For 16 months, the global COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc around the world. Every country on the planet was gripped by fear of this deadly virus. The social isolation and forced lockdowns that were meant to protect us, also hurt us in so many ways. For most, 2020 is a year we would like to forget.
For me, 2020 was supposed to be a great year to remember. It was the year I realized my life-long career ambition… to become a Chief Executive Officer. After being appointed as Xperigo’s new President & CEO in mid-December of 2019, I was excited for the challenge of leading my organization into the future of automotive mobility. After 6 years as an executive at Xperigo, I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do to be successful. And then 2020 happened.
As I settled into my new office in January, I was already faced with a number of changes and challenges that had immediately arisen, including a re-structuring of my executive team, an emergency evacuation of our Moncton office (that lasted 17 days), and a personal health crisis that had me sidelined for several weeks. Any one of these challenges was enough to create excessive stress for a new CEO. These events introduced additional risk to the business and became a significant distraction from my self-prescribed 100-day plan in my new role.
In March 2020, just as the dust was settling on these initial challenges, COVID-19 started to significantly impact Canada. The global pandemic introduced a level of strain and uncertainty to Corporate Canada that was incomprehensible. Out of concern for our Team Members health, we immediately made the decision to send everyone home. A work-from-home pilot had just successfully been completed, so we knew it was possible, but were concerned with the impact this decision could have on our business. It was rife with risk, to both the performance of the company and the state of our award-winning culture. As a new CEO, the task of managing a company through a global pandemic was daunting; the good news for me was that this was new ground for everyone and effective leadership and culture could make the difference between success and failure.
Within 3 days, Xperigo’s 250 Team Members were working from the safety of their homes. We then faced the enormous task of introducing significant change across the entire business to support our new virtual operation. This included the development of new corporate policies, changes to proven processes, the introduction of enhanced communication channels, and reinvention of our corporate culture toolkit. We desperately wanted to maintain our high level of engagement with all team members, especially during these frightening and ambiguous times, but had no idea if our improvised strategy would be effective. While these pandemic challenges could have overwhelmed our company, we focused on taking care of our people, so that they could take care of our customers.
It was clear after several months in a work-from-home model, that the pandemic was not going away any time soon. It was also crystal clear that Xperigo was successfully operating, had continued to protect our clients customer experience, and that our Team Members had continued to be engaged through this challenging situation. It was at this point that I encouraged the team to return to “business as usual” as much as possible. The pandemic had forced us to play defense and had us back on our heels. As a high-performance culture with a growth mindset, it was time to play offense. So, with some “Pandemic” tweaks to our strategic plan, Xperigo moved forward with its 2021 business objectives. The plan called for the implementation of critical changes to the business, amidst a sea of change already experienced in 2020. The shift from defense to offense breathed new life into the organization. People across the company embraced change and welcomed the challenge of achieving success in a year of unprecedented uncertainty.
So, did we succeed? Well, that depends on how you define success. For Xperigo, our business success has always been driven by our corporate culture. Every year for the past 6 years, we measure and benchmark several key performance indicators (KPI) related to our team member engagement and cultural performance through a comprehensive culture assessment. In 2020, a year where the entire company worked from home, we actually realized improvements in almost every KPI across the board. This is an achievement that I would have said was impossible at the outset of the pandemic.
We also received external validation of our cultural performance by receiving several awards in 2020/2021. Xperigo was recognized by Waterstone Human Capital as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, a prestigious award bestowed upon a few select organizations across Canada. Shortly afterward, Xperigo was certified as a Great Place To Work and ultimately received recognition as the 39th Best Workplace in Canada, as well as Best Workplace for Women. With our robust culture fueling our high-performance team, we also experienced success in the traditional business sense. In 2020, Xperigo's client base grew by 20% and solidified a number of key existing client contracts, representing 33% of the company’s annual revenue. In a very challenging year, these achievements allowed Xperigo to exceed 2019’s results.
Lastly, and probably the achievement I am most proud of, is the fact that not one Xperigo team member lost their job in 2020 due to the pandemic. As COVID-19 began to decimate entire industries and impact economies around the world, I made a commitment to my fellow team members that my top priority was to protect every job at Xperigo. It provided me with great satisfaction to have been able to deliver on that commitment.