‘La reprise’: facing the COVID-19 crisis
When the coronavirus pandemic led to a national lockdown in France and other countries of the world in March 2020, companies had to face an unexpected and unprecedented crisis.
To understand their concerns, the challenges they had to overcome, and the adaptation they had to demonstrate to ensure their future, French media Maddyness and Salesforce have given the floor to four members of the Next40, the index of French tech start-ups: Believe, BioSerenity, Devialet and Payfit.
Whether they operate in the healthcare, cultural industries or payroll sectors, they all saw their certainties shaken by this unexpected crisis but showed us their ability to adapt to this new environment.
The first and absolute priority: employees
Securing the staff and maintaining cohesion and team spirit despite the lockdown was a real challenge. But Believe managed to do so by anticipating and instituting a telework day for the entire group a week beforehand to test the ability to work remotely. “As soon as the confinement started, the company was up and running”, explains Sandrine Bossard, Chief People Officer. Care and communication were crucial.
We focused on helping teams to sort out work and personal life in this lockdown environment and we worked on social isolation and psychological support because people are our core.
“This crisis has deeply modified our relations with the teams”, analyses Devialet's CEO Franck Lebouchard. “I used to refrain from asking personal questions to employees. Now I want my HR teams to know much more about each individual's personal situations. Since the COVID-19 crisis, we can no longer ignore each people's reality”, he considers.
Whether at Payfit or BioSerenity, the most important thing was also to communicate better with everyone and to help the teams feel good about their work, especially remotely.
A business crisis, really?
We have probably gained two or three years of maturity in the digital shift of the music market.
Without any surprise, a lot of companies had to review their business models to cope with this abrupt economic turmoil. BioSerenity, which specializes in access to healthcare, created a mask factory from scratch while continuing to develop its telemedicine tools. Devialet had to close its stores and saw its Internet sales skyrocket, Payfit had to respond to a crisis among its customers and, in the culture business. As for Believe, this crisis has only reinforced a trend already well understood and anticipated: the acceleration of the digital transformation.
“Very quickly we did some analysis on what to recommend to our artists and we found that they should continue to produce and release music online. People, being at home, consumed more and the subscription numbers increased. This represents 75% of our business”, says Ladegaillerie.
Believe has made all studies available to its partners as well as the whole industry in order to support the musical ecosystem. "As the market is more and more digital we are naturally more and more attractive for more artists. With this lockdown we have probably gained two or three years of maturity in the digital shift of the music market", considers Ladegaillerie.
Finances, a double challenge
We did not ask for public aid, but on the contrary we offered to help by offering financial assistance to our partners, be it artists or labels who needed us.
How to maintain your activity while continuing to grow in this destabilizing context has been another challenge that companies have had to face.
"Payfit had just completed a capital raising, so we weren't too worried", says Nicolas Woussen, CFO, who nevertheless faced a drop in activity. “At Devialet, we had to quickly make the right decisions to protect cash and reduce expenses while maintaining the growth plan”, explains Wilfrid Poisnel, CFO.
COVID-19 has put many companies in difficulty while destabilizing some. But thanks to the streaming business growth, Believe was less affected. “We have adapted our short-term objectives to reflect the situation, but in the medium term, there has been little changes. We have continued to develop our platform, which operates in 45 countries according to our plan, which has been maintained or even strengthened”, says Xavier Dumont, COO.
All our decisions are guided by four founding values, driving the way we act everyday with our artists and employees: respect, expertise, fairness and transparency.
Without certainty about the long-term impacts of this paradigm shift, companies had to question their purpose and engagement policy. Values such as solidarity, transparency and environmental responsibility benefit companies as long as their approach is truly genuine.
Depending on their DNA and field of activity, each company has its own core values. At Bioserenity, they insist on empathy and discrimination in access to care. At Devialet, they question built-in obsolescence by creating evolutionary, updated products. Giving more meaning to work by offering employees the opportunity to get involved in projects that are important to them is a given at Believe. “We are supporting a zero-waste initiative in our Paris offices, which we will then deploy worldwide”, explains Audrey Chemir.
This crisis prompted us to reinvent the way we engage employees and, by moving to a more virtual mode, to accelerate the deployment of our initiatives in France and to duplicate them globally.