“Bad companies are destroyed by a crisis, good companies survive a crisis, but great companies are defined by a crisis” said Brian Chesky (CEO AirBnB) quoting Andy Grove (an Intel founder) in an interview with Simon Sinek. Brian goes on to say: “So much of that is mindset. If you think you are going to win, if you think this is going to define you in a positive way and you are going to learn from it, and it’s going to make you stronger… it kinda happens”
It got me thinking, when COVID hit, our first reaction was to cut costs or “conserve resources” as Brian puts it, but after a bit of soul searching we decided against that because it felt wrong. Having assembled a great team at the beginning of March, we didn’t want to let anyone leave the business. We still had no idea how to respond to the crisis but we knew that was not the answer. The only thing we were certain of, was that a lot of people would be scared of what the future holds (as were we) so we asked ourselves, “what can we do to ease people’s concerns about the weeks and months ahead?” And then we reached out . . .
We ignored conventional business development, we dropped all outbound sales and customer service calls, and with every spare moment we had across the entire business, we picked up the phone to say hello. We wanted to let all our agencies and contractors know they were not alone. We asked: Are you doing okay? What can we do to help? We sent jokes, we told stories and we listened. I don’t think we knew it at the time, but we wanted our reaction to this crisis to define who we are as a business, we wanted people to remember us positively for the part we played in helping them through their worst days. And as we made those calls, and as we told some terribly bad jokes, we felt like we were failing. We felt powerless because it seemed like there was absolutely nothing we could do to improve people’s situations, and nothing we could say to allay their fears or change their outlook. But we kept at it anyway, because it felt “right”.
In the past couple of months, people have come back to us to say thank you, I remember: I remember you calling, I remember you reaching out, I remember that terrible, terrible joke, thank you for listening, it helped! And each of them has, in their own way, expressed their loyalty to our business and the culture it represents. Be it through adding more business, referring other business or simply taking the time to express their gratitude before they move on to something else.
The last few weeks have been really great for Compass, we have surpassed all our KPIs for the year and we still have a strong pipeline in both Umbrella and PEO. But the best part of this period is the knowledge that this growth comes from loyalty and belief in our brand and our values; people believe Compass is a great business, that we see a crisis as a way to define who we are in a positive way, that we learn from it, and that it’s makes us stronger.