Chairman’s letter | Brunswick Group
Brunswick Review Issue 8

Chairman’s letter

We are enormously proud of the clients we represent and aware of the trust and responsibility they place in us. That responsibility is felt most sharply at times of crisis. Over the past 27 years we have been privileged to work alongside leadership teams all over the world as they have faced myriad crises. This issue of the Brunswick Review is dedicated to that theme.

Perhaps the single most important idea to emerge from this issue is this: while many people continue to talk about “managing” a crisis, those who emerge strongest from a corporate crisis recognize that managing an uncontrollable event is impossible. Instead, the key is to show leadership.

We lead with an interview with Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, who discusses dealing with one of the most complex and difficult crises of recent times, following the explosion four years ago of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. As Dudley illustrates, one of the critical qualities of a leader in such circumstances is the ability to grasp the magnitude of the situation from the get-go, and to marshall all the appropriate resources required to come to grips with the crisis. We have rarely worked alongside a client facing such a tough external environment.

Companies have to survive such challenges but, as Sir Richard Olver points out, a crisis can also be a pivot point, presenting an organization with an opportunity to bring about radical change. The transformation of BAE Systems under his chairmanship over the past decade is a benchmark of how to revitalize a corporate culture.

We have many other examples of finding opportunities in crisis. Sinopec, for one, turned a freak accident into a campaign to raise awareness about the need to preserve Hong Kong’s beaches, enlisting the support of like-minded NGOs. Similarly, Steve Miller has become known as corporate America’s “Mr Fix-it.” Starting with Chrysler in the 1970s, he has helped transform a range of organizations in crisis, from aircraft manufacturers to symphony orchestras.

Several of our contributors focus on the importance of being prepared. Peter Ho, former Head of the Civil Service in Singapore, developed forward planning tools to help the city-state predict risks better. Dr Ali S. Kahn, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used zombies to turn the often dull business of preparedness into a compelling story. His ability to combine a scientist’s rigor with an instinctive sense of how to react under pressure is echoed in Steve Forte’s article on the skills a pilot deploys to deal with a crisis at 35,000 feet. Meanwhile, Brunswick’s Eric Savitz reminds us that the starting point of recovery from a crisis is often a heartfelt apology, a defining statement of character.

Elsewhere in this issue, Steven Murphy gives a fascinating insight into how a great heritage brand like Christie’s can embrace new technology and explore new frontiers, demonstrated by its milestone expansion into China. If one of the keys to success is to have powerful values combined with a passion for your brand, then the success of designer Anya Hindmarch should not be a surprise to anyone, and she does this with panache and humor.

As many companies have come to recognize, social engagement is a key part of building brand value. Brunswick’s Lucy Parker and Jon Miller draw on their recent book Everybody’s Business to argue that today’s big companies are integral to society, not separate from it. As well as delivering financial value, forward-thinking organizations are more and more concerned with how they deliver social value. We also talk to K.V. Kamath, who has been credited with leading India’s banking sector into the modern age, a key factor in his country’s development.

I would like to thank all of our contributors – and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or ideas, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or any of the Brunswick team.

Sir Alan Parker – Chairman, Brunswick Group

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