Firms urged to ´Take Hay while the sun shines´

Austria and Germany are enjoying an economic upturn – bouncing back following the crash in 2008 and recession of 2009.But
despite the current positive economic news, companies are being warned
of troubled times ahead, and the need to use the current positive
situation as a chance to prepare for troubled times ahead.This
was the message at a congress at Vienna’s Hilton hosted by the
management consultancy firm Hay Group, where delegates learned that with
the Austrian economy expanding at 3.1% it was the right time to build a
solid foundation for the future.Director of The Economist Robin Bew warned the 300 delegates from all continents that: “It’s going to get harder”.He
said hikes in inflation due to price increases for raw materials and
increased wage demands were widely expected in the last half of 2011.And
he continued: “This has an impact on human resources as companies and
economies will have to adjust to the slowing down of economic growth.”Inflation is going to mean less money in people’s pockets, so they will have less to spend.”And
he added that the warnings were already starting to come true with
“sharp increases in food prices recently”, which he noted had been
underscored with protests in many countries like Spain or in the Arabic
countries.Brew added, “Companies are going to have to restructure and find ways to deal with the changes.”This
was the main motivation behind the congress organised by Hay Group, a
global management consulting firm that works with leaders to transform
strategy into reality. The firm sets its goals as developing talent,
organising people to be more effective and motivating them to perform at
their best.Hay Group’s CEO for Austria, Germany and
Switzerland, Thomas Maurer, said, “There was never a better time for
companies to act and look closely at their human resources. When times
are hard, companies need loyalty and trust.”This has to be
earned. Hay Group supports companies to build trust and helps them
overcome challenges – and we are facing many challenges ahead.”Albin
Hahn, CFO of Austrian confectionary firm Manner, was one of the first
to back the company’s message of the need to build solid foundations in
order to get ready for the new challenges.Manner needed to
restructure because it was a family business where the owner, Dr. Carl
Manner, who is 82, had no children and therefore nobody to take over in
his family – and an era was about to come to an end at the firm that was
founded in 1890.Working with Hay Group Manner established a
company board with two members of families holding company shares and
two members with experience from international companies. The four
members always have to find a solution taking into consideration the
interest of the shareholders and the professionalism of the business.Manner’s
‘change management’ allowed a sustainable business model to emerge
using external support brought into the family business. It is a success
story along the lines Hay Group is promoting.Prof. Noreen Hertz, a UK based social economist spoke of other challenges outside of the economic sphere.She
said: “Social media is having an increasing influence. The Arab World
was stimulated into protest as issues became viral in a short time
through Twitter and Facebook.”And she quoted American investor,
industrialist and philanthropist Warren Buffet, who once said: “It takes
15 years to build a reputation and just 15 seconds to lose it.” She
said companies need to be aware of social media and how to use it to
survive in the modern World saying: “As an example, Corporate Social
Responsibility (CSR) is seen as a must by 80-90% of the population these
days. That means that CSR is a serious business matter that companies
simply cannot ignore.”Guest speaker and the former environment
columnist for The Times Josephine Fairley firmly lauded the loyalty,
trust and CSR at the firm she founded – Green & Blacks, a British
success story based on fair trade, environmental sensitivity and strong
corporate trust building. It was a message that has helped make Green
& Blacks one of the most celebrated consumer chocolates on the
market throughout the World after it was founded in 1991 by Fairley and
her husband Craig Sams.The name was derived not from any
founders’ surnames, but from a wordplay — “Green” standing for the
environmental concerns of the founders, and “Black” for the high cocoa
solids chocolate they wished to provide. In 1994, the company began
purchasing fair trade cocoa from Maya farmers in Belize for the Maya
Gold chocolate bar, and was awarded the 1994 Worldaware Business Award
for good business practice, as well as the UK’s first Fairtrade mark.Fairley said: “Trust and loyalty to our workers was the key to our success.”This
was also echoed by Barclay’s Bank Retail managing director Robert Bond,
who with Hay Group masterminded the transformation of the once
struggling British bank.Barclay’s is now one of the top banks in
the UK. “We restructured Barclay’s making trust our focal point”, said
managing director Bond.Hay Group’s Thomas Maurer added: “Whilst
the Sun is shining on the economy its the best time to strengthen
companies so we have a sustainable future.”And he added that the
old adage of making hay while the sun shined was more true than ever at
the moment: “The companies that embrace this message have an edge in
the market and are better placed to survive and grow. We at Hay Group
provide companies with the tools and indicators to achieve success
through building trust, and that was why we held this congress to get
that message across.”Contact: Austrian Times Business and Commercial Correspondent John Morris