John Dodelande on how to maintain, grow multinational businesses at a time of global crisis
The novel coronavirus outbreak is emphasizing geographical boundaries and making it difficult for multinational businesses and businesspeople to maintain ongoing activity. However, it also poses an interesting opportunity to deepen connections and rapidly develop technological communication as well as business solutions. After all, we are living in a unique reality in which all parties are facing a shared enemy and similar challenging circumstances.
In these uncertain times, forward-looking individuals are aiming not only to survive the economic crisis, but also to come out of it stronger. How? By using this time to network, forge meaningful relationships, build their personal brand, improve the resilience of their business, and seize new opportunities to transform their operations. By doing so successfully, they can emerge with a competitive advantage and hit the ground running. With business operations intact, they can quickly move from perseverance to growth and scale.
We spoke to John Dodelande, a French businessman, entrepreneur, and contemporary Chinese art collector who now lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, to find out how he has been weathering the storm. Dodelande would be one to know all about such challenges, with business interests in sectors ranging from real estate to agriculture throughout what are known as the Silk Road countries. In addition, he is a well-established art collector who seeks to bridge Eastern and Western audiences with a prolific selection of modern and contemporary pieces that aptly reflect the diversity of his own activities and projects.
We were specifically interested in Dodelande’s thoughts on how multinational executives can leverage this unique situation to strengthen enterprise and prepare for the future.
As an executive who conducts business in multiple sectors and countries, what is your perspective on the coronavirus crisis and its effect on business in general?
JD: While we may feel confined by our geographic borders now more than we can ever remember, this is actually an important time to maintain cross-cultural business relationships, to find ways to work together, and to bridge the geographic divide. It is actually an opportunity to develop a business model that could make the world resilient to such global crises in the future.
What would this model potentially look like?
JD: We must find the right balance between the use of efficient and practical digital tools and the maintenance of human relationships with business partners, clients, artists, galleries, and market players. In the art world, there really is no substitute for face-to-face exchange, dialogue, and a direct approach to works. Nevertheless, we can and must find a way to segue into new approaches of interaction with both people and art. I firmly believe in online trading and exchange platforms and we are currently working on developing something of the sort.
What are you focusing your time on these days (professionally)?
JD: I’m putting most of my time and effort into maintaining my existing assets while continuing regular business activity. Just like everyone else is doing right now, I am spending a significant portion of my time conducting virtual appointments and conference calls. I think it’s particularly important to stay in touch with everyone now and make sure they’re okay both from a business perspective and a personal perspective. I also make sure to carve out some time to touch base with the artists I work with and give them the support they need.
What advice can you give other international businesspeople from the art world, real estate sector, and other industries?
JD: I like this idea of business resilience. After the crises in 1929, 2008, and now this, we really need to rethink our model and not just say that we’ll get through this one like the others.
Every business is different, of course. In general, though, I would be focusing on what seemed to be weak signals of change before the crisis as they will become and already are becoming strong signals. I’m talking about raising awareness about the fragility of our economic and human models, taking into account our planet and our well-being, and thinking about how to re-inhabit the world.
As I see it, businesses and businesspeople who will make the shift from thinking only in terms of business to thinking in broader terms of meaning and action will survive this crisis. They will even be able to grow from it and become stronger in advance of future crises. By considering the factors that are too often overlooked, such as the environment, human beings, history, and culture, they will strengthen the infrastructure of their business and develop their ability to provide unique and relevant added value.