Tell us a bit about how you reacted to the corona situation with your venture?
In short: we have expanded our internal communication, adapted our product roadmap and developed an early warning system for our market.
We had to switch an entire company to remote-only from one day to the next. We had to give people the certainty of how things will continue. That's why Stefan Kennerknecht, my Co-CEO colleague, and I have been sharing our assessment of the pandemic via Slack with all employees ever since the end of February.
Since mid-March, we have all been working from home. Stefan and I have been providing information about the economic situation to answer concerns about possible short-time work or a slump in our business. We are continuously responding to the needs of people who have children and doubled the days that employees may take off for child care with full pay. We are talking about the foreseeable challenges for the company if everyone would go on holidays in autumn and asked people to take free days in order to balance the workload.
To keep in touch with each other, we have been having a video call with all employees every Monday and Friday since mid-March. This is not only a chance to see everyone but also to hear what is happening in other teams. And it creates a feeling of pride in me when I see how the teams master the challenge.
Our product development team asked the question: what can we do for our customers? In the end, we developed features that uncover new leads or that support our clients to give advice to their customers without being in one room. This has significantly influenced the roadmap of our platform in recent weeks and build new partnerships. I am proud that we managed to launch our consumer frontend without delay in these times. This will help our clients even further to continue their business.
And because a crisis is difficult to predict, we developed an early warning system for our market within just a few days together with our partners. Its goal is to show us possible effects on our business before the consumer is even on our platform.
What was driving the decision to act this way?
The situation was new for all of us. Stefan and I wanted to be as transparent as possible. Even with our own uncertainty. So we shared our interpretation of the situation with all employees. We wanted to deal with the situation appropriately and responsibly. Our main focus was on people's safety and the operation of Europace.
That's why, for example, we spoke openly about the situation from the very beginning. And we encouraged people to stay at home rather than to come to the office.
To what extent did the decision-making process differ from "business as usual"?
Europace is a company organized with the principles of Holacracy. This means that the responsibility for our work should be as close to the market as possible. Central decisions often only affect things such as a vision and strategy.
At the end of February, however, it became clear that this is the time for decisions concerning the entire company. We had to talk about investments, new contracts, cost savings, short-time work, and so on. Many of the topics were new. And every day, new topics were added to the pile and to which we had to have an answer within a short period of time. This showed how important it is to have a functioning system of responsibilities and to be able to make decisions quickly.
One of these examples is our conference which takes place in Berlin every six months with 600+ guests. We assumed that large venues would be nearly impossible in September so we decided to make it an online-first event. That is a venture on its own and will lead to a completely new experience.
What do you personally learn from this experience?
Acting in uncertain times makes decisions necessary. Where decisions are not made, uncertainty increases. Where there is no information, uncertainty increases. We will certainly continue our regular all-hands meetings.
I have often heard in the weeks in March that employees feel well looked after and safe. This is fundamental to us. Because it makes it easier to communicate uncomfortable decisions that we also had to do.
I also notice that we are in contact with our partners more than usual. Networking has increased and I believe it’s because one thing unites us: the management of the crisis. It once again shows the importance of a strong mission.
What is your message to business leaders who are experiencing difficulties at the moment?
Accept that it is your responsibility to run the company. Stay in touch with people. Ensure clarity and alignment. And do so objectively and empathically. We're under more pressure than usual. If your employees can see you as a person and as a leader, difficult times will be easier to overcome.
Who went out of their way in the current corona situation that we should interview next, and why?
Jakob Freund, CEO of Camunda. His team went from an on-site conference in New York to a 4000 people online-only event in about four weeks.