Transforming a business at any stage is tremendously challenging and faced with the COVID-19 lockdown Toronto-based My Blue Umbrella (MBU) used this time as an opportunity to not only implement several business continuity measures but also push a new digital transformation plan that will support and empower its customers for the future.
Company founder and CEO Michael Contento did admit that this plan was “aggressive” but added that quick action was necessary because of the unique circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new transformation plan was part of an overall umbrella strategy Contento called Triple S dot T (Survive, Stabilize, Strive, and Transform). This effort involved enabling MBU customers with new cloud-based infrastructure that supports collaborative business automations.
The major part of Contento’s transformation strategy had its own branding: WORKanyPLACE. This cloud-based solution features several artificial intelligence tools resulting in cost and time savings for the customer while significantly improving teamwork and collaboration. WORKanyPLACE is a home-grown offering from MBU that is essentially an Oﬃce-in-a-Cloud, backed by the company’s technical support resources.
More importantly, WORKanyPLACE delivers business outcomes, such as:
- Access to ﬁles anywhere
- The ability to create calendar invites on the fly that sync seamlessly with videoconferencing apps.
- Sharing data becomes a frictionless experience with WORKanyPLACE since its available inside and outside the organization.
- Finally, vital data is secure, and automatically backed up, while allowing users access at a moment’s notice.
To get to the transform stage, the team at MBU moved quickly through each stage of the Triple S dot T plan.
When the news broke that a lockdown was coming because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Contento’s only thought was: “How do I survive this?”
Stuck out of the country, Contento understood he needed to act fast. On his way back home, Contento – who has been running MBU for more than 25 years – began to analyze what the pandemic was doing to banks, governments and other entities and realized the exceptional situation he was now saddled with needed a unique solution.
In this short amount of time, Contento developed the “Triple S dot T” plan.
Launching the Triple S dot T plan required a quick but thorough review of available programs and funding.
“I was in Florida. It was March 20th, and my first instinct was to get into survival mode, and I began to talk to the bank for help; get my credit line extended, so MBU had a buffer. That got us some breathing room to build this kind of road map,” Contento said.
Then other issues need to be resolved, such as the best way to support the MBU staff, while setting up new security measures.
To stabilize MBU, Contento and his team enacted a work-from-home program, and the company launched its Business Continuity Program (BCP). MBU staff were equipped with access to data via VPN plus the necessary computer equipment and other tools to operate safely and productively.The company then added extra layers of security to ensure hackers would be blocked from stealing data.
Putting this in place enabled MBU to stabilize is operation. From there, Contento shifted to the Strive portion of the plan.
In Strive mode, the MBU team were empowered to go to a new level of performance in the face of the COVID-19 lockdown. Contento’s message was to not allow COVID-19 to prevent them from doing regular business duties. He asked his team to contact customers to find out if there was anything they can do to help immediately.
This stage saw the MBU team craft new product solutions and support methods for clients. One of the savvier moves MBU made was to resource computer equipment from Rent-to-Own operations.
“The key thing here is to train the staff to communicate in phases and talk in a way to learn how to assess customer needs quickly, provide support and understand the initial need because some may by thinking of how they make payments, while others are thinking about security,” he said.
Lessons learned from the crisis
The perception of MBU during this time of crisis was also very important to Contento.
“We did not want clients to think we were calling to grow our business; we wanted to stay relevant to them. Not sell something extra, but to service them by offering extended financing, cutting costs, help them migrate from on-premise to the cloud and if we had to take a hit and not get billed for 120 days, we would.”
COVID-19 has brought out the best in a lot of Canadians, according to Contento. He has been impressed by how Canadians have dedicated themselves to protecting their neighbour, collaborating with each other, and supporting each other.
“COVID-19 came in as a big negative, but it has pushed true camaraderie…and we need that now. Sometimes our patriotism is questioned in Canada, and I think with COVID-19 it has elevated it a bit.”
Another change caused by COVID-19 has been the reality check to business leaders.
“Business can be quite simple. There is revenue and cost and the difference could be making you a profit or putting you in trouble. What COVID-19 has done is take the complexity out of business. Business leaders are running at 100-miles an hour, and COVID-19 has come in, and it has stopped giants in this industry and forced everyone to do the math really quickly. We are now month-to-month, and it has made people dumb down their math to see if their business expenses make sense and look at how healthy the profit is. Is the revenue sustainable down the road, or do I need to recalibrate it? This has forced everyone to go back to basics,” he added.
As crises go, COVID-19 draws a fine line between personal and business, and it has made decision making much harder for Contento.
“The decisions I make during this crisis have tripled in terms of impact because families are dealing not just with their finances but their health with this virus. It’s not just about the financials, but life and death and in a roundabout way, leaders have been forced to look at not just the math, which is what we would normally do, but the health perspective too”.