TradeMalta will be launching a podcast and video series, entitled ‘International Insights – Stories from the Real Economy’.

As a company embarks on its journey towards international growth it faces different challenges and opportunities. Its leadership needs to reflect on building the necessary capabilities and processes. In this series – which focuses on key strategies that local companies interested in international growth can use to guide their journey – Dr Joe Schembri meets with entrepreneurs, experts and academics to discuss current themes that are central to global growth in a post-pandemic scenario. 

The global coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on global business – overnight, companies had to rethink their business model, retrain their staff, shift their brick-and-mortar operations to digital platforms, and confront new realities. It was a painful experience – but while some companies went under, others managed to reinvent themselves and emerge stronger.

‘International Insights – Stories from the Real Economy’ will launch on March 23, and in the first episode, entitled ‘Navigating a crisis – Leading in a crisis and emerging stronger’ – Dr Schembri talks to Andrew Mangion, executive chairman and CEO of EC English Language Centres.

Built on Maltese foundations, EC English Language Centres is a success story – and by 2019, had grown into a multinational company with 30 schools in eight countries. But when Covid-19 hit, the company’s business model was shaken as students could no longer travel to learn English.

“Pre-Covid, we employed almost 1,100 full-time staff from all over the world – and in summer would take on another 600 members of staff,” says Mangion. “We had a net turnover of over €100 million and head offices in Malta, London and Boston, US. We had built a multi-national so that if we suffered a crisis in one country, we could shift focus to another country.

“However, Covid was different – a worldwide catastrophic effect that impacted everyone and everything”. The company had to implement drastic measures to face this existential crises. 

“On January 24, 2020, we held the first crisis management meeting – and by March, it was clear that the pandemic would be a worldwide crisis never experienced before. Overnight, we had to pivot to an online model – our team was just unbelievable and we could continue providing a service. We also had to stem cashflow and deal with landlords around the world to renegotiate terms on rental agreements. We cut costs and took massive pay cuts. It was a veritable storm.

“However, we survived – and our biggest strength was to communicate. When people stop communicating, they gravitate towards the worst scenario. We communicated with our executive team on a daily basis and had weekly huddles with our board and our senior management team – in 17 time zones. We communicated with all our staff and students. And throughout, we were honest – and that fuelled our strength.” The result is that the company emerged out of the crisis much stronger and is today once again the growth-oriented, innovation leader it used to be before.

International Insights is organised with the support of strategic partners HSBC Bank Malta p.l.c. and powered by Studio Seven. Times of Malta is media partner. The series will be available on popular podcast platforms, TradeMalta’s YouTube channel and

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