Irina Munteanu, CFO of Veolia, talks about what the post-pandemic world will look like, in an exclusive interview for the Elite Business Women magazine.
We are living in unprecedented times – what does the ‘New World’ look like to you and how are you working on changing the future?
I totally agree we are facing quite a unique period, navigating many uncertainties. It seems like a return to normalcy as
we know it is impossible, therefore adapting to the new reality is mandatory. The more difficult path is also the only sustainable way, by creating a new business model that can complete and, over time, partially replace the old course of action. A model that leaves behind the focus on „dominating” markets and focuses primarily on ensuring public safety and well-being.
This requires a completely different approach – from the way we deliver our services/products to how we support and manage our teams while trying to minimize any physical interaction that could lead to a risky situation.
Cost optimization and investment in projects that allow streamlining and digitalizing the business model remain priorities for the private sector. However, perhaps the biggest challenge is organizing the way of working (work-from-home work vs. office work) and optimising the costs and resources, whilst focusing on not compromising the health and safety of our employees and customers.
Companies need to reinvent themselves, and I’m referring to how they deal with and address crisis management and response, workforce efficiency, flexible operations and supply chain management, sound financial management, multi-digital business and brand strategy. Digitalization is key in order to achieve this.
What is your main business focus now and are you working towards always keeping it at the core of what you do?
The onset of the pandemic was a key and decisive moment, and, sadly, we learned that a lot of businesses could not face the challenges. Fortunately, we were able to identify a series of opportunities in the midst of the maelstrom.
Even from the beginning, it became clear for us that we were entering a new global cycle and that, in order to maintain our leadership status, we have to fully take on the opportunity to rewrite the rules, set new goals and refocus.
Digitalization and AI took centre stage in this process. Thus, I think this is the time to reset, to readjust and aim for economic reorientation. In order to meet the challenges and demands of present and future generations, we need to address the state of the economy, the modernization and reformation of major state institutions.
This year we were taken by surprise by a virus, next year it may be something else. The message is clear: we need strategies, continuity plans, reform and economic consolidation. These are big goals, but this is how the pandemic practically forced us to press the accelerator pedal, take critical measures and make important decisions in every area of activity.
Our success is undoubtedly rooted in the fact that we work as a team and that we are always open to new challenges and business opportunities. Our focus is on identifying and providing the best solutions to the problems and needs of our customers.
What defines you as an entrepreneur and as a leader?
I was raised and educated in the spirit of human verticality. „Don’t bite your tongue” and „Fight for what you believe in”
are lessons I’ve been taught as a child and apply to this day. Furthermore, I strongly believe that it’s important to always keep your mind and soul young and curious, to have the desire to better yourself, and to take good care of your family. These are deeply rooted principles, instilled by both my parents. I hope to be able to pass on this legacy of life to my children.
This is the foundation of my professional life, as well. In business, I am guided by honesty and fairness, professionalism and moral conduct. I strongly believe that success occurs when you find the balance between personal and professional life when you work passionately and are fully invested in what you do. The key to a successful business depends on many individual and general factors and I am glad to be part of a company that promotes equal opportunities, performance and sustainable development – business values I share and cherish.
I believe in development, growth, and taking the path less travelled. I am an advocate of organizational transformation and reengineering and am proud to say that, alongside my esteemed colleagues, we’ve managed to put our company, Apa Nova, on the elite business map and serve as an example of good practice for companies all over the world.
Our efforts and valuable experience have been recognized by our industry peers when the company won the “Best Business Transformation” award at OPEX (Operational Performance Excellence) in 2019. Thus, naturally, leading by example is of huge importance for me – in my book it is, undoubtedly, one of the most effective and rewarding leadership styles.
This article first appeared in the Elite Business Women magazine.
Read the full magazine here.