Davide Dattoli, Co-Founder & CEO of Endeavor company Talent Garden, who already has more than two weeks of experience dealing with COVID-19, shared his insights and best practices on coping with the crisis, during an hour-long webinar. Talent Garden is the leading European innovation platform and coworking network for tech professionals, with 26 campuses in 8 countries. Talent Garden focuses on new ways to transform and connect the flexible work and education environments that are being demanded by digital entrepreneurs and businesses to accelerate the growth of new business in second-tier cities worldwide.
Davide walked us through the evolution of the crisis in Italy and he remarked that the early stages were, in many ways, the most difficult. He focused on the importance of acting quickly and he explained why he decided to take action very soon after the outbreak, by asking all employees to work remotely and postponing all planned events. The company’s coworking space remained open, but less than 1% of the members are currently using it. At the same time, “We had to digitize all our products and services and redefine our learning experience for 500 students in just one weekend.” he mentions.
Soon after that, he formed a crisis committee, responsible for making core decisions on how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. He kept paying employees, but froze all other payments such as the rent, or the cleaning company. Also, the company decided to offer a 25% discount to all its coworking members, in an effort to remain close to its network and customers. At the same time, they asked their landlord for a significant reduction on rent. “It’s better as a landlord to earn less now and receive full rent in the next 6 months, than receive nothing at all. Without rent deductions, the company could even face the risk of closing. We all need to share this burden at these difficult times.” he stated.
Regarding long term planning, Davide insisted on planning week by week for the next months, by focusing on the parts of the business that are affected by the crisis and updating their priority list. “Long term planning makes no sense at this point. We soon realized that we need to throw out all our plans for 2020 and start from scratch. The winners are not the strongest ones, but those who adapt better” he explained.
At the same time, he stated that companies must adjust to the new needs that occur from the crisis. “Talent Garden had to build new products. We are now launching a lot of user experience courses and we are trying to move all our products online. We cannot wait for the market to get back to where it was. My estimation for the internal plan is that it will be very hard for the next three months, it will be difficult to attract investments in the next six to nine months, but if we focus on new opportunities in the market and limit our budget, we can obtain growth in the next three years.” he said.
Davide also focused on the lessons he learned while dealing with the crisis:
1. Change your strategic plan. In the first days of the outbreak, we were trying to reforecast our plan for the year. Three weeks after, we realized that we had to throw out our existing plan and restart.
2. It will take time to recover. At the beginning people are shocked and they believe that in a couple of weeks everything will go back to normal. However, “Even when we go back to normal, life will not be the same at first. Whereas for the economy, it will take much more time and effort to recover” Davide explains.
3. Do not underestimate the social impact of the crisis. “People are personally impacted and very afraid. From a social perspective, it is very difficult, as people are not used to spending so much time alone, at home” he said.
Overall, Davide stated that he is positive for the future. Since the crisis began, his country has made a huge jump on digitalization. “In the past days there has been much bigger progress in the digital transformation of the country than what has happened in the past years. If everyone does his part, we can win as a whole, as a society.” he said.
Finally, regarding the way Endeavor has been a supporter during this crisis, Davide mentioned that “One of the most helpful things during these days was using a chat where I could talk to other Endeavor Entrepreneurs. The creation of this channel was a super successful moment for Endeavor, since for me, talking to my peers and discussing with them has been one of the things that has helped me the most.”
You can listen to the recording of the webinar here