of uncertainty — and right now, obviously there is a lot of uncertainty around technology and politics and trade — who we are culturally is helpful. In times of uncertainty, it is really critical that we stay as flexible as possible in every way possible, not just in terms of our equipment but in terms of our strategy. We like to say the flexibility of our strategy and our business should directly correlate to the level of uncertainty.”

Lookout for disruption

Segun Agbaje, CEO, Guaranty Trust Bank

Segun Agbaje,
CEO, Guaranty Trust Bank

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“Banking now is probably more interesting and more challenging than it has been in a long time. When I started in banking, whenever we carried out competitor analysis, all we would look at were banks. Today, you must look at fintechs, telcos, and anybody that would do fast-moving consumables… [including probably] betting companies. Basically, anyone who has the potential to use mobile wallets and mobile technology is a potential competitor.”

Learn from uncertainty

Silvio Kutić, CEO, Infobip

Silvio Kutić,
CEO, Infobip

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“The majority of the things we do every day, we are doing them for the first time in our lives. We are in a continuous learning loop: You have new technologies, new customers, and the ever-changing competitive landscape with lots of regulation added into the bargain. Every day is a school day.”

Focus on execution

Kasper Rørsted, CEO, Adidas

Kasper Rørsted,
CEO, Adidas

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“Not every decision can be long-term...I think a lot of companies underestimate the importance of getting the daily job done in a way they can be proud of. Leaders think they get famous for strategy, and they don’t really focus on everyday execution, because they think you don’t get famous for that. But unless you have good execution in place, you will struggle with growth because the operational foundation on which you grow is fragile.”

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