Rebecca Bonnici / MaltaCEOs

The third instalment in our Secrets of Resilience series, first featured on MaltaCEOs.mt sister print publication MaltaCEOs 2024, we speak to four CEOs who have successfully navigated their companies through crises and, here, they share valuable insight into the strategies, mindsets and principles that empowered them to not only ride out the storm but emerge stronger.

With Malta’s language travel industry one of the worst-hit when the pandemic broke out, Rebecca Bonnici, Owner and CEO of English language school BELS, was tasked with steering the business through a difficult period that saw the closure of other schools in the industry.

“With the decline in student enrolments in the face of global uncertainty, the pandemic was a particularly challenging period for our school. Our approach to tackle the economic downturn was twofold: strategic restructuring and fostering a culture of adaptability. We streamlined operations, reevaluated our marketing strategies and invested in innovative teaching methodologies to stay competitive.

“In times of business adversity, resilience, adaptability and empathy are crucial qualities for a leader to adopt. Resilience keeps the team motivated amid uncertainty, adaptability helps in pivoting strategies and empathy nurtures a supportive environment where no one’s challenges go unnoticed.

“What’s more, when everything feels critical, a structured approach is vital to help with prioritisation. During this time, at BELS we categorised issues based on urgency and impact, focusing on critical areas while ensuring broader objectives weren’t compromised. Making decisions involved leveraging available data, seeking diverse perspectives and staying aligned with our core values.

“When it came to maintaining team morale and productivity, open and honest communication was essential to cultivate a sense of unity and purpose. We did this through regular team updates on company developments, transparent discussions on challenges and by involving the team in problem-solving. Additionally, providing support, celebrating efforts and fostering a sense of belonging were pivotal in sustaining productivity.

“As for our stakeholders, transparency and consistency were the cornerstones of our communication to maintain their trust and support throughout the crisis. We provided regular updates on our strategies, challenges and successes, and engaged them through various channels, including town hall meetings, newsletters and one-to-one interactions. The key here was to ensure empathetic listening, acknowledge concerns and make sure stakeholders felt valued and informed.

“For us, coping involved a mix of resilience, strategic planning and unwavering belief in our team’s capabilities. Following this crisis, at BELS we employ a diversified approach to ensure the company’s resilience against future challenges by focusing on financial stability, fostering a culture of innovation, and investing in continuous learning and development. We also strongly believe in building strong partnerships and remaining agile to adapt to changing circumstances.”

First published as part of a wider feature first carried on MaltaCEOs 2024 print publication, the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt.

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