Mantas Katinas: we look at current changes as possibilities not as obstacles

Apr 24, 2020
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Mantas Katinas, General Manager of Invest Lithuania, explains the strategies organisation is using to maintain the maximum level of service possible under the current restrictions – and what they mean for our clients. The COVID-19 outbreak has presented a challenge for everyone – us included. But thanks to careful planning and agile processes, we’re still delivering real value for our clients and partners. Find out how below.

Borders closed, projects postponed, investor visits put on hold, events cancelled, offices deserted – the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on foreign development agencies has been dramatic. Adapting quickly to these changes was critical – there are opportunities in amongst all of the challenges. I wanted to share the main strategies we’ve been using in order to remain agile and impactful during these unprecedented changes.

Existing clients: All of our teams have been reaching out to our existing clients to find out how they are dealing with the situation. What are their plans? What do they need right now (for example, one important need has been helping foreign citizens be allowed into Lithuania)? What kind of changes are they planning to undertake?

Final stage leads: We pay a lot of attention to final stage leads in our CRM. These are investors in the final stages of their decision making process, and where Lithuania is on their shortlist. During this period, we’ve categorised these companies into 3 different groups: cancelled or postponed projects, frozen projects, and the projects that are still alive. In times of uncertainty, it’s natural for people to get distracted and lose focus. The mantra of  “always be closing” that our sales team has cultivated helps a lot in keeping the spirit and culture of wining alive in this period.

Virtual visits: We are already organizing virtual visits for prospective investors. How? We create an itinerary, just like we would with a real visit, including intros and wrap-ups each day. Online meetings between prospective investors and other parties (like companies already in the ecosystem or ministries) are attended by two representatives from Invest Lithuania (we believe in the 4 eyes and ears principle). One of these will moderate the discussion. And we’ve learned to squeeze short feedback sessions between these meetings. And what about actual site visits? We film potential investment locations using drones. Then we squeeze all the information about infrastructure in Lithuania that we can get into these videos. This situation is forcing us to find creative solutions just to maintain our position in the game.

Rearch and analysis: This has been perhaps the biggest focus of our time during the lockdown. We are gathering data and insights from a range of sources, then analysing our findings in order to uncover the best ways forward:

– We’re having long conversations with business experts, consultants and investors. We’re trying cold calling to broaden our network. The aim of these conversations is to test out our hypotheses as to how various sectors will be changing in both the short and long term.

– We’re conducting detailed analyses of different industries and the types of relocation they will have to undertake. Which sectors are going to put a freeze on relocation activities, which ones have more potential? These findings are going to help us to rethink and adapt our mass marketing and sales campaigns that we will launch when the quarantine is lifted.

– Each of our product teams is analysing the situation and preparing proposals for the government on how their area can help to drive the country’s economic recovery in the short and long terms.

In terms of what we’ve learned so far, there’s a lot (I’ll share more in a future post). But key findings include the fact that GBS providers in Asia have been hit hard, with limited tech capacity to continue operating remotely. We’re also seeing GBS operators exploring how remote working will open up new opportunities and working models. Then, in terms of supply chain, Lithuania is very well placed to handled production operations returning from Asia as a result of the supply chain vulnerability COVID-19 has revealed.

Social media and webinars: Our target audience is using social media more, so of course we are being more active across our channels. We are using them to shine a light on the innovative ways businesses in Lithuania are adapting to the changes brought by COVID-19 and supporting healthcare workers and the most vulnerable. And this has been a unique opportunity to connect with a wider audience and strengthen our voice as experts. For example, the Q&A our Fintech team ran brought the Regulator together with private sector representatives in a wide-ranging discussion, and we’re then turning these insights into op-eds to further extend our reach. We’ve also been sharing insights on remote working tools and best practices (more on that as well in an upcoming post). Webinars have become an essential tool for dialogue. So we have been both participating in webinars and creating our own. Our aim with these webinars is to use our expertise and network to shine a light on the potential changes coming to the global business community across various sectors (IT, fintech, GBS, manufacturing, and more). As remote work became a trend, Invest Lithuania responded quickly and soon provided valuable insights from the biggest names at GBS & ICT sectors, such as Nasdaq, Telia and Danske Bank. Unusual circumstances empowered us to provide additional value to our audiences, which set a higher barrier for our future content.

Conferences: Of course, conferences are important in our industry. And, while many have been cancelled, it’s been really impressive to see how some have been able to adapt super fast to the situation and offer virtual versions of their events. Our Life Sciences team has actively participated in conferences online during this period. These events provided a great way to get up to speed on the very latest industry developments, and the way it is responding to the coronavirus (such as big pharma players partnering together). The partnering systems at these events also facilitated valuable face-to-face meetings, although the lack of physical networking opportunities was, of course, problematic.

The office: Our team of more than 100 staff has adapted to remote working super fast. Our office has been closed for over one month now, but we’ve kept the office feeling going with coffee breaks and lunches together. Of course, we’re using a range of remote working tools to stay connected. We also shared tips with our employees on getting organised for remote working, and invited a psychologist to help us adapt to the new situation. Setting clear expectations and rules for how remote communication tools would be used was also important.

We have one sizable project now. At first, it was an early stage lead, after 2 weeks we arranged a virtual visit. Now, in the upcoming months we are waiting for a final decision, fingers crossed. It shows that even in a very restrictive environment, FDI agencies could push forward.

The crisis in 2008 was huge. In response to this crisis, Invest Lithuania was created with the aim of boosting the economy by attracting foreign direct investment. Our agency was born in the harshest of investment climates, but we’ve had breakthroughs since the very beginning. The first investors we attracted more than 10 years ago have become the cornerstones of strong, internationally-oriented clusters in Lithuania: GBS, fintech, automotive, IT.

Our response to the present situation should be guided by this story. We can keep on growing these clusters and fostering new ones, and we must make sure we don’t lose momentum and impetus from what we have already been able to achieve. To do this, we need the continued involvement of government leaders. We will also need to form “hunting teams” that have a good sense for changes and are driven to overcome the obstacles we have to face. In the end, we have to view the current changes not as obstacles, but as opportunities.

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