Five Themes To Think About July 2020 With a wall of difficult decisions fast approaching and reputations on the line, we wanted to ensure our network was aware of how we can help think through the tough calls ahead. Nepean was designed to provide top quality advice and a ‘second brain’ with thoughtful, considered counsel and expert judgment. We have advised organisations and individuals on sales, investments, restructurings, negotiations, leadership changes and other complex situations which require careful stakeholder management. We hope the following five themes we have identified are helpful as you consider the reputation you wish to have. 1. Saints and Sinners All stakeholders, driven by traditional and social media, are increasingly looking to categorise individuals and businesses into one of these two definitions. Every decision, no matter how complex and multidimensional, is simplified into good or bad. Often it can be a very fine line between a sinner or a saint. Planning, positioning and tone is everything. 2. Redundancy (along with pay, bonuses and profits) Hard calls will need to be made very soon in order to ensure the survival of businesses. Avoiding or delaying such decisions because of the fear of public backlash will have a much longer-term impact. Reshaping to adapt to changing customer needs, reducing cost and renegotiating contracts, all need to be balanced with the ability to continue to attract top talent and generate profits. How these difficult decisions are framed will determine their reception. 3. Government support – take it, pay it back: what social contract strings are attached As some business (rightly) begin to repay the support received from Government, there will be increased focus on what others do. How support is taken, or even paid back, is already being questioned: is it really in the public interest or a cynical attempt to create space for other actions? Do you go early or wait, do it quietly or publicise it? And with further measures likely to be made available, how should companies respond and engage? These types of decisions, if poorly executed and communicated, can create a major crisis and a long-term anchor on the business. 4. Restructuring (and other stakeholder re-negotiations) Whether lender or borrower, restructurings in this environment are likely to be seen through the lens of winners or losers. The damage to brands on both sides of the negotiation can be long-lasting and impact the ability to achieve the right outcome. There is often little between perceptions of a vulture and a saviour. Engaging at the right time, and with all stakeholders, to ensure a broader narrative is articulated and understood can allow greater strategic freedom. 5. Playing a role in rebuilding the economy – and society All stakeholders – internal and external – will be looking at how businesses and their owners play a role in re-booting a stalled economy. From getting people back to the office appropriately to apprenticeships for the young and retraining for older generations, diversity and purpose. With Government intervention likely to last for years to come and the pull on the private sector to do its bit, those businesses who play their part, early and effectively, will find both an easier operating environment and greater flexibility to do what they want. Carefully considering and planning how to behave in certain situations, the language and tone to use and the most effective ways to engage requires the very best advice, excellent judgement and understanding of business. Communication – not amplification – is critical at times like this. Actions and words matter. If you would like to confidentially discuss any of these themes and how best to manage them, please get in touch.