As the economic development community is stuck at home, fDi is reaching out to professionals on the FDI frontline, who are facing the biggest global challenge in recent memory. Lithuania, like its neighbouring Baltic countries, has had relatively fewer coronavirus cases than other European hotspots, but governments have still implemented social distancing restrictions. Invest Lithuania’s general manager, Mantas Katinas, discusses with Alex Irwin-Hunt how it is adjusting and what IPAs should be prioritising.
Q. How have the day-to-day activities changed at Invest Lithuania and how is the team adjusting?
A: Everyone is working from home, so everyone has the same psychological issues. [For instance] working with the family – I have two kids at home – doesn't help for teleconferences, but we’re trying to rearrange the routine we have.
I think this crisis gives very good insight into [whether] you are really ready for a digital environment. As a manager, I was a bit cautious that maybe not everything is ready for a digital environment, but it looks like a lot of things are already working.
Some more introverted people are quite happy: they are working on their projects and have all the tools they need. For the people who are used to working with clients, I think psychologically it is harder.
It’s important that the organisational structure of the agency is right – it’s easier to adapt to this change. We invested a lot in our team structures. Every team has no more than 10 people, and has a team leader. It’s much easier compared to organisations where the team leader must communicate with 20-40 people.
Q. How have your priorities changed?
A: The first week we used to gather information and talk to the clients. I believe that the best thing you can do is just talk to businesses and they will tell you a lot of things: how they feel and their prognosis. We agreed that every week we will just gather information and readjust our activities based on the feedback we receive from the market. My general prognosis is that we should invest in the analysis and campaigns that can be arranged for when the crisis goes into the next stage.
Q. What sort of leadership skills do you think are required to deal with this crisis?
A: Everywhere we [still] have the same needs for leadership; I don’t think that it is a new crisis. We need leaders who know how to communicate: who think fast and act fast. Management must communicate 10 times more than before. You need to be assured as a leader that you are equipped with using IT tools. Everything else comes from the inside – you need to not be panicked and be confident in what you are doing. Change your actions when needed, and explain to everyone why you’re doing that.
Q. What would be your advice to other IPAs dealing with the same sort of issues?
A: I think one of the biggest challenges for every IPA is that they will need to detect which sectors have potential and which do not, because now the market has changed. From a strategic perspective, there are two ways [to deal with this]. One is to radically change what you do; another way is you need to rearrange the activities you do but your target must be the same.
I believe that agencies must prepare for activities that will happen next, when the economy will be the biggest topic. After this pandemic, the economy will become one of the main topics for society. Agencies that have a lot of knowhow about the economy from a macroeconomic perspective must think how they can help in economic fields.
Mantas Katinas is the General Manager of Invest Lithuania.
If you work in economic development or investment promotion and you want to share your experience in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, get in touch at fDi@ft.com.