Nathan Farrugia

As we start moving towards the last quarter of 2022, many CEOs and business leaders around the island have already started forming their opinions about what this year has been like so far. At the same time, some have also started looking ahead and some initial predictions as to what 2023 might bring along.

Even though, from a medical standpoint, the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, many businesses are still facing the repercussions of COVID. Add inflation and higher travel costs to the equation, and you end up with numerous sleepless nights for business owners across the board.

For the first entry of this year’s MaltaCEOs.mt end-of-summer interview series, we spoke to Nathan Farrugia – Vistage Malta and UAE Managing Director.

When he’s not running, Nathan is busy coaching business executives and helping employees find their mojo. Here’s what he had to tell us.

1. If you had to sum up 2022 so far in three words, what would they be?

Exciting. Challenging. Rewarding

2. What is the main lesson you, as a business leader, have learned from this past year?

If you can tell a great story authentically, people will believe in you. They will follow your lead and join you on your journey with an aligned purpose.

3. What would you say is the biggest challenge for your company in this moment?

Keeping all our business activities profitable, keeping the team motivated and finding the right talent to be able to grow.

4. What would you say is the biggest challenge you are facing personally as a business leader in the current climate?

Confidence. The biggest challenge I am facing is the insecurity that comes from inflation, supply chain issues and cash flow problems, which increases client’s reluctance to invest in learning & development (which is our main area of business).

At the same time, VUCA environments are often the best time to invest in building resilience, structuring your organisations’ incentives and improving performance efficiencies; so those that understand this keep us busy! Since we operate both locally and internationally, travel disruptions and increased costs also create challenges to our growth. Zoom calls are not as effective in building relationships as face to face explorations in our line of work. High levels of trust is key to our success. Having said all that, challenges are an opportunity to practice what we preach, so we have invested in growing both our service lines and headcount.

5. What does your forecast for 2023 look like?

The above-mentioned challenges will continue if not increase, so we need to be careful to not overstretch ourselves. We have an excellent team, however their eagerness to take on projects can also lead to overload, so the right breaks and mix of interesting work will help keep people motivated. On the financial aspects, managing our cashflow and ensuring we are calibrating our prices against rising costs is key to long term sustainability.

One concern is if we hit a recession before we have time to build capacity and resilience to be able to ride the storm, but I’m also concerned that business leaders might entrench themselves and our economy grinds to a halt. Finally, and probably most importantly, we need to take care of our living environments and ensure Malta continues to be a place to live well. As our environment quality declines, our quality of life, travel location value, and attractiveness to foreign investment will do too. It’s a slippery slope that we have to address ‘yesterday’.

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