With the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand has entered a period of transition that will last several months. Given the nature of this event, it seems logical to dwell on its political ramifications; however, executives would be well served by focusing on a set of specific actions that will help their companies navigate an extended period of mourning:
- Lower your growth expectations for Thailand: Thai leaders have announced a one-year mourning period, in which the first 30 and 100 days will be especially solemn. During this time, Thai consumers will abstain from entertainment, government officials will reduce their focus on infrastructure projects, and businesses will move more slowly. Ensure your forecasts for 2016 and 2017 account for reduced economic growth, particularly in the areas of consumption and investment.
- Display sensitivity to employees and business partners: Companies that show empathy and respect to mourning Thais will leave a positive impression. Postpone or cancel any events that may be seen as celebratory and maintain a subdued office environment, particularly over the next 30 days. Consider having regional leaders send letters of condolence to your employees, business partners, and government contacts in Thailand.
- Anticipate reduced activity in your channel: Thai distributors and salespeople will be in mourning and will thus be less focused than usual on driving business and hitting their Q4 targets. Take this into account during your internal commercial discussions. Maintain an empathetic tone during meetings, but monitor your pipeline closely to ensure that opportunities do not slip into next year.
- Adjust internal timelines for government projects and policy changes: Thai officials will be preoccupied with mourning, which will diminish their focus on driving infrastructure projects and developing policy. Keep this dynamic in mind as you build project timelines and plan for regulatory changes. Also, avoid putting undue pressure on officials as this may be viewed as insensitive.
- Ensure headquarters and regional leadership are aligned: Executives sitting outside of Southeast Asia may not be fully aware of the consequences of King Adulyadej’s passing or how it is impacting Thailand’s business environment. With this in mind, regional leaders should communicate the situation and any business plan adjustments proactively and repeatedly so that they do not come as a surprise to corporate leaders.
Given the momentous nature of the king’s passing, companies would be well advised to prioritize the actions above. Together, they will help executives navigate Thailand’s political transition and maintain positive engagement with employees, business partners, and government officials.