Reimagining Techaxis during COVID-19
Author: Parveen Pathan
The arrival of COVID-19 has reframed every aspect of our lives. Not only have we modified how we live in our homes and interact with the world, we have also had to rethink how we do our work and run our businesses. Companies across the U.S. are trying to adjust to a new normal, balancing multiple interests, not the least of which are their bottom lines and the wellness of their employees.
As any CEO, I, too, have spent much of the last few months considering these issues. My experience during this crisis was informed in many ways by my experience with the last financial crisis in 2008. I started Techaxis in 2007 just as the Great Recession began to gain momentum. Starting alone from the ground up, I was able to sustain the company and even thrive during a time when many companies were struggling. Profits in those first years even exceeded expectations.
There was one critical difference between then and now— during the first crisis, I was on my own, with only myself to consider.
Today, Techaxis is comprised of nearly 100 team members, a deeply connected and long-standing network of employees. With the onset of this financial crisis, I was faced with a question I hadn’t had to consider the first time around: How can my team and not just my company thrive during this crisis?
Mark Cuban spoke recently about the impact of COVID-19 on businesses. He said something that struck me: “If you don’t think different, companies might disappear.” What could be done at Techaxis to think in a new and different way? Was it even possible to view this as a transformational time? Could COVID-19 actually open up new opportunities for our company and team?
Our team as it exists today has been together, in large part, since 2010. People who started with us then in entry level positions had grown into team leads, enjoying professional and personal rewards. I was not ready to let people go. It was imperative that we stay together as a team and find a way forward.
It was clear to me that I couldn’t have the team laying idle. In April, everything came to a complete halt. After a very successful first quarter, no one was wanting to make any decisions on hires. Our long-established connections were frozen. Even if paychecks were still sent, I knew very well that the moment engaged and vital team members don’t have work, they could start to go negative. I had to find a way to keep everyone engaged, positive, and focused on our goals as a team. Were there untapped sectors available to us? There were businesses out there that were still open and thriving, from financial services to telecoms and hospitals. As I weighed these options, two things came back to me—Mark Cuban’s insistence on transformational thinking and the new calls for community I was seeing all around us during the early stages of the COVID crisis.
Focus on Community
I conceived of a community-oriented approach to our usual business model. What if we offered to help companies during these months of crisis instead of soliciting new work? The cost benefit analysis was clear to me: We wouldn’t be driving up sales, but we would also be building new connections in sectors we hadn’t considered before, while also keeping our team engaged in their work and with our company. With regards to the latter, “all in it together” had much more resonance for the team than “let’s keep our heads down and see if it will pass.” Plus, even if these clients didn’t turn into conversions and long-term relationships post-crisis, we could certainly build good will and receive some positive testimonials from these clients in the months and years to come.
It’s a cynical world still, in many ways, and it occurred to many on our team that the businesses we would speak with would be looking for a “catch.” Nonetheless, we moved ahead. I was confident that our transparency and positivity would resonate with these new clients.
As soon as our sales team started moving ahead with the outreach, they started lining up clients. These new clients for Techaxis were enthused by our approach, and our team itself was reinvigorated. They were busy and motivated, and we were thriving as a team as we had before COVID.
It resonated and gave purpose to each of us. My hope is that when our team members at Techaxis look back on this time, they would see that they hadn’t sat idle and that, instead, they had used their professional work to enhance their connection with others and build community.
This may not offer a perfect parallel to your business. I even have questions still of how it will impact us at Techaxis. Maybe some accounts we gained during this time will come back, maybe some will just give us positive testimonials. I do know that a more ephemeral but no less critical goal has been met— my team is whole, and happy.