Mercuri Urval in Vienna was very pleased to be able to welcome two CFOs from well-known companies in Austria on May 4th as part of a virtual panel discussion. Andreas Lederer, Head of Finance & Accounting, Administration and Law at STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H. and Christian Schmidt, Head of Finance, Controlling and IT, D-A-CH and CZ, Groupe Atlantic reported on their experiences of the past few weeks. We were thus able to learn valuable information about the activities of a media company and a company from the manufacturing industry. In addition to their profound financial activities, both gentlemen also gave insights into how they dealt with this situation, which is new for all of us, both as a manager and as a private individual.
First of all, it was of particular interest to the participants to what extent the companies were affected by the developments of the past few weeks. This enabled us to learn relatively quickly that the crisis would probably hit a media company more than a manufacturing company. Both gentlemen also reported that they took measures very quickly and proactively to ensure the liquidity of their companies. “Cash is king” was and is considered a motto and the other KPIs have been pushed back accordingly. In addition, task forces were sometimes installed to deal with the various solutions.
It was important for us at Mercuri Urval to work out to what extent the companies acted on the following levels:
- Funding from the Federal Government and other public bodies
- Management measures
Above all, Mr Lederer emphasised that he very much welcomed the Federal Government's measures to maintain business operations and came out as a fan of short-time work. In addition to short-time work, various other options were used. On the business side, the topic of costs was mainly dealt with, but it was important to him to maintain the economic cycle and payment cycle, which is why there was less emphasis here. In any case, no new restructuring measures were started, but planned projects continued.
Since the effects of the crisis on the business of the Atlantic Group had been manageable to date, the process was handled with caution, coarser cuts were not necessary until now.
A challenge was of course the establishment of a home office model, which kept both companies busy in the first few days but were established very quickly. Making a virtue out of necessity, however, both gentlemen found that they are currently and will continue to take a much more intensive look at the working worlds that are changing due to digitisation.
Both experts stated that, from today's perspective, it is difficult to decide on future measures, since nobody could really predict how quickly the market would actually recover.
Mr Lederer's assessment was that the market would slowly relax by the end of 2021, but that the "pre-crisis level" would not come back until 2022. It is still important, on the one hand, to have the costs under control and to constantly re-evaluate them, and on the other hand to keep an eye out for new products for sales. Especially in the media sector, other digital products are interesting, the crisis is an opportunity to deal with new sales opportunities even more intensively. So far, layoffs have not been an issue, the possibility of extending short-time work will be examined depending on the situation and taken up as needed.
In the field of industry, it is questionable in the future whether the many business trips to meetings abroad can in future not be carried out physically, but increasingly via digital tools. Above all, Mr Schmidt emphasised that in the future, especially during his day trips, he would think more carefully about dealing with them via digital media in order to save time and costs. Both experts also see the crisis as an opportunity, for example, modernising the digital infrastructure for employees was now easier to implement than before the crisis.
When asked by a participant how the crisis affected both them as managers and private individuals, both men gave open answers. After the latest developments of the past few weeks had had an impact on such different levels, it was important to balance accordingly. One was symbolic in the office, for example, to demonstrate that one tries to control the situation as far as possible. In addition, the focus was also on their own family.
For us as professional management consultants, it was important to provide our customers with insights into areas that may be somewhat outside of our usual field of activities, but which are currently all the more important. The extremely positive feedback on our event gave us reason to hit the nail on the head with this topic.