As China prepares reopens its first physical events, Michael Cheng reflects on his team’s experiences of COVID-19, and how they have emerged much closer and stronger from it.
Q. How did your teams respond to working from home?
A. We had a tough start to 2020. Our offices were advised to close whilst we were having our Chinese New Year holidays in February. RX Global Greater China (RXGC) was the first of our business units to confront the outbreak and we responded quickly to the crisis.
Our top priorities were to ensure the wellbeing of our employees and maintain a positive attitude, sustaining morale and a sense of belonging. Working from home allowed us to remain safe and work free from disruption. This was enabled by our strong technology infrastructure and support, and regular communication on essential health and wellness advice, including digital tools to monitor everyone’s heath conditions on a daily basis.
Various digital platforms were leveraged to help our employee embrace the challenge and adapt to the new working environment. Online meetings were conducted using TEAMS via our laptops, and communication remained smooth and effective via WeChat on our mobile devices. Spirits were kept-up with social games which encouraged staff to share their work-from-home selfies and photos via our internal corporate WeChat platform, and to network digitally, so they did not feel lonely or isolated.
Tailor made training programs were offered to our employee to share knowledge and best practices on remote management. We also worked with an external vendor to offer online language courses with complimentary and flexible access for all staff.
Q. As China reopens for business, what steps are you taking to allow people back to the office?
A. It is important that we remain vigilant – the fight is not over. Ensuring the wellbeing of our employees remains our top priority. With the virus situation stabilizing in China, most of our staff returned to our offices in April subject to strict precautions.
Office spaces were sanitized prior to the move back and our teams were brought back gradually in shifts as we continued to monitor the situation. This was important to ensure team members are confident of working in a safe environment.
In addition, all staff had to undergo a temperature check on entering the office and complimentary protective gear, including sanitizers, face masks and hand gloves, was handed out daily. During this period, no external parties were allowed into the office without prior notice or approval.
Even with the move-back, online meetings via TEAMS continue to be encouraged in place of physical office meetings. Online tea talks with the management team also provide opportunities for staff to ask questions and be informed about the latest business developments.
Q. RXGC was very quick to develop digital solutions for your customers. How do you think this will benefit the company in future?
COVID-19 is changing the way that we live and work. I believe an integrated O2O (offline-to-online) platform that delivers value beyond the physical show-floor within the three show days is vital to meet the demand from our customers and the market. Online “everything” seems to be the way to go: Online seminars, online meet-ups, online meetings are just some examples.
As of today, we have organized over 939 online matchmaking sessions and 189 online seminars and discussion groups which allowed us to connect with more than 644,000 participants in total. These initiatives gained a lot of goodwill from our customers during the crisis as they helped them to find new buyers and promote their brands at a time when they are not able to physically meet their customers. They have also enhanced our brand and strengthened our competitive edge which will benefit the company over the longer-term. I believe that when life returns to normal in the near future, these initiatives will continue to enhance the experience of our exhibitors and visitors.
Q. You have just delivered your first face-to-face event post C-19. How did it go?
A. We just delivered our first event API China 2020 on June 9th 2020 and it went very well as we welcomed more than 800 exhibitors with over 100 well known industry leaders sharing their experiences and opinions in a series of keynote conferences over the three days of the show. I think we are all looking forward to the official announcement of the visitor numbers as from what I have seen and heard it should be very positive.
Q. Many of your customers have been badly affected by COVID-19. What practical steps is RXGC taking to help them re-engage with your events?
A. During this period of recovery, I believe that our local team has developed a sense of transcendence, going above and beyond to help our customers, industry and society get back to a new level of normality.
I have already spoken about some of the digital solutions we are now offering which have served our customers well and stepped up our engagement. We are planning to enlarge the scope of these digital solutions and develop a virtual environment where exhibitors are able to connect and experience over a prolonged period (eg. 2 days) of interaction, networking and branding conversations.
We are also running a series of smaller scale of conferences that enable customers to connect and network with their buyers. All these will serve to enhance our brand awareness in the market.
Q. What positive experiences has RXGC gained from this difficult time?
A. We are fortunate that our company is financially healthy and that we were able to weather the storm, but this period has taught us many lessons. For example, we learned that staying calm, and maintaining constant communication amongst the team, are really important. We were also prepared with a BCP committee and plan to deal with a crisis just like this.
As a result of a collective effort from everyone in RX Global China, we feel that everyone is now much closer to each other, thanks to the many volunteers who stepped up and went that extra mile in order to help and support their colleagues. We have emerged a stronger company; a learning organization with strong portfolio values.
Q. What message would you like to convey to organisations in other countries which have yet to emerge fully from lockdown?
A. Lockdown was scary but it was really necessary and has proved to be effective in containing the spread of the virus. As of today, about 90% of businesses in China have resumed work and manufacturers are getting back to the same level of normal pre COVID-19 production.
We have seen how trust in our people has brought out the best in them, highlighting their integrity and enabling them to provide levels of support like never before to our customers. We have discovered just how much potential our innovative digital products have to add value, and help our customers recover.
I believe that whenever there is a crisis with dramatic changes, there is also the potential for new opportunities. This is the moment when we can rethink, retool and adapt, which often results in the long-term in greater efficiency. This is a moment for us to re-energize and evolve for a better future. With that I would like to end on the following quotation from Confucius:
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.