The Pandemic Didn’t Halt My Plans as a CEO, It Accelerated Them
I started as CEO of Bazaarvoice, a technology company that provides user-generated content (UGC) solutions to the world’s leading brands and retailers, on January 1, 2020. I couldn’t have been more excited to assume my role and lead the business to enter into its next phase, one which I believed would be defined by substantial growth given the impact we have to our customers success.
Like any CEO, my focus is to scale the business and drive revenue, but I was also just as eager to ensure my employees’ wellbeing was being looked after.
While I knew I needed to immediately begin leading, I planned to take a few months to immerse myself into the company and industry before unveiling my complete plan for the organization going forward. All was going on schedule until all of our lives were upended just two months later when the pandemic shut down the globe.
While one may say this threw all of my plans into disarray, I like to think I was able to (if not forced to) focus on my goals more quickly: positively impact our customers bottom line which will drive business growth while simultaneously prioritizing employee mental health. Just like everyone else, I was quickly trying to find my bearings, create a business continuity plan, and offer solace and confidence to my employees who were understandably very nervous about the future in all aspects of their lives. This became a top priority for me and my team.
We have done our best to emphasize transparency, increase communication frequency, and offer greater work/life flexibility at Bazaarvoice. Starting from the very first week of the global lockdowns, I have been sending a weekly “round up” email to the entire organization every Friday with company updates to help us feel that sense of team connection, alongside client successes for us to celebrate and to feel that much needed sense of purpose and motivation. Given the importance of employee mental health we made sure we had open discussions about ways to manage stress and uncertainty, and we have also rolled out a wellness platform free of charge for all employees that offers everything from therapy and counseling services, stress management training, physical health coaching, and professional assistance. And lastly, my executive team and I have made sure to encourage employees to take the time off that they need in order to recharge, regroup, or spend time with (where possible) and take care of their families.
While these initiatives were originally started to help Bazaarvoice employees combat the struggles the pandemic has forced us to all face, the feedback has been that they have been incredibly helpful for all of the turmoil the world has confronted in the last year. From civil rights reckonings to political unrest, employees feel more equipped to handle these situations because of the programs and culture that we had already put in place. Work-life balance and integration is more important now than it ever has been, and I believe it is imperative for employees to feel their workplace is a calm and secure place for them to weather the storm during this time period.
By quickly putting these initiatives into place, we believe that our company made as great a transition as possible during this time. Helping our employees feel secure, supported, and safe, enabled them to ask for help when necessary which has been key to our success. That, and the nature of our business itself. Working in e-commerce has kept us incredibly busy while the world shopped online in unprecedented numbers.
Our technology allowed us to support our clients as they had to pivot their strategies at the speed of light to focus almost solely on e-commerce. In fact, fortunately for many of our clients on our client network (of over 11,500 brands and retailers), online orders grew 39% year-over-year in 2020, peaking in April at a 96% increase. To replicate the in-store experience and inspire online consumers, UGC is more important than ever to help give consumers confidence in the products they are buying. In the midst of it all, we were also able to acquire Curalate, an amazing software company that provides shoppable social, UGC, and influencer marketing solutions. This has allowed us to greatly increase our social commerce offerings, allowing our clients the ability to leverage inspirational social content to drive sales on social, on websites, and throughout the Bazaarvoice retailer network.
I am immensely proud of the work our company has achieved during this turbulent time. While it happened at warp speed, and not anywhere near how I envisioned it to, I’m humbled to already see our plans and visions becoming a reality and to see our employees both happy and successful. I look forward to the future and can’t wait to see what our team is able to do next given all we have learned through this challenging period for everyone.