This article was first published in the June 2020 China edition of
Accounting and Business magazine.

Life is full of lessons, and the wisest keep an open mind and learn as they go. Even amid the gravest crisis, you can pick up valuable experience and knowledge. Nothing goes to waste, and in that spirit I want to share with you some of what I have learned during the dark days of Covid-19.

I live and work in China, which was the first place to experience the awful impact of the virus and the unsettling reality of quarantine and mass isolation. As the casualty figures rose, my first thought as CEO of my company – Richemont, based in Shanghai – was for my 3,000 staff in shops, warehouses and offices across the country.

After the initial shock came the recovery, made possible because we took three important steps. First, in communication. It was essential to issue clear and consistent messages for staff across many sites. Almost overnight it seems, we mastered a whole suite of technologies to keep people in touch wherever they were. Messaging apps like Zoom, WeChat and Skype became a big part of everyone’s everyday life.

Second, we did things differently. We adopted new shift patterns, and home-working became the new normal. It meant adapting to new rhythms of work, and showing the patience and grace to recognise that everyone was trying their best in difficult times.

And third, we invested. We focused on improving our digital systems to manage the extra demands. A new VPN server transformed our communications speed and improved our ability to sustain home-working. In a digital world there’s nothing to be gained from cutting corners in digital investment but everything to be gained by embracing it.

Perhaps most of all during the Covid-19 crisis, two important qualities have emerged as absolutely essential for a successful organisation: the importance of acting at all times with kindness and generosity. I am determined that when life and business do eventually return to something like normal, those values will remain with us.

They will be especially vital for professional accountants, whose role will be crucial in managing our recovery in the months and years to come.

Jenny Gu FCCA is chief executive officer at Richemont China.