Irish innovation during Covid19: an interview with Martin Casey
Covid19 has been affecting businesses around the globe, making firms adapt and advance in an unprecedented reality. To find out how Irish businesses addressed the crisis we have talked with Martin Casey, our Managing Director, and asked to share his view of Irish innovation in a post-covid world.
How has Covid19 crisis impacted the business at Arekibo?
Covid19 has impacted business across the world and Ireland is no different. Our team are based across the world and we were fortunate that we had advanced notice of the pending impact in January. We began planning and it all felt like an experiment. It was going to be useful to see how well we would cope and what would happen if everyone had to work from home. However, I didn’t think it would happen as quickly or as severely as it did. The experiment became reality as we were prepared.
Thankfully, unlike many, we can work from home, with all of our tools, systems, and data available in the cloud. This significantly reduced our operational concerns and allowed us to focus on the team and our clients. The team have adapted well. However the novelty of working from home is gone. The well-being of the team is the focus and we will work hard to ensure we can help everyone as we transition from working from home in the summer to the winter. We have no plans to get the team back to the office and have no dates in mind. We will wait and see and ensure that nobody is at risk.
Our business has been impacted but that’s to be expected. This is the third time in my career that I’ve had to deal with significant changes to the economy. I started with the Dot Com collapse in early 2000, had the financial crash in 2008 and now COVID-19. These were all significant global events, but you get through them and we will get through this one.
What was the most challenging part in this transition?
People are the core of every business and Arekibo is no different. If your team are doing well, your business is probably doing well. From a personal perspective, I feel much more responsibility for our team’s wellbeing. Covid19 has many similar effects to the other two crises but it has added additional layers of anxiety that are significant from a personal and family perspective.
Working from home was supposed to be temporary but has now become permanent. We are now six months in and it’s getting harder. At the start we were focused on helping our team adjust but every month brings new challenges. Initiatives that worked in the first few months have become stale or harder to sustain. We are therefore continually looking for new ways to engage with the team and this is probably the most challenging part of the transition for me. We talk about this as a team and we have encouraged everyone to check in regularly outside of talking work. The team have embraced this and we all recognise that everyone is tired and frustrated. The small things count. I would recommend you focus on these.
On the flip side, from a business perspective, we know what we need to and are doing this very well. Like our team, our clients also need more attention to make sure they are also getting through this. Covid has impacted our clients in many different ways. As a business we need to be looking for ways to be more helpful and supportive. Thankfully this is in our DNA and the team just know what they need to do. This has been wonderful to see and has united the team.
What did businesses learn from Covid19?
I have always liked the quote from Bruce Lee ‘In the middle of chaos lies opportunity’. The pandemic has highlighted many areas where our business needs to focus on improving. Every business has this, but we look at these as opportunities to improve and streamline, rather than being negative.
One of the major benefits of Covid is that it has given me back time. For example I have reduced the amount I travel, that’s a full day back every week to focus on these areas. We have looked across the business, to assess our processes, technology and capabilities and have been actively working to make improvements to these. There are also new opportunities that we have been exploring to see how they can benefit and strengthen the business and well as offer more value to our clients.
As Covid has exposed the gaps and faults in a business, it has provided clarity on the priorities that need to be focused on. I’m sure you have seen the articles on how Covid has accelerated the business case for digital transformation. For our business, we have seen significant increase in contact from organisations who need to improve their digital services. Covid has exposed or validated the decisions priority digital has in a business. Within days and weeks of lockdown your digital maturity was evident to your management, your team and your customers.
What do you think the future going out of Covid19 holds?
Within 6 months, Covid-19 has fundamentally changed how people think about running business, not to mention the impact on their personal lives, on their employees, customers and partners. Some of these changes are seismic, it has challenge everything, the office, work, life choices, everything. For example, the idea that you have to work in an office is no longer true. There is no doubt that once Covid passes many will return to their offices, but employees will look for alternatives to the old ways, they will want a balance. Business will embrace this, or they will lose great people.
For students, coming out of college, these times are terrifying. It seems like your options have been significantly restricted and in the short term this is true. You may be forced to move back home and put your plans on hold. However Covid is forcing us to consider how we want to live our lives, and this is a good thing as you begin to plan your career. The progressive and forward-thinking businesses have embraced the idea that their team can work anywhere, Covid has proved this. This will bring new opportunities and will have a benefit for your career and for future generations.
Covid has also accelerated innovation across many sectors and will increase entrepreneurship. I can see it in our team, our clients and across my peer group. We realise we need to keep moving and have to deal with the reality. We are now looking at things differently and have embraced the idea of evolution. We cannot stand still and wait for it to get better as nobody know when that will be. It will get better eventually, but it’s important that we embrace the opportunity and take advantage of the situation. My experience is that you can never be comfortable and three recessions in 20 years proves this.
My perspective here, is focused on business but Covid has and will continue to have a greater impact on society and culture. This will have long-term implications for all of us. Therefore anything our business can do to help our team and our clients, and everyone’s families will be a primary focus.