Linda Hasenfratz is the CEO of Linamar Corporation, a manufacturing and production company, which like every other business is currently coping with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Linda has been leading Linamar through this ongoing crisis, making rapid decisions and taking quick action, in order to respond. This has made Linamar a prime example of how to remain agile in a time of crisis. Linda talks to us about how open communication and a willingness to embrace change have not only helped Linamar cope with the crisis, but have also had an extremely positive impact on the community.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has massively impacted our business and every business. We have thousands of employees who are not working right now because our customers are shut down, countries are shut down, and there’s no need for our product. That has had a massive impact on our people and their livelihoods. It also has a big impact on us financially.
For any crisis, you need to approach the problem systematically.
Step One: Make sure you have the right team in place and the right capabilities to manage the situation.
Step Two: Gather the facts—real facts, and use those facts to develop a plan. Consider what you are going to do to get through this situation. It’s critical to think of all important stakeholders including your employees, customers, and shareholders.
Step Three: Execute on that plan and communicate it clearly. Closely follow up on the plan, and continue to evaluate it. Most importantly, communicate. We are over-communicating in every way we can in order to keep our employee base informed on the situation, impacts to Linamar, and the direct impact on them. We also continue to share any updates to our action plan.”
While what you say is important, how you say it is also critical. According to Linda, “you want to instill enough urgency to get people focused on the plan and realize the severity, but you also want to deal with the issues without having people in a state of panic. So essentially, urgent but hopeful. Urgent, but ‘we have a solution and we are going to get through this together.’ We tell our folks, ‘Tough times don’t last but tough teams do, and we are one tough team.’
When communicating, you don’t always have to have all the answers. That’s okay! Instead, communicate with what you know. Even say, ‘Look, I don’t know this, I’m waiting to understand this, but here’s a way we are going to get through it.’”
A well developed and consistently updated crisis management plan ensures that the organization can effectively and efficiently manage the effects of a crisis and plan for the recovery stage following. As communication is the cornerstone of any organization’s success, it is even more crucial during times of crisis. Not knowing all the answers is okay, and continuously gathering real information is a necessity to avoid confusion, keep your stakeholders in line, and illustrate your confidence in overcoming the challenge at hand.
“Linamar’s culture is extremely responsive, nimble and fast moving. We are well positioned to manage crisis as a result. In these situations, we naturally move very fast. We are also a very flexible company in terms of what we do. We’ve always followed a philosophy in investing in programable equipment that can be easily shifted from one type of product to another. We are flexible, responsive, and nimble, and that is really the perfect formula for being able to pivot quickly. If we can pivot during a time of crisis, it means that we can pivot and adjust as technologies develop and as opportunities arise in new areas. For example, there’s a big evolution going on within the automotive industry in terms of how vehicles are powered. Internal combustion engine vehicles are now shifting towards hybrid and battery electric. The fact that Linamar can switch its production shows great agility. If I can make parts for internal combustion engines one day and then the next day make parts for ventilators to support those suffering from COVID, I’m pretty sure I can make parts for electric vehicles too.”
Linda is a great example of a leader embracing change during an unprecedented time. She has led in cultivating, establishing, and adapting a plan that can continuously support Linamar and the community during the ongoing crisis and prepare well for the next large scale challenge. Linda demonstrates the impact a strong leader can have on a company’s agility, focusing on what Linamar can do rather than what is out of its control.
On May 21st, from 7:00-8:30pm, Level5 Strategy will be hosting its first ever Women Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, “BusinessWomen of Influence” featuring Linda Hasenfratz.