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Building Core Strength

By Bob Priest-Heck

We’ve been talking to some really smart industry people, listening to the pandemic experts and closely following the economic forecasts. What we’ve concluded is that, while we should prepare for any number of recovery flight paths, we cannot plan on any one of them playing out as scripted. Everyone agrees that the economy is taking a serious hit. Few agree on when we’ll turn the corner. Or on what we’ll see when we get there.

No one expects the events industry to bounce back overnight. No one expects it to rebound unchanged. It will take all of our best thinking to imagine and design the new shape of what’s next. I’m optimistic we will emerge with something better.

But I’m also a realist. And to be honest, the single most important thing we can do today to help our customers is work on core strength. We’re asking our people to stay safe, and many are using the extra home time to strengthen their core muscles. But we also need to stay healthy as an organization. We are calling on business leaders everywhere to do whatever we have to do to keep our businesses viable. Otherwise, with no partners to engage in commerce, there will be no economic recovery. There will be no jobs for our people to come back to.

Perhaps that sounds simplistic. Or draconian. But a look back across Freeman’s 93-year legacy confirms that this is the right move. History is full of relevant lessons. In WWII, Churchill did everything in his power to improve morale. But historian James Taylor notes that he also took steps to strengthen political and military effectiveness by ensuring that planning and decision-making processes were “simpler and more efficient.” The lesson: focus on what was critical.

In the U.S., many economists predicted a new recession as returning GIs flooded the job market in which factories converted to war-time efforts were no longer operating. In fact, businesses prepared to respond to the pent-up demand for their goods and services thrived, and America saw one of its greatest economic booms. The lesson: be ready with what customers want.

A comprehensive study of the devastation and recovery of various communities hit by natural disaster urges not just rebuilding but redesigning to address fundamental problems: “Sudden loss creates opportunities for reorganizing the elements of a community — not just facilities, but also services…. disaster-related challenges provide an opportunity to approach community redevelopment in ways that improve health and social well-being.” The lesson: leaders should focus on making things better than before.

Today, the World Economic Forum urges an investment in infrastructure as a way to stave off recession. “The U.S. infrastructure industry is 30 years behind its global counterparts but a new centralized and data-driven approach to infrastructure projects could help it catch up; Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and innovation could help make the industry more resource and cost efficient.” The lesson: invest in the core to prepare for recovery.

That’s our plan. Freeman is the world’s leading live event and brand experience company. We continue to lead today. We will lead the way to the future. And our success will always come, and only come, by being focused on our customers’ needs. That’s a strategic imperative. It’s what we do. It’s our strength.

Today, despite furloughs, we have over nine hundred people at Freeman who are working with customers and fleshing out products and services we feel will be essential when everyone is ready to move forward. We are accelerating our capacity to support customers beyond the physical experience. We are embracing the concept that LIVE connection is not limited to physical connection. And we are deploying the critical resources to support our customers, when they’re ready to move forward, with what we believe will be the new look of what’s next. As importantly, we have the best people in the world standing by, waiting for the call to return to duty. Their expertise, their deep-seated values, are foundational to our recovery plan. We owe them our best effort to do whatever it takes to revitalize our business, our industry, and our economy.

That’s the plan. Be here. Be healthy. Be ready to move forward.

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