I have always believed that crisis reveals character. We entered the pandemic from a position of strength. Our business was experiencing double-digit growth, and we were looking forward to another great year. What followed were events that derailed our outlook as it did for our customers everywhere.
While the pandemic was out of control, our business was not. We knew we needed to deliver our brand promise while staying true to our core values. We knew we needed to try to deliver better customer service, better uptime, and near-perfect data validation to get us from now to the new normal.
In the following, I reflect on four key findings that I learned as a CEO leading in a crisis. Looking back at leading this company through the past nine months of the pandemic, we can revisit four things we did right away. These changes were not easily accomplished, but they made a big impact.
1.) We Stuck to Our Core Values. In the early days of the pandemic, we quickly revisited our core values and prioritized tasks directly related to them. One of our four core values is Customer Service Excellence. To us, this means answering the phone and keeping our support team connected with our customers. Within days of the pandemic hitting, we relocated our phone system off-site to Phoenix and installed softphones everywhere. Our team was no longer leashed to an office phone. Our team could place and receive customer calls on their laptop or cell phone as if they were in the office. This allowed our teams the freedom to work from home safely and remotely with the same tools they had been accustomed to in the office.
2.) Open and Brutally Honest. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, I was brutally open and honest about our position. We had no idea how the next few quarters would play out for us. We consistently communicated to our team about our transaction volumes, revenue and net income. We didn’t put on rose-colored glasses and promise everything was just fine. Everyone needed to know the numbers. So, we had more all-hands meetings than ever before, and we spoke openly and honestly about our numbers. We felt it was important to have a single face (me) and a concise plan to show our team we were actively adjusting our priorities to get through the storm.
3.) We Were Ready to Change Everything. We knew we couldn’t wait this out. Luckily, every quarter we have an active process that allows us to readjust top priorities and change the direction of our business. Every quarter I ask my team if we could only do one thing to ‘tip the scales in our favor’ what would it be? Change is in our DNA. We have done this religiously for years, and you can bet I am glad we did. We leveraged our core competencies and created new solutions centered around client needs. We quickly launched new address tools that validated delivery addresses with high accuracy.
4.) Refocused on Our “Why”. I started this business 20 years ago with the hope of creating meaningful change through data quality. Throughout the pandemic, we stayed focused on our why. We expanded our relationships with our data providers to bring on even larger international datasets. With partners like OpenStreetMaps and USPS, we pushed location data further on accuracy and resolution. And with clients like Amazon and DICKS Sporting Goods we continued to harden our delivery network.
My clients and my team ask me if I’m still optimistic about the future, and I say: absolutely. I tell them our tools provide certainty in uncertain times. We provide nuggets of truth in an uncertain world. Accurate data empowers better outcomes. I am a big believer in the power of data (accurate data) to solve difficult problems. We are committed to this work and we must resist being deterred by negative headlines or distracted by competitors.
To close, I wish our team, clients and vendors a wonderful holiday season. I hope that everyone stays safe and finds the spirit and inspiration that they need to push forward towards a better world in 2021.