Michael Hyatt has built and led two successful tech companies throughout the dot-com crash, the banking crisis, and a worldwide pandemic. One of Canada’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders, he knows what it takes to lead through crisis.
Since selling his companies, Michael has become an active investor in several startups, later-stage businesses, and private equity and venture capital firms. He is also a founding partner at the Rotman School of Management’s prestigious Creative Destruction Lab.
We caught up with Michael to gain his insights on what challenges and opportunities lay ahead for today’s business leaders and, most importantly, what leaders can do today to lay a foundation for future success, even in the face of uncertainty.
Contact us to learn more about Michael and his leadership toolkit for the 21st century.
What challenges are you seeing for leaders in this post-pandemic world?
The pandemic essentially shut down capitalism overnight. I don’t think anyone thought that was possible. Now we’re seeing the challenges that follow having to restart an economy, with the main one being a changed workforce. People are used to working from home and demanding a different work-life balance. They’ve also purchased homes much further away garnering a lower cost of living and not expecting to travel five days a week to the office.
A second challenge is the high inflation we’re experiencing right now — a “hangover” from the restart. Originally, it was forecasted to be transitory but it’s proving to be pervasive and sticky. The main challenge here is how leaders can manage increasingly tight margins if they are unable to raise prices alongside inflation.
Lastly, businesses that were not fully online-enabled prior to the pandemic were likely hit much harder, meaning they have far more catch-up to do.
What opportunities lie within these challenges?
Throughout history, crisis has always brought opportunity with it. Going back to the American Civil War, the idea of placing telegraph poles across the country for communication was considered by many to be impossible. But the crisis brought change and it happened, despite all the challenges.
Now with the pandemic, we’re seeing the same kind of “impossible” tasks ahead. For example, many large retailers went under, leaving huge empty spaces at malls. This is where creative destruction comes in. These spaces, often well situated, can be used for warehouses and shipping locations, data centres, vertical farming, etc.
Forward-thinking companies (i.e., those who heavily adopted the cloud and focused on customer service pre-pandemic) are being rewarded today with greater market share than slow adopters. This is a wake-up call for leader to stay on top of trends and disrupt themselves before the market does it for them.
What key qualities in leaders separate those who struggle and those who succeed in times of crises, and beyond?
The key in any crisis is to have leaders that have a propensity to not only act but over-communicate the truth with colleagues, shareholders, and clients. People understand that crises are hard and are more likely to support and give leeway to those who are open and upfront about it. All leaders are tested in crisis but the ones who make it are the “wartime” leaders.
How can leaders foster these qualities in themselves and within their teams?
It starts with getting comfortable with open and sometimes combative dialogue. Build an environment where team members can discuss bad news without fear of reprimand. This is key to enabling growth through challenging times.
How do leaders need to adopt their leadership strategies in today’s world of hybrid and remote offices?
It starts with setting expectations. The company needs to be honest about what it really needs — what are the facts? What does the topline, gross margins, and bottom-lines look like as people stay out of the office? Is it working? Once leaders have the facts, they can bring them to their team and create a plan that is aligned with their strategy and company goals.
What trends should business leaders be paying attention to right now?
Right now, leaders need to be very focused on coming to terms with inflation. The federal government wants to see it come down to 2%, but we’re at 9%. So, leaders need to figure out how to hold or better margins, while also dealing with the pressure of wage inflation and not always being able to pass higher prices onto clients
Technology is likely the key to this riddle. By definition, technology is deflationary. Leaders should be examining their digital strategy to ensure they are utilizing the most effective tech, automation, cloud services, etc. to change the game on margins. The winners coming out of this pandemic are the ones who exploit tech to their advantage.
What lessons should business leaders have learned from the pandemic?
In hindsight, the “winners” of the pandemic were leaders that were wartime-ready. If going into the pandemic, you were a peacetime-only leader without a propensity to act, you likely got left behind.
The next few years will test leaders as we’re likely heading into a recession. Being a CEO is often a lonely and difficult job, and it requires people to make the tough, sometimes unpopular, decisions to right the ship. This is where wartime leadership comes in.
Michael Hyatt equips leaders with the tools and strategies needed to face change head-on and prosper. In his new topic “Business Unplanned: Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World”, he shows audiences how to become the change agents needed to succeed in this new world of work.
Contact us to learn more about Michael and the impact he can bring to your next event.