Adapting To Rapid Change: 4 Lessons Learned

Wow, the last six weeks, feels like six months. The pace of change has been staggering.

February I was in Dallas growing our US business. Leads were up, sales were closing, the service team was fully engaged.  Next up was a brief stop back home in Australia and then over to Europe looking for channel partners.

I was vaguely aware of news about something going on in China.  I was more focused on improving customer experience, working on FY21 plans and making sure we could fund our rapid growth.

“The best-laid plans…”

Roll forward to today and I am working remotely from home looking out onto my front yard wondering: “What just happened?!”.

Overnight we went from business expansion to headcount freeze, weekly cash flow and business continuity planning.  We were faced with the reality of reduced revenues, managing our anxious and concerned people and keeping them safe, morphing our business overnight to 100% remote and trying to build a forecast for the next six months.

I feel like we survived falling off a cliff by furiously stitching together a parachute from the shirts off our backs on the way down. It was only possible due to the team’s awesome efforts, great customers and supportive partners.

Some of our lessons learnt over the last 6 weeks or so are outlined below.  Nothing new, just a few fundamentals to help focus on what to do next.

1. Protect your business – know your drivers and numbers

If we relied on old assumptions about conversions, close rates, project velocity, retentions and day sales outstanding, we would have fell off the cliff headfirst.

Fortunately, we forecast estimated operating margin contributions and cash flow from business drivers, which made it an easy exercise to remodel the business performance. We used reliable data to underpin our planning and response and built out new forecast models based on different scenarios.

“Cash is king”

We started by assuming no new business sales for three months, took guidance from various economic impact reports and factored in a 30% reduction in service requests, collections and renewals.

From this scenario our 90 days cash forecast was a concern, so we immediately started working options for capital and a workforce reduction strategy accordingly.  We did not act immediately; we just did the heavy lifting to be ready.

We prepared to batten down the hatches by focusing on essential functions.  The “noise” and “nice-to-haves” were stripped away so that we could focus on what mattered.


Next up we talked to all our prospects and customers, knowing they would likely be going through a similar experience and may need our support. This was a great opportunity to connect with our customers and work together on support services and payment terms that aligned with their individual requirements and provided us with more cash flow certainty.

Weekly I get a detailed cash forecast out to 90-day showing either a deficit/surplus.  Based on our most likely scenario, we enacted a staged slow down plan until our cash forecast extended past 90 days.

With so many unknowns and no end date in sight, we focused on business continuity. I surrounded myself with people with differing points of view, to ensure that my personal blind spots were covered.

2. Look after your people

After falling off the cliff, we jumped into a life raft floating in an ocean during a raging storm. It was essential to remember that our people are right next to us, trying to weather the storm as best they can.

Communication, and lots of it, is the key. As the situation changed daily, we kept our team informed through daily team check-ins and weekly “all hands” meetings. Working remotely happened overnight for us. One day we were all in the office and next, we were all working from home like many other businesses.  The amount of change for our people in a short time frame was astounding.

My team has been brilliant. I cannot speak highly enough for the way that we rallied around each other and adapted to the changes in work hours, meeting structures and workload.

We had to make some hard decisions about resource levels. We presented the case, ensured that everybody understood why, and made sure that everybody could give feedback personally.

It is hard to expect people to accept a difficult decision if they are not part of the process. Talking openly and straight about what was happening in the world and what might happen to the business if we did not act did not make bad news better, it enabled us to collectively own it.

The journey we are on is not easy for anyone and it is important to ensure that we listen and take good care of each other both mentally and emotionally as best we can.

“All hands” Next Technik meeting

 

3. Focus on your customers

Customers are people too. In difficult times everyone is doing their best to manage through the crisis, we are all experiencing a global event at the same time, that’s the nature of a pandemic.

Our approach has been to actively engage with our customers. This enabled us to share common experiences and work together for a positive resolution around issues like payment terms to see us both survive the coming months.

“Connect with your customers and build long term value together”

Our team are focused on genuinely addressing our customers’ needs in the wake of the pandemic.  We have been able to strengthen our relationships and work with our customers with empathy and understanding.

For example, our customer SprintQuip, who has been deemed an essential services provider for cash automation machines, needed to enforce COVID-19 safety and compliance checklists for their technicians in the field. Working together, we delivered a pre and post-visit compliance checklist form onto our field service mobile app in less than a day, enabling them to protect staff and the public while they provide essential field services.

“Protecting People in the field with COVID-19 pre and post-visit, health and safety checklists”

It was a collaboration provided free of charge which we now offer to all customers and prospects around the world. Our COVID-19 checklist helps ensure the health and safety of staff and the community.

Look to your customer direction, collaborate with them on solutions, quantify what matters and focus only on that. We are all in this together.

COVID-19 forms on the NextService Mobile for safety in the field

 

4. Be ready to Adapt

This is a marathon, not a sprint. People are confined, movement is restricted, and the very fabric of social norms have changed.

“Will we ever shake hands again?”

Now is a good time to accept the change, embrace it and adapt the way we think about business engagement. We need to review what changes and practices will endure and what life will look like on the other side.

As demand has evaporated for many, some innovative companies are growing like one of our customers in Wisconsin, United States who provides turn-key Aquatic Management solutions. Early on they were COVID impacted. The owners became sick and our project with them came to a complete halt.

We were concerned for the health of the owners, team and business. Prior to COVID-19, they invested in our field service management solution to fully digitize their business process to keep up with demand and growth. Like us, their business sharply declined as commercial pools were closed to the public.

While the CEO was in the hospital with COVID-19, the field service team had to wind down and go home.  Instead of giving up, they decided to adapt. In a bold step, the CEO and team decided to honour all service contracts free of charge, knowing their customer’s hotel pools left unattended, would be grimy and unhealthy for guests to swim when all this was over.

The goodwill created was fantastic and overwhelming. In fact, as news spread around in the industry, the CEO has returned to a business that is now growing faster than it was pre-pandemic.

Adapting your business does not have to come from the top, nor does it mean a complete change of business model. It is a change in mindset for the entire team, a focus on customer needs and understanding that people come first.

We are still in the middle of this. It continues to be a daunting time, a tragic and devastating time for many. I would encourage everyone to think about ways to adapt, embrace creative thinking and make agile adjustments to business models as we navigate through these uncertain times.

I hope this article has provided some insights on how to manage through this difficult time and provide a little hope.

Annaliese Kloe,
CEO
Next Technik

Annaliese is the CEO and Founder of Next Technik, developers of NextService and NextSchedule.

“We improve customer engagement through field mobility and customer focus. Our award-winning application ‘NextService’ embodies this vision and focus. ” 

Contact Annaliese