Interviewed By:  Jarette Petzer on ImStayingMedia

Mike Abel, CEO, M&C Saatchi & Abel

“Our doors are closed but our minds remain open.” 

You’ll see this sign at the entrance to the Cape Town offices of one of South Africa’s leading advertising, marketing and communications consultancies.

CEO, Mike Abel sits down with #ImStaying founder, Jarette Petzer.  He shares his thoughts on the current lockdown.  His challenge to both individuals and businesses is to optimise this enforced sabbatical.

“Use this time as a profound gift – to think, to reappraise, reconsider, reinvigorate, and to re-energise. There are many positives that can come out of this time.”

Optimise this enforced sabbatical

Focusing on the current global pandemic, Mike’s wisdom and perspective are a wake-up call to each of us:

“It is a great leveler. There are very few things that happen in life that get people to understand that we are one people, that we are a common humanity. And that whether you have billions of dollars in the bank or have absolutely nothing, you are NOT immune from COVID-19. Or from what Mother Nature throws at us… Something like this reminds us of our common humanity and frailty.”

As a business owner, Mike is adamant that owners take responsibility for their employees.  By continuing to pay salaries, and by establishing an emergency fund to help family members of employees, the message is clear: Employees are an investment.

Some of the questions Jarette and Mike explore are:

  • How is his company functioning under the lockdown?
  • What perspectives does he offer other business owners on adapting and pivoting to the situation?
  • Using this time to its fullest advantage, both personally and as an entrepreneur – what does that look like?
  • How can businesses reassess their legacy processes? What needs to be reconsidered? What adaptations need to be made?
  • Are you using this time to let your imagination grow your business, or, on a personal level, your mindset?

He quotes Einstein: “Logic will take you from A to B, but your imagination will take you everywhere.”

“We’re in a period now of sensory deprivation.  What happens is that because we can’t get out, we can’t see the sights and the smells, and the tastes and everything that we are used to.  But what that does is that it heightens certain of your senses as well.  It makes you more creative, it makes you more aware of your surroundings, and so to use this quiet, this solitude as an enforced sabbatical to think about your business, to think about your relationships, about your loved ones.  And to think of new possibilities and opportunities for personal growth … a chance to get off the hamster wheel of life.”

The Street Store captured the imagination of not just the nation, but of the world

With a deep sense of purpose and a willingness to serve others, Mike’s humility and sense of humour shine through as he shares the story of The Street Store Initiative.

“The Street Store captured the imagination of not just the nation, but of the world, and once every three days a Street Store started happening somewhere in the world.”

Initiated by the Cape Town branch of M&C Saatchi & Abel, The Street Store initiative has grown to close on 1000 stores globally.  This concept of a pop-up clothing store for the homeless offered them a level of humanity and dignity as the they came and ‘shopped’.

One spin off of this initiative is that guests of designated hotels can now donate an item of clothing which will be passed along to the local Street Store.  The initiative has now clothed hundreds of thousands of homeless people around the world, and continues t0 gain support around the world.



Edited by: Maggie Wolfe Miller