The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson, Chair, Wienerberger AG & Electrocomponents
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
As Chairs we only have serious challenges to tackle when there is a crisis! I am pleased to say both Wienerberger AG and Electrocomponents PLC, have emerged from the pandemic so far in good shape, so there are no crises!
Having said that I am concerned with the long term strain the pandemic is placing on our people. In normal times past, there are holidays and weekends away to have time for rest and recovery, but not currently; for many the working day has been extended. We must help senior executives manage their time and create a culture where saying “no I haven’t the bandwidth to deal with this” is acceptable.
Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?
Both my businesses adjusted quickly to the Covid-19 related challenges and put in place crisis
survival measures. As a result, we were soon operating business as usual and are now focusing on emerging from this period even stronger.
On a personal level I am stepping down from both of my Chair roles in the near future. Successors have been identified and my priority is to ensure the handover is managed successfully and without slowing down the pace of change.
What would you have done differently in lockdown and therefore, how may this shape your thinking for the current and any future lockdown (local or national)?
Neither of my businesses benefited directly from the pandemic. We were affected by the Q2 lock-
down and probably will be again by the second one. However, both businesses are currently
outperforming their markets. This was made possible by hard work in the years leading up to
the lockdown to make the businesses more resilient, by ensuring they served a good spread of markets and customers, and getting the fundamentals right, especially in terms of strong relationships with both customers and employees.
Given the reliance on technology during lockdown, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/ workforce transformation in the short-medium term?
As one of my Board colleagues remarked, we were determined “Not to waste a good crisis”. As
in times of war, innovation and change will accelerate during this period. Both my companies invested heavily in digital early on and are now digital leaders in their sectors. We must now move even faster.
The pandemic has shown us yet again that the biggest risks are the ones we cannot control. We are certainly thinking how we reflect that in future in our risk management.
What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?
The pandemic reinforced the importance of communicating well with our employees, customers and suppliers. Our leadership teams have been holding frequent virtual meetings with a variety of stakeholders to ensure everyone is kept fully informed and engaged.
People will re-evaluate international travel. We miss human contact and for many, travelling with
colleagues provided that particularly valuable interaction, so it won’t disappear entirely. But I do believe there will be fewer wasted meetings in the future and although there will be a huge sigh of relief when we can return to “normal”, our use of the office will certainly change. 9-5 office hours are going to be a thing of the past.
There was a dramatic reduction in our carbon footprint during lockdown, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?
This crisis has increased the global focus on ESG. In one of my companies we have had a
sustainability plan in place for some 20 years and only now are we being publicly recognised for the work we have done. Both companies are putting even more emphasis behind their plans to reduce their carbon footprint.
What changes personally will you keep from the lockdown period going forward?
I have actually managed to lose weight during this period and have got fitter. I do more cycling, walking the dog and gardening. We’ve used local farm shops, to support local enterprise. I’ll try to keep all those things going.
Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)
I am most inspired by how many people in various walks of life have done exceptional things since
the beginning of the crisis. As well as health workers, there are the people who deliver our packages and work in shops and essential businesses. Most of them have carried out their public duty with a smile – they are a great example to everybody.
Did you manage a holiday this summer and if so where / how did you spend it?
No. I normally sail, but did not get a chance to this year. However, I live in the country and am lucky enough to have a tennis court, so we spent our summer with plenty of tennis, gardening, walking and cycling.
Any words of wisdom?
People have displayed genuine caring human characteristics during this pandemic. Let us all try to remember those efforts when it is all over.