Responding to COVID-19: How 3 San Francisco Tech Companies Are Adapting Their Businesses

by Stephen Ostrowski
April 24, 2020

For employees of Sendoso, remote work entails a splash of greenery. 

“We sent desktop succulents to all our employees, with a handwritten note that read, ‘This is a little something from your Sendoso family to help decorate your new at-home office,’” CEO and Co-Founder Kris Rudeegraap said. 

The small gesture is just part of a broader effort by the sending solutions company to make workers feel comfortable and supported as they transition to working from home. As the company pivots its internal culture, they’re modifying their approach to customers as well. 

“We’ve adjusted the tone of our outreach to be more relevant, empathetic and educational,” said Rudeegraap. 

 

Digit SF


THE digit TEAM PICTURED PRIOR TO WORKING REMOTELY

Alexis Collatos, business operations lead at Digit, alluded to a similar balancing act, with leadership sending intentional, mindful outreach to both internal and external parties. 

“This shift has helped push us to be even more nimble and flexible in our work, as well as really focus on clear, consistent communication — both with our members and internally as a team,” said Collatos.

From ramping up virtual culture-building efforts to modifying approaches in customer engagement, here’s how a trio of San Francisco tech companies are adjusting their organizations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Richard Lawrence
VP, U.S., West

How are you shifting your business in response to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Social advertising has seen historical shifts in spend and allocation of marketing dollars while marketers navigate the uncertainty and constantly evolving landscape. Together with marketing, we've created an extension of our blog space, providing insights for our customers and addressing trends for verticals like travel, retail and e-commerce. We have seen dramatic swings of consumer behavior shifting to home wellness, online education, delivery services and streaming entertainment.

 

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home? 

Our way of working has not changed. We've always been an organization that fosters a family-first mentality. With 16 global offices, we are used to remote working and virtual meetings. From a business perspective, our value “always think customers first” — which  guides all of our decisions — has allowed us to be innovative in providing education to the entire social advertising ecosystem with SofaSummit, the largest social advertising summit with access industry experts. 

Social advertising has seen historical shifts in spend and allocation of marketing dollars.”

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future?

We adapted quickly to the situation: we started working from home early, pivoted to a remote onboarding process and created more resources for our internal training platform. We haven’t had to change much in our recruitment process, as we’ve already had very remote-friendly practices in place. We have, however, focused more on telling about life at Smartly.io, as we can’t experience it firsthand at the offices right now.

We still continue the tradition of inviting guests to our weekly Friday demos. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and official recommendations, but for now, all 350-plus employees are working from their home offices and getting virtually together during weekly all-hands, demos and after-work activities. 

 

Kris Rudeegraap
CEO & Co-Founder

How are you shifting your business in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

COVID-19 has required Sendoso to problem-solve and adapt in unprecedented ways. We've pivoted our in-person events, reframing them for online consumption. We’re also leaning into the biggest needs expressed by our customers, prospects and community at large. While our core messaging and value proposition has remained the same, we’ve shifted a lot of the conversations we’re having to be more focused on the immediate ROI we can drive for companies that are trying to figure out how to keep deals moving forward. 

We’ve also adjusted the tone of our outreach to be more relevant, empathetic and educational. Our product roadmap also shifted. When companies started working from home, our customers needed a way to ensure the packages being sent via Sendoso would be shipped to the correct address. Therefore, we launched our address confirmation feature earlier than planned so that recipients could confirm their address before an item is sent. Establishing the address first ensures the package gets delivered to wherever they are now working.  

We’ve adjusted the tone of our outreach to be more relevant, empathetic and educational.”

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home?

Before shelter-in-place mandates were issued, we implemented our own work-from-home policy. We’re fortunate to work in an industry that can operate in a remote environment. We've supplied employees with monitors, keyboards and other desk items.  

Our leadership team plans to send physical and virtual care packages to employees to ensure they know that we’re here with them. To provide more visibility into how our company, board and leadership teams are addressing uncertainty, we instituted a virtual weekly all-hands meeting, which allows for different departments to share updates with the entire company. These meetings are even more effective since we’ve embraced a cameras-on mentality to encourage virtual face-to-face communication. We’ve also added a number of company-wide virtual activities to encourage camaraderie, such as virtual morning workouts, afternoon trivia sessions and daily #WFH challenges like showing off a favorite travel photo.           

 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future? 

Remote work has been a growing trend for some time now, and many are predicting COVID-19 will create an influx of permanent work-from-home employees. That could also mean a shift in the overall amount of physical events, business travel and face-to-face meetings that companies put budget toward. 

As humans, we all crave really meaningful human connections, and sending someone something thoughtful or relevant will be a critical step for building relationships in an increasingly virtual world. Leaders need to prepare for this reality on all fronts, from managing employee expectations to managing client deliverables. In addition, the days of setting and forgetting a strategy are long gone. Now more than ever, it's important to be hyper-relevant. We’re doing this by researching client pain points; collecting input across internal teams; crafting a collective narrative that is timely and helpful for addressing the needs of customers and prospects and scaling that across our go-to-market programs, from our website and email nurtures to sales outreach and customer communication.  

 

Alexis Collatos
Business Operations Lead

How are you shifting your business in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

We’ve assembled a rapid response team to identify all the ways our members might be impacted by COVID-19 and work accordingly to mitigate that impact as much as possible. For example, we’ve created a resource hub that almost 200,000 members have visited, and have authorized our member support team to “heavily bias towards generosity.” We’ve offered members experiencing COVID-related financial hardship two free months of membership.  We’ve also developed a product roadmap specifically designed to make it easier for members who need additional flexibility with their finances to manage their account with us. We’ve also been focusing on communicating with our members more frequently, especially around government policy changes that may benefit them. Additionally, we are working on sourcing partnerships with other fintechs to help our members find healthcare and discounts.

From a business perspective, our focus is on ensuring we have the strongest business possible and on doing everything we can to support our employees. We’ve moved into a flexible strategic stance that will allow us to rapidly ramp up acquisition spend and growth if we feel the time is right, but to also take a more conservative position and extend the runway if needed. As broader macroeconomic conditions change, our goal is to be adaptable and set ourselves up to thrive in any environment. 

Our goal is to be adaptable and set ourselves up to thrive in any environment.”  

What steps have you taken to align your team around this shift, particularly with employees now working from home? 

Our senior leadership quickly aligned on the importance of dedicating time to respond to COVID-19, setting up a task force to coordinate our response across different functions in the company. Internally, senior leadership sends out weekly situation updates to all employees, including resources on issues like managing stress and anxiety. Externally, a cross-functional member response team was asked to come up with a roadmap for our user-facing response. Given that the entire company is operating remotely, we erred on the side of overcommunication, with senior leadership repeatedly discussing the importance of this work in weekly all-hands; the member response team setting up dedicated Slack channels and sharing updates several times a week; and scheduling time with the broader product and business teams to discuss our proposed roadmap. 

 

How do you think this shift will impact your business in the future?  

We’re always going to focus relentlessly on our members’ needs, and our product roadmap will continue to be a reflection of that. This shift has helped push us to be even more nimble and flexible in our work, as well as really focus on clear, consistent communication — both with our members and internally as a team. We believe that this will help the team rally around new initiatives and decisions more quickly in the future and ensure better alignment and faster execution on initiatives.

 

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