Charting Crisis & Growth, Where Consumer Goods CEOs need to sit

Charting the impact of Crisis on your own Career

K, V and W shaped… constantly hearing economists plotting the line of “recovery” has had me thinking about times of crisis and its impact on one’s growth or self-development/career development. Hitting back to March/April 2020 I was thinking in big expletives about my situation & before I hit that nosedive into netflixing & playing stocks like those with extra dough from stimulus cheques I entered a period of self-reflection alongside many of us. (I never would’ve dabbled in stocks… I’m very reluctant at the blackjack table).

During this point of inflection I’ve become next level pumped up about what’s manifesting for Spire, my viewpoint is that in times of crisis we only have personal growth. Earned through survival, the pursuit of transformation, or even through hardships.

When we eventually hit that exit ramp we will have changed and this coming Saturday if you’ve got 30 minutes of free time it’s worth mapping out your professional growth following points of inflection throughout your life and career. Inflection points can be macro-economic or personomic. Here’re mine;

The sketch isn’t too hot but the self-assessment and reflection on my 8 years of career is telling. Personal growth came in the face of adversity and when I was “slightly” comfort zoning (my former CEO and good friend Rich Hanson) development flatlined or dipped, you’ll see this in the 3″ish” years.

95% of readers have likely already experienced two or more points of inflection at a macro level and many more on a supply chain level, the graph mightn’t have enough room for all of your notches.

This is a an excellent exercise for reframing the world ahead, boosts confidence in your own levels of resilience and more importantly, it’s a tool for helping your teams (with potentially new crisis comers) to take a “growth” view to this period, share your own inflection graph with them. We all could be on the “cusp” of greater things.

Points of inflection aren’t limited to career inflection points, work and life are very much intertwined. In my case I may not have started Spire if Jess ( as well as others like Rich ) hadn’t backed my confidence.

Brand Nationalism Biting Back

Consumer sentiments towards “Made in China” labels are supposedly at an all-time low. Whilst brands have been reshoring/multi-shoring supply chains and diversifying their geographic sourcing mixes they’ve still been looking to stay close with the Chinese consumer. My fear now is that the biggest consumer market will rear its Nationalistic head and turn towards “home-made” brands. We’re watching a major tit for tat take stage in the “big tech” industry with both Tik Tok & WeChat facing regulatory actions in the US and should things escalate we might see the consumer powerhouse of China put “off-limits” to international businesses selling in the market. 

2 months ago I listened to a McKinsey podcast on the Chinese Consumer and they made the argument that brands playing in China need to separate the country from the umbrella of the APAC region and to empower the market to run as its own region. Retailers are going to continue to turn to stable consumer markets to generate revenues, but the Chinese consumer has steadily been leaning away from foreign brands leading up to the pandemic.

“Data from local e-commerce giant JD – 490 out of 572 high-performing brands which surpassed RMB100 million (US$14 million) in transaction volume from January to April this year were domestic brands.”

China’s appetite for brands tied to countries with a strong opposing stance might be dropped like a hot potato and diversifying consumer markets and connecting with a loyal audience is becoming more important than ever.

The global CEO needs to be cozying up to the China market in order to maintain relationship capital. I’ve made the argument for CEOs to place themselves in Asia, which looking back upon is farfetched, but she or he needs to be hotdesking in all key consumer markets with majority of time spent in the most important regions. I also believe more retail CEOs need to sit with the supply chain organisation going forward, investing in vendor relationships alongside sourcing leaders.

You can read more about the need for supply chain cultural alignment here – The C word that drives Change.