We’ve talked with scale-up CEO Sina Farzaneh about his experience getting through the early days of quarantine in Shanghai. Sina is the CEO of Pullpath, a customer experience feedback solution for customer insights, which mainly caters to the Chinese market.

How did you navigate the lockdown internally in order to keep your people together and working effectively?

I was luckier than most in that our business has been remote from Day 1, so for us not much has changed in terms of meeting rhythm. However, most of my entrepreneur friends weren’t as lucky, as they didn’t have the systems/processes/culture in place when the crisis hit. My suggestions would be:

  • Double-down on strong communication, specifically two-way communication (like a survey or a pullpath) that allows you to see how each employee is faring and how your org can best support them.
  • Highlight the results in a ‘live address’ (ie. Virtual Townhall) to all employees, with strong actions that you’ll be taking immediately. They need to know they’re ok to get past the “survival phase”.
  • Layout the ‘rules of engagement’ for how to work going forward, which includes the tech systems, but more importantly the communication expectations like meeting rhythm/cadence.
  • In some case where all projects have stopped, try to rally the troops to work on new projects which could actually be focused on the new opportunities that are now being unlocked in realtime. It’s a way to help your people get into a proactive mindset (instead of reactive).

“Try to rally the troops to work on new projects which could actually be focused on the new opportunities that are now being unlocked in realtime.”

What are the implications for young, innovative, fast-growing companies when they operate in a world where travel and face-to-face interaction are highly restricted?

Obviously if your scale-ups try to continue with the old way of doing business, they’ll find it difficult, given all the restrictions and uncertainty. So a major implication is that the way of communicating, the relevance of certain topics and even your offerings may have to evolve accordingly.

In our case, we were able to ‘pivot’ almost all our employee engagement projects to helping the customer engage more deeply with their employees about topics related to coronavirus. This helped to ensure that our customers didn’t ‘pause’ any Pullpath projects, which is helpful for us given that the projects range from $5k to $300k.

Also from my company’s POV, we were in the process of building our SaaS framework/website so this crisis just helped us to double-down on the focus of employee motivation for your mobile/remote workforce.

As such we are now more busy than we ever have been before. So my strategic advice to scale-up’s would be to look for ways to HELP customers or prospects.

Lessons from a coronavirus refugee

Sina wrote an article with some helpful tips for navigating the 5 phases of this pandemic. This is what his experience has taught him:

  1. Minimize social media time, and screen time in general if possible
  2. Build a list of what you’d need to remain home for 2 weeks
  3. Freaking out doesn’t help your immune system so stop it
  4. Proactively checking in on friends is good for you and them
  5. Reframe the quarantine as being ‘in jail’ to having more ‘you time’
  6. Build a family schedule to help everyone stay positive and active
  7. Offer promotions if your solution is “remote friendly”
  8. Don’t be like me and let your dietary & workout discipline go to 0
  9. Assume that this might take 6 months to get back to normal
  10. Leverage the rapid change to accelerate work/lifestyle changes