My Experience as a CEO During a Pandemic
August 27, 2020

“I have personally met with over 100 companies since COVID began.  This has been a highlight to me as I am blown away by the innovation of our customers adapting to the changing world.”

I was reading a recent blog by David Cummings. It is great as they tend to be from David. It had me reflect on the last several months as a CEO of a venture backed SaaS PRM company. 

At the beginning of COVID, there were so many conflicting messages and differing opinions. Some people were advising to cut to the bone, plan for the end of the world and others were saying this would be done by the summer and plan for that. We did two things that I feel really helped us through a tough, unknown period.

  1. We leaned into the changes that were occurring and how we could help, and
  2. We dramatically increased and deepened our customer interactions

On the first front, we worked hard to show our customers and prospects how Allbound was part of the digital transformation for channel sales. People that met with their partners face-to-face needed new strategies. We saw over 500% increase in daily users within our platform. Additionally, we added a jobs page to showcase channel leaders and channel account managers that were displaced during the onset of COVID. 

 

As one example of the second item – I have personally met with over 100 companies since COVID began. This has been a highlight to me as I am blown away by the innovation of our customers adapting to the changing world. I took stock of my conversations and saw that there were 3 types of company results to COVID. 

  1. Companies negatively affected that needed to be cut. These companies had businesses that could not surmount the macroeconomic changes. Think restaurant groups and retail.
  2. Companies that were positively affected and were able to grow rapidly as the world became more digital. Think AWS and Zoom.
  3. Most of us are in the third category, the middle. We have some tailwinds and some headwinds. The outcomes for this category was mixed. My opinion based on all these conversations is that those companies that pivoted marketing and product changes towards COVID fared far better than those that focused on cost savings before pivoting.  

 

I think that psychologically, it can be really hard to put the mental energy into creativity right after a big furlough, pay reduction. I am not suggesting these types of cost cutting are not needed, but we need to think about the truth of where our employees are at when we ask them to dig deep for the company. When you add a virtualization of your workforce and the tendency of people to have shortened interactions about difficult topics, do you know where your employees are at when you ask them to run hard?

Many of my customers are managers, directors and VPs in their organizations. They have an amazing task of driving people that don’t work in their company to create revenue for their company. This is an optimistic and resilient crowd.  

This brings me to my second takeaway from my interactions with my customers. If you are a CEO, CMO or CRO and have a channel program – include them in the planning aspect of how your business goals are changing. We saw a lot of companies try to pivot and their channel try to pivot, but they were not aligned. If you want to cut spend, increase sales and focus on certain types of sales (common theme, right) then your channel leader can pivot that way too. There are differences in partner profiles, monthly partner engagement KPIs and partner marketing changes that can make a dramatic addition to your plans. Based on this, we created a template for channel leaders and c-level managers to ensure alignment.  

 

All of this brings me back to David’s blog. In the most recent webinars I have attended, blogs I have read and podcasts we have recorded there is greater confidence that people have more clarity on how the future will unfold in B2B SaaS. We could all be wrong, but as humans it is natural for us to extrapolate a future based on what happened and is happening. The trends I agree with from my online travels and meetings include:

  1. Digitization – we all knew that collaboration and work could move to a cloud based digital realm. We are seeing a massive acceleration versus the historical growth. One thing that I don’t see mentioned enough is the power of user experience (UX). As we get used to the controls of Zoom other products will seem different or difficult – rather they will be measured against the common UX.  
  2. Remote Work – many of us have been fans of this for a while. A lot of people focus on the way corporate real estate is likely to be harmed in months and years to come. One growth area that does not get enough attention is the areas of remote interactions and coaching that is happening with products like Gong.io and Allbound.  
  3. Relationship Depth – when we only meet on Zoom and Slack what does that do to how we value relationships? I agree that a ‘camera on’ approach personalizes interactions and we are doing amazing things to socialize from a distance. Some great sociologists should work to understand personal valuations of employers, business associates and friendships through this. I see some people doing better at this than others, but what is the long term effect?

This concludes my thoughts of being a CEO 6 months into a pandemic. I would love to hear from you and see if your experiences are the same or different.  Feel free to reach out at dgr@allbound.com

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Daniel Graff-Radford
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