Regional Report: Scaling during crisis
A GPEC Virtual Series
The latest ‘Regional Report’ from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) brought together four executives from Greater Phoenix-based tech companies to discuss the opportunities they’ve uncovered and how they’ve scaled their organizations despite the current economic and health challenges due to COVID-19.
- Aaron Matos, CEO, Paradox AI
- Nirit Rubenstein, CEO & Co-Founder, Dovly
- Thiru Thangarathinam, CEO & Founder, MST Solutions
- John Zanni, CEO, Acronis SCS
“We really thought about it in three ways,” says John Zanni, CEO of Acronis SCS, a cyber protection and edge data security company. “Our people, our customers and the company.”
Zanni took the nearly 200 attendees through a slide deck that highlighted each of these focus areas.
- Launched early WFH and quickly built dedicated COVID-19 Task Force
- Shared internal and external resources, and hosted weekly townhalls
- Provided training on remote work and surveyed employees on productivity and work-from-home needs
- Sought feedback from customers on changing landscape
- Adjusted to new workloads and focused on customer pain points
- Restructured messaging to focus on new work-from-home era
- Tailored goals and reorganized the priorities
- Constructed resiliency and contingency plans
“We’ve been able to weather this situation pretty well,” he says. “A lot of my effort has been on how to equip people for work-from-home long term and what is business going to look like in the future given we’re finishing our first full quarter, let’s call it, in the COVID-19 era.”
Nirit Rubenstein, CEO & Co-Founder of Dovly, an automated credit repair platform, spoke to the company’s efforts to preserve capital.
“First and foremost, looked at our entire P&L to see where we could reduce overhead,” she says.
This led to concrete steps to try and achieve that objective.
- Eliminated all non-essential costs: marketing, software, headcount
- Negotiated discounts with vendors and consultants
- Extended payment terms
“We increased our communication touchpoints with our customers,” she says. “We found that they wanted to be communicated with more often and that kind of led to how we can take advantage of this crisis. To turn it into an opportunity to really grow and scale our business.”
Taking insights from their customers base and evaluating the situation holistically, Dovly launched a low-cost product and offered it to as many people as possible at a third of the cost of other products.
“That really was the biggest game changer for us,” Rubenstein says.
Aaron Matos, CEO of Paradox AI, a platform helping the world’s leading recruiting and HR teams do more with less, shared a number of things that have allowed them to be successful during this time.
“I looked at why we’re succeeding through this, that is really because of our people,” he says. “We’ve got an amazing group.”
Matos focused on safety and work-from-home early on.
“It’s crazy today that you can take an entire organization and go work from home and still operate in the software space,” Matos says.
Matos has lived and worked through the dot-com crash and 9/11, but understood that his young workforce had not. He emphasized the need to reinforce resiliency and reassured his employees through video conferences, bought ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday and talked through how this situation presents opportunity.
Matos and his team got on the phone with their top 200 clients to better assess the situation, which led them to building new products.
“We both responded quickly and built COVID assistance to answer questions for employees and we helped build automated systems to help both dispersed workers connect to those that are hiring,” he says.
Matos next focused on capital, which he admits was a “freaky time,” because Paradox had just closed a $40 million Series-B round, which has led them to expanding headcount by 25 percent since March 1. He say’s anytime a recession hits, you have to look at cash and the balance sheet to determine if you are going to get through the crisis.
“We made this early decision, of look, we’re not going to go run and hide. There was a really big choice – do you cut and conserve cash or do you play aggressive,” he says. “The market bounced back way faster than we thought, so we’re happy we’ve played aggressive.”
Thiru Thangarathinam, CEO & Founder of MST Solutions, a digital transformation firm that specializes in helping clients transform their customer experience, leaned on the company’s core values for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The simple thing that we did was let’s go back to our core values and purpose as a company, and really align all the decisions that you’re going to make to them,” he says. “If you look at our purpose of the company, that’s, you know, very simple. It’s creating a legacy across what we call three ‘C’s,’ which is customers, colleagues and community.”
- “We talked a lot about all of the customers and really found out what are the challenges that they have. In some cases, they have financial issues, we stepped in to help where it made sense. In other cases, they wanted to understand what are the new innovative approaches to solving some other challenges, so we were listening to them with empathy to understand the challenges that they’re going through and be there for them as they are navigating through this.”
- “A few things, of course, we all take care of physical safety and health importantly, but also we started talking a little bit about emotional well-being as well mental well-being for colleagues, and they now use a tool called Mentee.com to get a sense of that on a weekly basis. We do the All Hands meetings to get a sense of what’s going through in people’s mind, what do we need to do differently as a company and do all of that. Communication is such a key part of the strategy here. When I say communication that includes, of course, transparency, empathy and authenticity. The whole purpose of you know how we build the company is based on those key building blocks, so we just double down on all of them and say let’s communicate in a transparent manner, emphasize to the colleagues and do that authentic manner.”
- “We said let’s go back to the purpose, and the purpose of course, to create a legacy. Early on in the process we launched a program with MS and everything MST to say how do we really help this vulnerable elderly citizens in the community get some groceries shopping. We went and did the shopping for them. We allocated about $10,000 for that; we also used our technology to our comparative advantage; build a technology solution they can place orders, and we, our employees, colleagues go find these groceries and deliver them in a contactless manner.”
For more information about doing business in Greater Phoenix and to read recaps of past ‘Regional Reports’: