Marc Walder, CEO and Managing Partner of Ringier and founder of the digitalswitzerland initiative, opened up with a lot of honesty about the difficulties that come with the spread of the virus and underlined the importance of the adjustment in our heads and souls around what really counts. Between the many positive effects that he sees to follow this pandemic digitalisation comes out as a clear winner, but it needed the push and has Asia as a good example.
Here are the key takeaways of the interview but we recommend to take the time to listen to all this information coming from Marc. It is charged with the human emotion that we all need now in order to understand that we are all in this together, no matter our roles or the industries we are operating in.
Ringier as a company acted very early, it sent people into home office after seeing the first cases of Coronavirus in the North of Italy. The group managed to get the operations installed in 14 days for more than 6500 people employed in order to be able to deliver services in remote setups. All this was possible through open communication about the fear of the spread and realising the importance of reacting fast.
Reliable and relevant media has never been more important than today
It is an absolutely dramatic time for the media. A lot of media companies have to keep their operations up and running while fighting the liquidity crisis because big parts of advertising imploded completely.
Independent, reliable and relevant media has never been more important than today, it plays a huge role in reacting to the crisis. All journalists and stakeholder have to be aware of the big importance of what they do, report responsibly, in a way that adjusts facts without being too negative.
“Media has an important role, more important than in the past decades. We have to give the people facts to understand that there is a way to get out of this.”
Silver lining sustained by the healthy Swiss economy
Ringier Group will get their full salaries at least until June. “We can’t punish employees for this situation.“
This is possible for most of the businesses thanks to the short time work measurements sustained by the Swiss government. There is the pressure of the economy that questions the possible length of the lockdown without driving us into a recession. A lot of countries don’t have many policies in place like Switzerland, where the government and the banks are doing a very good job in a very fast way in helping businesses to overcome the difficulties with cash injections.
On the personal level, Marc, as any other working parent is battling with structuring his workdays and the days of his child with homeschooling added to the equation.
“We have to be very radical with social distancing in order to help flatten the curve. We have to be very strict in not doing any mistakes, like going out because there’s good weather.”
Why digitalisation is a clear winner of this crisis and how to leverage it
The effects of the pandemics are the actual drivers for everything digital. While all physical businesses are punished by the lockdown, e-commerce is getting stronger. People who didn’t have much contact with digital shopping or communicating digitally, start to find their way to normal life through the discovery and increased usage of digital services.
From the companies in their portfolio, DeinDeal and Geschenkidee are both doing very well.
But Marc raises a very important point around the real digitalisation of society, that must be sustained by the government. In handling the crisis Asia showed that they have the tools to help oversee the development of the crisis.
“We need to become better in digital services for our society. Europe is far behind Asia when it comes to digitalisation. The US as a nation is also not well equipped for its citizens when it comes to digitalisation.”
Positive effects on society
“These times will have many positive effects on society.
We have to be aware that 2020 will be under the impression of Corona. This will not go away. The situation will improve but it will be under the impression of Corona, it will not be normal. If we face this it will be easier to adjust.”
Marc highlighted the more philosophical perspective as well, about people now adjusting what is really important in life and what is not. Focusing on our smaller world becomes more important, although we don’t know for how long we will manage to keep this as a priority. In the past years, our society focused a lot on the global, and this will completely change, we will try to get as much as possible locally. Luckily in Switzerland, this was always an important aspect and we should continue to focus on what we do best.
“We will make adjustment in our heads and souls around what really counts: relationship counts, health counts, being more aware of our actions.
Flying around the globe constantly is not important and not the best thing.”
The next phase that comes after the lockdown will be more difficult, more complex.
How will everything go back to normal? Is it going to be step by step, how will everything align, and how to keep people stick by the rules?
Marc Walder’s message: “It is going to be a marathon. Its easier to go into this challenge if you know that this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
We will do well and pass this marathon. Takes a lot of time, structure and discipline but we are in a good position to go through this crisis.”
Marc Walder is the CEO and Managing Partner of Ringier, an innovative, digitalized and diversified Swiss media company that is active in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Ringier`s portfolio comprises over 100 subsidiaries in the areas of print media, digital media, radio, ticketing, entertainment and e-commerce as well as leading digital marketplaces in the vehicle, real estate and job sectors. Ringier supports innovative digital start-ups as a venture capital investor. Family enterprise Ringier, which was founded in 1833 as a publishing and printing company, has invested consistently in recent years in the digitalization and internationalization of the group. Around 7,300 employees in 19 countries generated revenue of more than one billion Swiss francs in 2018. Around 70 per cent of operating profit already comes today from the digital business, putting Ringier at the forefront of European media companies. Ringier stands for innovation, independence and freedom of expression.
Beside Ringier, Marc Walder is member of the "Digital Transformation" advisory council of the Swiss Federal Council and founder of the digitalswitzerland initiative, which is committed to the digital development and transformation of Switzerland. In November 2019 Marc was awarded as the first Digital Economy Ambassador of Switzerland.
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