Hana Khatib: "We Are No Quitters"
Posted on 2020 Dec,16

Hana Khatib, Managing Director GroupM Lebanon, describes the morale of her troops at Mindshare following Beirut Port Explosion on August 4, 2020.


Where were you on August 4 at 6:08 PM?
I was actually entering my apartment… I will always wonder why I left the office that early on August 4th ! at 5:30 PM and as if I was controlled remotely: I stood up, dropped my pen, put off my laptop and went home.
Usually I don’t leave at that time and I don’t leave my laptop behind. I was “told” to leave the office at that instant and I simply complied!
At first I thought it was an earthquake then I became adamant that it’s an explosion, or multiple ones, so loud and so vivid as if it was down in our own street! I could see one of my daughters freezing with her pale face and could hear the glass breaking and one metal pipe going out of my entrance wall… I thought for a while that my screams caused that… As if I was living a horror movie!
 
What is your first impression upon seeing the damages and desolating scenery that affected your workspace and Beirut?
It was heart shattering to say the least. I kept on telling myself that I need to be strong for my team, but it’s much easier to say than do. We are just humans after all looking at our beautiful Beirut and our office that’s been our home for long years of our lives, simply destroyed.
My team and I were amongst the lucky ones that we and our loved ones were not drastically hurt. At that moment you can’t stop thinking about those who had to burry a dear one!
 
How is the morale? And what’s next for you and the agency?
The moral was down for some time ruled by the level of uncertainty we are all living in. But living in Lebanon all this time made us true survivors.
My team and I know that we need to adapt in order not to break.
We are lucky that we are part of a global network that supported us across many levels: part of the Lebanon-based team allocated their time and skills to support other offices and clients in the MENA region. Others were offered jobs and actually relocated to other offices and the rest of the team staying in Lebanon to support our clients managed out of Lebanon for the region.
We had to restructure and downsize on the support functions shared across GroupM entities.
Our regional and global management rushed to support those who were affected: they’ve started with the GroupM immediate family members where a relief fund was released to assist those who suffered and their houses were affected by the blast.
Then they grew beyond the GroupM staff, where WPP, our mother company, launched a global program to support the Lebanese Red Cross, inviting our global team to donate individually for WPP to match that donation.
 
Will you be able to bounce back after the hardship?
Bouncing back is not optional. I keep on saying that as human being we are allowed to be sad and tried but as survivors we are not allowed to give up.
 
Have you already resumed work and under what conditions?
Yes we are back to work from office.
We cleaned and isolated the damaged side and the team are spread across the remaining parts of the office. Conference rooms and common areas are hosting our team now.
We needed to plan space carefully in order to respect all precautions and distancing required during COVID19 times as well
 
What’s left when we lost almost everything?

What’s left is the hope for a better tomorrow empowered with the will and determination to reach that tomorrow.
The easiest way is to give-up and surrender; the shortcut is to turn your back and runaway; but we are no quitters.