Think - AT LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL

‘Don’t underestimate the power of your network’

‘We’ve survived this crisis thanks to opportunities our network made possible’

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We often hear about successful businesses being those that pivot; that act with agility, creativity and nimbleness. But what does this mean in real life? And what are the key factors that can support these behaviours and actions?

For Marc Jacobs, Sloan Fellow 2014 and CEO of Luxembourg-based eco-chemical innovator Molecular Plasma Group (MPG), COVID-19 and subsequent travel bans have put the brakes on the venture’s core model of co-collaboration – as well as many of the projects it was working on.

“We work with our customers to co-develop solutions and applications using our unique technology,” Jacobs explains. “But the lockdowns meant nobody could travel to us, and the unfolding economic impact of the pandemic is hitting some of our key sectors, such as high-end auto and aeronautics, which have to re-evaluate cash allocation.”

Watch: Marc Jacobs describes his London Business School network as a lifeline 

Fortunately, Jacobs observes, when the crisis hit, MPG’s advantage was “built-in resilience”, which stems from being a “vertical agnostic” technology platform. This allowed the firm to quickly shift gears to focus on applications in healthcare and the biomedical sector, such as using its proprietary technology to decontaminate personal protective equipment (PPE) and create facemasks with antiviral coatings.

But how to grow that business from scratch in weeks, rather than months or years?   

Speaking to Jeff Skinner, Executive Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at London Business School, Jacobs, who founded a number of consultancies prior to taking the helm at MPG, says: “I reached out to everyone in my network, particularly in my London Business School network, saying: ‘This is what we think we can do with this technology, this is where we want to go – anyone interested in working with us?’ The response was amazing.”

He also applauds his “fantastic, engaged team” for their flexibility in re-prioritising focus and projects during the crisis.

“Luxembourg’s motto is ‘We make it happen’ – and that certainly is our motto too,” Jacobs adds.

The interview was part of the IIE’s #LBSResilientFounders series – designed to support founders who are navigating the challenging trading landscape during the pandemic and beyond.

To watch more films in this series, follow @LBSEntrepreneur or #LBSResilientFounders.

Jacobs has a background in the international recycling and packaging industry and founded a number of consultancy firms, one of which, Hofstede Insights, focuses on helping organisations solve business challenges created by cultural diversity. Co-author of Negotiate Like a Local, he became CEO of Molecular Plasma Group in 2016.

The views in this film are his own and do not represent the IIE or London Business School.