After the XXXII. General Assembly which saw the election of Zoltán Szabó, General Manager of BT-ROC as the new AmCham President, we discussed his prospects for the chamber and his thoughts on the economic recovery during COVID-19.
AmCham: First of all, congratulations again on the election. We are excited to open a new chapter in the long history of our organization with you at the helm. What perspective do you think you will bring to the role? What can the members expect from you?
Zoltán Szabó: Thank you very much. I am delighted to continue my journey with AmCham in the presidential role. I am a visionary leader with a strategic mindset and I feel determined to solve complex challenges day by day. I will rely on the experience I have gained in various senior leadership roles across multiple industries to fulfill AmCham’s vision.
AmCham: What is your vision for AmCham?
ZS: AmCham is a strong community where the voices of the SME as well as the large corporates are heard. It is not only a great platform to network and enrich our professional lives, it is a place where we can realize our common business interest. Therefore, we can all improve our companies, the environment we operate in and, essentially, we can make our country stronger and more competitive. I passionately believe in all of us being responsible for helping improve the quality of the Hungarian education. Therefore, I see AmCham’s strengthened role in career orientation too.
AmCham: You are taking on this important position in the middle of an economic recession. What are the biggest challenges for businesses in Hungary now?
ZS: It will take two or three long years before the global economy will reach its pre-COVID performance. For those of us who believe in improving our country’s competitiveness and fast-tracking GDP growth, the next years are essential in preparing the Hungarian economy and its players for a kick start by ensuring that fundamentals around productivity, innovation and skilled workforce are improved.
However, our businesses cannot afford to look only at future challenges. Many of them need help now to minimize losses and keep their colleagues.
AmCham: Since the outbreak, AmCham has participated in weekly strategic meeting with the government to address the economic fallout and represent the interests of the business community. How do you see AmCham’s role in the economic recovery?
ZS: I see AmCham as one of the key players in the economic recovery. We are an influential community with a proven track record in influencing decision making at the highest level. Even if not all our recommendations are accepted at the first attempt, we shall remain persistent and reiterate those we truly believe in. The clearer we are able to articulate our common business interests, the more chance we have of success.
AmCham: The pandemic provided an opportunity to accelerate economic reforms and forced businesses all over the world to rethink their priorities. What are the key principles driving business today? How can companies come out of this pandemic stronger?
ZS: In these days, improving effectiveness while maintaining jobs and even increasing our customers’ trust is key. Being flexible and executing prompt actions are necessary more than ever, not only to keep up with the competition and deliver shareholders’ expectations but in some industries – and this is especially true for smaller-sized businesses ¬ simply survive. The pandemic forced us to speed up digitalization in order to help change the ways in which our colleagues can work, and we can serve our customers; even more so because our customers and their expectations changed too.This period, however, also showed us the real value of meaningful business partnerships, increased trust in our colleagues, even in functions where remote working was unacceptable previously, and deprioritized some spending that we never imagined our enterprises could run without.Those who adopt and execute digital transformation quicker will have satisfied customers, loyal colleagues and will run a leaner operation; essentially they will become more competitive once the pandemic will be behind us.AmCham is an excellent platform to foster discussion between various industries and businesses of different sizes in order to share best practices and articulate our common interest and, thus, get us prepared for the post-COVID era.
AmCham: In your campaign video you said COVID-19 taught us how to cooperate remotely using digital technologies and yet showed us how much we rely on real personal connections and communities. What is your take on the “new normal”? What changes or new methods of working will remain in the post-COVID world?
ZS: The past few months have showed us that adopting new ways of working, new processes and new digital technologies are essential, but in some cases also beneficial. I believe that in the post-COVID world, as discussed above, we will have to (and therefore we will) integrate these learnings. Those who can will spend more time working from home, will commute less, thus help decrease traffic and air pollution in our busy and polluted cities. Essentially, we will have more quality time with our families.We will run more efficient operations by spending less on our offices and time-consuming business travel. I know that this sounds frightening in the short run for some companies and industries, but throughout history we have seen many inevitable changes. We also saw that the really strong business (often not the biggest) always came through even stronger. And yes, the pandemic showed us how much we rely on real communities and personal connections. Therefore, we will always travel to meet others face-to-face for business, but we will hopefully strike a healthier balance than before the pandemic. As meaningful personal connections have been mentioned, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all of you a peaceful holiday season, a wonderful Christmas and time spent with your loved ones, even if in smaller family circles that we are used to.