ELO Webinar with Rob Wildeboer: Facing The Economic Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Part II)


ELO hosted Rob Wildeboer for a Webinar and Q&A with Dr. Rick Goossen on May 20th, 2020. Rob Wildeboer is the Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Martinrea International Inc., a global auto parts supplier, specializing in automotive fluid systems and metal forming products. Martinrea has over 17,000 employees at 59 plants in 9 countries (including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China) on 5 continents and generates almost $4 billion in revenue.

Rob Wildeboer recently had to lay off almost 14,000 employees. He is dealing with the unprecedented economic challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic. During the webinar, Rob shared his strategy for dealing with this crisis, how to assess information, who to rely on and how to plan as well as possible.

Here is a summary of some of the insights from the conversation with Rob Wildeboer, which have been paraphrased and summarized for brevity. To access a recording of the webinar CLICK HERE 


NOTE: For the exact context of Rob Wildeboer’s remarks and a word-for-word record of his comments, please refer to the webinar recording. The below summary is not to be quoted as the exact words of Rob Wildeboer. Thank you.

Part II

RG: Do you believe that we need to change the narrative and get people to realize that COVID is a threat but not the threat that governments and the media have made it out to be?

ROB: I think the narrative has been horrible. In the beginning we lost the narrative when we talked about the fatality rate. You have cases and then you have fatality rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the fatality rate is 3.4%. That's almost criminally negligent because the WHO didn't measure it. It only measured cases that effectively showed people with COVID-19 and it didn't show those people that had COVID-19 that you know weren't at hospitals. The true fatality rate is an awful lot less because a lot of people get exposed and don't get symptoms and a lot of people get it and recover on their own. Those people should be but are not part of the statistics. As a result, the fatality rate is significantly less than represented. So to represent a certain fatality rate when you haven’t done proper testing is criminally irresponsible. The WHO’s startling number was then matched with the surge of COVID-19 cases in Italy—and that scared people.

Another part of the narrative is that a lot of people essentially say let's look at the expert opinion. Yet, the experts have been proven wrong time after time. There is not just one view. There's a lot of research coming out of top universities such as Stanford and MIT that effectively say this disease is not actually that dangerous. If we know that then maybe we would have a different perspective. Maybe we aren't talking about lockouts. The other thing is that there are vulnerable folks in this situation. It is not nice if you have a compromised immune system or if you're in a vulnerable part of society.

The reality is that human beings are risk-taking people. We drive and we know that we can die of an accident and we go flying and there could be a crash. People will essentially say look I can get this thing I’m not going to die from it. Hospitals have enough ventilators for the next 50 years to take care of me. I'm going to go forward and manage my life.

RG: How can we influence our political leaders? Or are Christians effectively disregarded because they're disorganized and people don't really care what we think?

ROB: People don't care what a lot of people think. We Christians are not the only ones that experience that. Sometimes it's the people that clang the loudest that get the most attention. We have to keep at it. Some great organizations are doing it like the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) and Cardus. ARPA is a group in Ottawa that’s intervened in courts and so forth and it's gotten bills introduced in the House of Commons so you know people that are making a difference.

RG: ELO focuses on empowering marketplace leaders—how can marketplace leaders be difference-makers in the present circumstances?

ROB: I think we all have a purpose-driven life. That may include working as a business leader or serving in a business. Whether times are good or whether times are challenging you've got the same ministry in the context of what you do. What am I all about? Who am I living for? What's my purpose in life?

I've been blessed to be in certain places and I think that challenges bring opportunities and so this is one of them. I am hopeful that a lot of people are focusing on their source of comfort. This situation has shown a lot of people that they are not in control of what they think they are. This has been a real game-changer at least in that thinking.

A lot of people that find comfort in our Creator are going to view this as a new challenge—but a lot of people have been through challenges. I've got parents that lived through World War II. They immigrated to Canada and started with nothing but they were quite happy. This present generation in Canada, the United States and Europe have not experienced war or famine or pestilence, so the present response may be an overreaction.

We have an opportunity to gain a lot of people for faith. This is our time and so at the end of the day when we have this opportunity. We need to seize it. I think you seize it in your businesses, you seize it with your families and you seize it in a spiritual sense, too. We have a number of heroes in this pandemic, obviously frontline health workers, but there are also those working with food banks, with battered kids shelters and working with the poor. This is an opportunity for us to bring comfort to a lot of people and that is an opportunity that God has given us.


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