United Against a Common Enemy
Interview with Abdullah Almajdouie, KSA
According to Abdullah Almajdouie, Vice Chairman of the KSA’s Almajdouie Holding Co., “We are all united against one, unseen enemy in the fight against COVID-19”. Still, there are more questions than answers around what that will ultimately mean. On one level, Almajdouie notes, “This seems to be a golden age for public and private sector partnerships; where the government plays a critical role in the success of businesses. Though there are businesses that have been completely shuttered by the pandemic, and nobody knows how long the situation will last”.
Regardless of all the uncertainty, Almajdouie asserts that there are ways in which businesses can adapt to protect themselves against such calamities, both at present and in future.
We spoke with Abdullah Almajdouie to learn more.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted family businesses in our region?
COVID-19 was completely unforeseen – a tremendous shock. For family businesses and corporations in the Gulf region, as well globally, the effects of the associated downturn are inescapable. Their survival through this unprecedented period will depend heavily on how they manage crises. Do they have business continuity plans? How do they manage Cash Flow? How agile are they with regards to the never-ending circumstances around COVID? It is a stress test for all companies, whether corporate or family business, on how solidly they can stand through bad times.
Q: Will the impact differ from industry to industry?
It has, so far. Some industries are seeing little impact or are doing quite well, while others are almost completely shut down.
Cleaning, medical supplies, delivery services and online businesses are not only weathering the pandemic but even growing as a result of it. Those in hospitality, entertainment, department stores and other retail, on the other hand, haven’t been so lucky.
There are also variations that exist within industries. Restaurants that don’t have takeaway service, for example, are struggling, and even some that do are taking a hit.
Having said that, we don’t know yet how long the situation will last or how deep it will run. In the end, perhaps every single industry will feel the setback.
Q: What measures can family businesses take to prepare for a crisis situation like this?
Being prepared for the unexpected and ready to act quickly when encountering the unforeseen is crucial. In Saudi Arabia, we have a curfew to consider. That means teams must be prepared with transportation options and the correct permissions so that the business can still function in these extraordinary times.
Developing business continuity policies and procedures that are ready for immediate deployment is an essential part of an organisation’s preparedness.
In our case, we have a corporate committee for the Business Continuity plan headed by the CEO and a few of the executives that focusses on four key elements. The first element is to ensure that our businesses are running smoothly – any hiccups must be minimal. The second element is centred around HR looking after the safety, security and mobility of our people and teams. The third element addresses IT, which in this case has facilitated and provided support for working off-site, taking advantage of technology such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and so on. The fourth element addresses finance, making sure that effective cash flow management, cost efficiency and rationalisation measures are in place. Additionally, we have sub-committees for business continuity, focusing on the respective operations of each business line.
Q: Would you say that all of those key elements are equally important, or is there one that should be given priority?
Cash flow is the most important element. Organisations need to make sure they have enough in reserve to sustain even a lengthy downturn.
Q: How important do you feel the role of government is during a global or regional crisis?
I believe this pandemic has shown how significant a supportive government is to the welfare of the private sector. Luckily in our case, the Saudi government has acted prudently supporting both individuals and industries. Several initiatives have been launched to bolster the private sector, including subsidies and free interest loans with long-term repayment schemes. We receive calls from various ministries, sometimes even late at night. While we are sleeping, government agencies are still up working in support of the citizens. Other governments have also introduced programs to support their people and industries, and at a time like this, it’s clear how essential those measures are. I can say that we are now seeing the true power and potential of private and public sector partnerships; we are all in this together.
Abdullah Ali Almajdouie is the Vice Chairman of Almajdouie Holding Co. Almajdouie is a Saudi group of companies, started as a land transport company, which today has diverse activities that operates all over the Kingdom, as well as across the GCC, North America, Europe, Far East, Middle East and Africa.
Mr Almajdouie is also a university lecturer and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the College of Industrial Management, King Fahad University for Petroleum & Mineral (KFUPM).