Riding the wave: Insights from Sri Lankan Business Leaders

 Covid 19: CEO Pulse Survey 

The uncertainty of COVID-19 is perhaps the most challenging crisis decision-makers have had to find responses to, in the 21st century. From state-owned to multinational, from conglomerates to startups, decision-makers are faced with strategic ambiguity like never before. 


Despite key contingencies that are in place and the degree to which the organizations adapt, there is still unprecedented challenges faced by today’s decision-makers. 


Breakthrough Business Intelligence conducted a survey with 241 C-level decision-makers of the corporate sector to understand their perspective on the challenges they face. The CEO Pulse Survey strived to identify the best practices to adopt during the pandemic, and the business transformation required to operate, post-pandemic.


The survey consisted of four areas of focus: the current strategic challenges faced, the predictive on the market, the predictive on the consumer and strategies likely to be adapted to face the challenges. The survey found an impetus for change in all aspects of a business.


Current strategic challenges 

49% of the respondents saw 'securing of financials for business continuity' being a challenge post-COVID-19. Added stresses on the financial system could see businesses facing difficulties accessing debt markets. 


With many CEOs reporting a drop in staff motivation levels, securing human resources and providing them with the technology to allow for optimum performance remotely have taken centre stage. 35% of the respondents find the securing of staff difficult while 39% of the participants identify laying the infrastructure for remote work challenging.


Business leaders report that most companies are operating at around 30% of their capacity. This appears to have a direct impact on the stress on securing financials, and employee demotivation and retention. As operations run the risk of stagnating, the lack of clarity in the operating environment has made it difficult for executives to plan.


The predictive on the market 

48% of the business leaders report closure to key markets and buyers. With falling revenue forecasts, businesses will have to rely on new channels to meet their key markets. 


When they regain access to these key markets, the ban on imports and lower operating capacity could still act as deterrents against business growth. Business executives will be expected to think in parallel with their key stakeholders.


Businesses that strike a healthy balance between creating and supplying consumer demand, ensure staff welfare and alignment with national best practices for trade will be able to systematically gain access to key markets while at the same time strengthening their supply chains. 


The predictive on the consumer

Consumer behaviour can be expected to change in times like these. 62% of business leaders believed that general consumption patterns would decrease owing to the lack of buying power. 46% expect lower spend on entertainment and leisure. 


With all global, local, online and offline media outlets sharing information about the fluctuations in health and economic conditions, consumers have been experiencing high levels of anxiety about their physical, mental and financial safety. 


Strategies likely to be adapted to face challenges 

Businesses will focus on alternative means of adding and distributing value to the customer (in quantities that they can afford). 78% of business leaders predict that these effects would last at least for the next 6 months. Especially for entertainment and leisure sector executives, the situation would demand aggressive action in pivoting resources and innovating solutions. 


Business executives need to re-look at transforming business processes, especially to reinstate staff motivation levels and to establish favourable remote-working cultures. Employees can be expected to juggle between physically attending office and working remotely. As such, creating and maintaining COVID-19 compliant worksites and offices, laying out infrastructure and operating system for remote work, and fostering lateral thinking skills among employees will take priority. 


While providing the right environment for employees to flourish, businesses need to adopt stringent measures to run a business. Ability to avoid clashes between the two objectives would define a successful approach to business transformation. This would require constant checking in with key stakeholders. 


Trade restrictions (especially on importing) will see businesses that collaborate and innovate, succeed. The environment is ripe for innovation in new digital product/service placements and fulfilment. The main imperative for leaders would be to strike a balance between decentralization and maintaining information safety. 


In this defining juncture in world history, those who are agile in responding to the crisis, at the speed of the crisis, will survive. While some will not make it through, most CEOs remain optimistic about the future, which is a glimmer of hope for the nation. 

Infographic – Leadership typologies