CEO Dialogue, Tom Jenkins – June 2021

Tom Jenkins has been active for more than 40 years in innovation and economic
development in both the private and public sectors, and currently serves as the Chair of OpenText™ Corporation. Tom is the Chair of the World Wide Web Foundation and a Commissioner of the Tri-Lateral Commission. He was the founding Chair of the National Research Council of Canada and was the tenth Chancellor of the University of Waterloo.

Tom is also the founding Chair of OG100. On June 11, exactly one year since hosting his last CEO Dialogue, OG100 members had the opportunity to meet with Tom and consider how the past year has unfolded and what that means for our future.

Countries, regions, and companies can resist global trends, but can’t stop them, and we will have to adapt. We’re not in a post-pandemic environment yet: the health crisis still in full swing (i.e. India), the economic crisis delayed and mitigated by federal intervention, and the financial crisis still to come. We can expect a couple of years of exceptional growth, but the “K” recovery has divided the global economy which will have far-reaching global implications. The value of intangible assets currently overwhelms the value of actual property, and the global movement to tax IP and digital assets means complicated days ahead at home and abroad.

While we still wrestle with an uncertain future – more variants? a fourth wave? – businesses are forging ahead, and local conditions play an increasingly bigger role. Supply chains are being shortened and made more resilient as industries investigate new sourcing strategies. With wide open capitalism and multilateralism decreasing, national security clauses are under review and include protectionism measures. A truly domestic supply is difficult to imagine, requiring bold policies to overcome our current systemic biases and mindset. However, we will find new opportunities in India, Korea and other Asian countries besides China. Also, as we expect inflation to rise ensure you have COLA (cost of living adjustment) clauses in your maintenance and revenue-side contracts.

Which changes will be temporary? Which will be permanent? Allocate your resources and energy accordingly. During the crash of 2001 OpenText decided to switch tactics from growth to cash flow. It wasn’t necessarily a popular decision and required a new mindset and new management. However, this long-term, conservative strategy paid off and over the next 10 years, OpenText grew by 500% through M&A. Businesses that want to survive through this crisis will need to consider their “last man standing” strategies. Business management and our workforce have been forced to evolve, and we will see long-term effects of the pandemic on our teams. The need to problem-solve together, right on the shop floor, will never go away. However, “Work From Home” is real and talent will demand flexibility. Businesses who do not adapt will be at a major disadvantage. As restrictions ease, reintegrate your teams as quickly as you can, but monitor them. This crisis will have lasting effects and the more your business can help to provide a moderated, facilitated return to the new normal, the stronger your organization will grow.