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‘A crisis can be a chance to do things differently – better even’ 

Organization & Teams


May 15, 2020

August 26, 2020

Ruud Ummels, managing director of aviation consultancy firm To70, has witnessed a few crises, but this one is different.

How do you stay calm – as a person and as a CEO?

‘Founded in 2000, To70 has lived through 9/11, the SARS outbreak and the financial crisis, but a setback of this scale is an unprecedented challenge. The impact on the aviation industry is enormous.

The lockdown didn’t come as surprise though. We have an office in China, so we knew what was coming. In China, things have actually picked up quickly again. In Europe however, with so many countries and different governments, it’s probably going to take much longer.

Of course, my first reaction was: holy shit. I’ve been part of the MT for nine years, and I’ve witnessed nothing but growth. Seeing that collapse in just six weeks was tough.

Thankfully, we’re a healthy company, so there’s no need to panic just yet. I do believe that a crisis can be a chance to do things differently – better even.

How do you navigate between operating in the short term and the long term?

‘We were already used to working remote – all our employees have a laptop and are familiar with teams, zoom and Skype. The tricky part was not having an overview of what everyone was doing, which is why we quickly set up a recourse management tool: that’s been really helpful with sharing the workload.

As for the long term: a lot remains unclear. Thankfully, because aviation is a global industry, there is a lot of data, information and organizations we can turn to. My hopes are that we can contribute to a more sustainable way of flying in the future.’

How do you keep your team motivated?

‘When it became clear that many employees were going to have more time on their hands, we asked them to come up with proposals and ideas they always wanted to work on, but never had the time for. That led to some pretty cool outcomes, such as online masterclasses as well as providing support on how to start up airports after they’ve been closed for a long time.

Especially for the employees living alone in small apartments, working from home can be a challenge. The younger team members like to meet up in the office every now and then –there’s plenty of space to practice social distancing.

The coffee meetings and Friday drinks through zoom have become a big hit: it’s important to keep things light where possible.’

More inspiration?

Check out Otto Lodewijk’s story from SuitIT here

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