Hindsight is 20/20
What 2018 Can Tell Us About the Year Ahead
This year was a rollercoaster ride in the media. Every day seemed to bring “breaking news.” Especially in the age of President Trump and with a stock market that is no longer on a prolonged up-trend, volatility is alive and well and kicking in the financial markets and newspaper headlines.
In this turbulent environment, it is critical for companies to prepare themselves as well as they can for the potential crises and pitfalls that lie ahead. The following is a look at some of the issues that dominated the media in 2018 and examples of how companies acted in response.
Financial services firms are increasingly preparing for a potential slowdown in the economy. Five-hundred point daily swings in the Dow now are commonplace, and the last weeks of 2018 have brought the equity markets from record highs to negative for the year.
The #MeToo movement has spurred serious reflection and new protocols by Fortune 500 boards and HR departments across every industry.
Data breaches and cyber attacks have captured the nation’s attention and ire, even as consumers and regulators have begun to question the role that technology and social media companies play as stewards of our data and protectors of our privacy.
Ultimately, some companies navigated these troubled waters with grace and restraint. Consider, for example, how Starbucks responded to an incident that occurred in one of its Philadelphia stores when two African- American men were asked to leave the premises and law enforcement was called because the men wanted to use the restroom. In response, the chain closed every single one its locations across the country for one day and held racial bias training sessions for more than 175,000 employees. While some remained critical of the coffee giant, the bold move signaled the company’s dedication to promoting a respectful environment within its stores.
Other companies struggled to find their feet, and are ending 2018 somewhat off-balance. Tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have faced a torrent of criticism for failing to protect customer data from cyber attacks or third party misuse, and have also been implicated in allowing state operatives to run influence campaigns impacting democratic elections around the world. For the most part, these technology companies have failed to articulate a clear vision for how they intend to work collaboratively with regulators to protect their users, and they will remain in the spotlight for the foreseeable future.
Many of the past year’s highest profile events were the result of issues that will continue to dominate corporate agendas in 2019. Legacy misconduct on the part of executives will continue to be exposed; with the equity markets jolted, active and passive managers will continue to debate the best ways to maximize value for their clients; and the transformational role that technology plays in every aspect of business and our personal lives will continue to be front and center.
Corporations do not need to enter 2019 unprepared, and should heed the lessons of the past year. Revamp HR and legal protocols, strengthen cybersecurity capabilities and develop a response plan, and prepare messaging to explain to investors how you are navigating a more volatile market.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.”
Preparing for the ups and downs of the news cycle requires patience, creativity, and a dedication to professional corporate messaging and implementation at every level – from communicating internal changes to employees to showing conviction to your clients and investors during quarterly earnings calls.
Given the current environment, companies can’t afford to be caught unprepared, and having the right plan in place will allow businesses to nimbly navigate the challenges – both new and old – that 2019 will bring.
By Liam Ben Zur, Account Executive