In it for the long run

FIDI President Ebru Demirel on the dilemmas for moving businesses thrown up by COVID-19 and the early actions FIDI has taken to respond and support the industry during the pandemic

As many of you know, I am a runner. In the old days, before coronavirus, it was easy to slip into the flow of my morning runs, to enjoy the fresh air, feel the cool breeze on my skin and watch the city wake up. It was easy to be present, to just relax and let the world unfold before me.

Now it is a little different. I still enjoy those morning runs, and when I’m able to find it, that feeling of being present is quite centring. But it is much harder to find. My mind is pulled in a million different directions. I often find myself mulling over a particular coronavirus-related challenge in my business. Are we positioned correctly for what’s about to come? And what is about to come? What should we do with our company’s assets? Are they being used efficiently? And what should we do with a particular group of employees? Don’t get me started on this one – it tugs at my heart even more.

Then there’s FIDI. Of course, we have to remain strong for our members and keep moving the industry forward; but FIDI is a non-profit organisation, so there isn’t much room for manoeuvre. The budget was slim to begin with and now, things are even tighter. In recent months, we have had to furlough some staff members, while all FIDI staff took voluntary unpaid leave.

We have also had to forgo some vital income streams. Online training, for example, which FIDI made available free of charge during the pandemic. Given the enthusiastic response, we can be confident that there will be long-term positive impacts on quality and professionalism in the industry – but, short term, it has been difficult.

Leading these organisations through this time has been the challenge of a lifetime. I try to imagine my face as I run down the road. It used to be so relaxed, so serene. But now my brow is probably furrowed with concentration and my eyes far away. 

But many of you also know that I am an optimist by nature. So, by the time I walk into the office each morning, those worries have been replaced by an assured knowledge that whatever challenges we encounter, we will get through them just fine. In fact, we will probably come out the other side stronger.

That natural optimism also leads me to think about the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of working with over the years and, today, I want to mention a few of them in particular. First are our retiring board members, Freddy Paxton and Rob Chipman. I can’t thank them enough for their service, not just to FIDI, but also to the industry in general. I’ve known them both for a long time, and I count them as a couple of the most valuable mentors I’ve had in my professional life.

I also want to give a special mention to Jesse and all the FIDI staff. As an industry, we would be lost without them. The work they have done, and the way they have pulled together during this time, should be an inspiration to us all.

The board is going to miss Freddy and Rob, but we are excited to welcome our two newest board members, Aulina Mithal-Sood and Dale Collins. They have already made great contributions to the industry, and we’ll benefit hugely from their presence on the FIDI Board. I’m also pleased to say the FIDI Board now has gender parity, with three men and three women.

What is more, FIDI held its first virtual General Assembly session recently, and I want to thank the delegates who attended. It pained me to reschedule the convention in Osaka, but it reassures me to know that FIDI is making sure its organisational obligations are still being met. To see challenging conversations and lively debate continue reinforces the optimist in me. I suspect we’ll have more of these kinds of meetings in the future.

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