What COVID-19 taught us
I will cut to the chase. No point in introducing the pandemic and its many ominous credentials, it needs none.
Looking back from the tailend of July, it seems like this year has been at least a decade long. There was that quote from Lenin doing the rounds a while back, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Yes, this, exactly.
But now that the unlocks have started, businesses are slowly but surely creaking back to life, and demand is beginning to trickle in, we are not too upset at what we see. Yes, it was a difficult time, but one that had a few silver linings. One of these is the treasure trove of rich learning - some new, some validations of what we already believed - that has come our way. Seems like a good time to reflect.
Learning #1: Client Satisfaction is a thing of beauty
There was a point of time in March, when our contracts started getting cancelled. FlexiBees is a flexible talent hiring platform, and we provide experienced talent via cost-effective and time-optimised models - the fact that our talent is great value for investment reduced the number of cancellations. So, it was manageable. However it did impact our first quarter results to a significant extent.
That last week of March and the first week of April, we had clients come to us everyday asking to stop work from that very day itself. We do build in a bit of notice in our contracts so that it allows both the client and the talent to prepare themselves in case there is a dissolution. But these were exceptional circumstances, we decided internally to let go of any stipulations and clauses that we had all agreed to in dramatically different times, and extend all support to our clients in helping them wrap up operations quickly. We coordinated with the talent, coached them, absorbed their disappointment at times, and made it possible for the clients to “suspend” these contracts instead of terminating them if they so chose, to ensure they were able to quickly get back on their feet with the same talent and minimal disruptions when the time came. Through all this, we ensured none of these ended up being unfair to our talent.
We felt overwhelmingly, the entire team, as one, that this was the right thing to do. Of course we are not alone. Across industries, for businesses and for individuals, various people and entities have waived off and pushed out dues, choosing to take the humanitarian course of action. What I do want to record here is the satisfaction we experienced from being able to do right by our clients, which are businesses similar to us. Basically this phase reinforced our belief that the true value of a business is delivered when it immerses itself in understanding the pain points of its customers at the deepest level.
And happy to report that as of today, some of these suspended contracts have restarted.
Learning #2: Our women have the willpower of Granite
The pandemic was not just difficult for our clients, but also for our talent pool. Our talent pool comprises highly qualified women, most of whom are also mothers looking for a way to balance their professional and personal lives. As we all know today, the pandemic came bearing gifts of increased domestic workloads and childcare, as all help evaporated and schools & daycares shut down.
Logically speaking, our talent should have been the first to buckle, with multiple pressures at home to manage, it stands to reason that they would find it hard to meet their professional commitments. However we had very few instances of those, most of our women rolled up their sleeves, created detailed plans, delegated and enlisted other members of the household, and managed everything as smoothly as possible under the circumstances. So impressed were we by these intrepid women that we crowdsourced their methodologies and published a docket on managing work during the pandemic for our larger communities to benefit from.
Learning #3: There is huge joy, and rewards in enabling
We work primarily with start-ups, and soon after the lockdown, we started thinking about how we could help the ecosystem. We spoke with a few founders, and realised that many of them were putting some kind of fight to stay relevant, to adapt their products and offerings, their business models, to this new reality. We were not surprised, if there is a group of people known for their resilience, it is the entrepreneurial community.
But it sparked off an idea by which we could play a part in their fight. We decided to lend our platform and our marketing skills in the hope of getting these businesses more eyeballs and business. We launched our “Let us help each other” series where we showcased businesses who were tackling Corona head-on, and spread it far and wide through our multiple channels.
The series was well-received and most the businesses we showcased got attention and even business - a thing that fills us with joy. Of course we also benefited in the process, by staying relevant ourselves, and in that way, this was a complete win-win.
Learning #4: Intangibles contribute hugely to organisation success
FlexiBees has been a remote organization since day 1, with our 22-member team working from different cities and even countries. We have never felt the need for an office space, and have overcome big challenges, brainstormed, hired, built, sought funding, grown, all while being fully and entirely remote.
When the pandemic hit India, and everyone went into lockdown, we realised the wealth of knowledge we were sitting on. While many teams were struggling and naturally so, we put our energies behind creating guidelines that could help them transition smoothly to this new way of working. Apart from these guidelines that came from our own experience, we got in snippets and live examples from others who were living and mastering remote working in their organisations and through the months and even now going forward, continue to do “How to” pieces on everything from remote sales and remote reach-outs to remote interviewing to managing mental health while working from home.
We had to dig deep to arrive at some of the reasons behind why it works for us, and the beauty lies in the things that are not often spoken of. Yes, there is technology and there are review mechanisms that make it easier but there is also a highly transparent culture and a very engaged team that lies at the heart of what makes us tick. We learnt much about ourselves through this time, the things we were doing right without even realising it. If you are a business that has built something of value, chances are you are doing many many more things right than you give yourself credit for.
Learning #5: Team love is real
And last but most definitely not the least, we learned what having team love means. As we all know the start-up ecosystem has been very badly hit due to the pandemic with thousands of job losses. We were clear from the beginning that we did not want to let anyone go. We have built this team from scratch, each person great at the job they do, and very importantly, very passionate about the space we operate in.
We were surprised by how much the team gave back. For a couple of months, with not too much new business coming in, the vibe was not great. We even had to implement a pay cut in order to manage our expenses till the time business was impacted. It was a difficult decision for us, knowing full well the significance of financial freedom. But no person, not a single one, gave up. In spite of various pressures at home due to the lockdown, and at work, they visibly and vocally committed themselves to the cause of getting FlexiBees back on the growth path again. They extended themselves for the company, for us, for the purpose, and we cannot thank them enough for retaining the enthusiasm and the passion even when times were the toughest.
Good teams have skills, great teams have the skills and a never-say-die attitude. And this latter is the make or break ingredient for any growing business.
It seems like the worst is behind us now. We are relieved and proud of having survived without many casualties, especially being a bootstrapped company. The business took a temporary hit but seems to be on the path to recovery now. For the last two months now we have been seeing a hugely increased lead flow, with new use cases and needs that the pandemic, unfortunate though it is, has unlocked. There are still challenges that will stay a while as long as the economy as a whole doesn’t revive. But we are hopeful of a short, mid and long term future where our offerings are hugely relevant and help businesses grow competitively and affordably.
FlexiBees has provided companies, both startups and established players, with part-time talent for many projects and roles; across a variety of functions & skill-sets like Inside Sales, Business Development, Marketing, Digital Marketing, Public Relations, Investment Banking, Technology, Content Development, Writing, Graphic Design, etc. All these companies have benefited by being able to hire high quality talent at pricing optimised only for the hours of work they need. With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to businesses trying new approaches, strategies, MVPs, etc, part-time and project-based talent, that are high-quality and affordable, can help.
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