Adapting to the New Reality Series – An Interview with Raj Atwal

We are continuing our ‘Adapting to the New Reality’ series where we’re asking leaders from various organizations to shine a light on how organizations can possibly navigate today’s new reality.  Today I have with me, Raj Atwal our SVP of Sales.  He will be answering a number of questions and hopefully help us, by providing some insightful answers on how we can all apply these principles and navigate today’s new normal. (Transcript of the video interview below.)

What market trends are you seeing among our client base?  Obviously, you talk to our customers as well as our regional sales directors every day.  Are there any specific trends, or are we seeing more of a mixed message?  What does it look like?

I think we’re seeing a mixed message and it really does depend on which business you’re in, whether you’re in manufacturing or other specific industries.  As a couple of examples of recent customers and partners that I’ve spoken with, the customers that we have in medical supply, they seem to be really, really busy and scrambling to help out with the situation at hand.

We’re also seeing an increase in activity for our food supply customers.  Anybody that’s working in the grocery industry or supplying to the grocery industry are increasing their investment in projects and accelerating their key initiatives and really scrambling to keep up with the supply chains.

For our retail customers, obviously, with all of the closures with the malls and the stores, we are just seeing them now emphasize everything they can with their online channel.  The only remaining open channel, is their eCommerce or online channel.  So again, you know, we’re seeing a lot of customers reaching out to us and ensuring that they stay up and running with their online channel.

 

So, except for the ‘spinning up’ of their eCommerce stores, is there anything else that our retail clients are doing to weather the storm, or, are all of their efforts just going into eCommerce?

From what I’m seeing right now, most of their efforts are going into their eCommerce.

 

In your career, have you ever experienced anything similar to this level of uncertainty?  We had SARS in the early 2000s, there was a recession in North America in 2008;  do you see any similarities or have we never experienced anything like this?

I think there are some similarities but I definitely think what we’re experiencing right now is pretty unique.  It’s having a real true global impact.  I don’t think we’ve had anything like this before, you know, the SARS outbreak didn’t manifest itself into a global pandemic.  The recession did hit employers and employees, but it didn’t really affect health.

I think what we have right now is the speed at which this is happening.  It’s affecting all ages and all geographies, you know that’s very difficult and it’s stressing everything from healthcare facilities and healthcare workers to our government leadership who are now having to come up with really creative and innovative programs to try to help us get through this time.  That in some way, much like the Pivotree’s motto, everyone’s just having to adapt relentlessly.  The whole world is having to adapt relentlessly.

 

When there is a lot of panic and a lot of fear around the world and everybody’s panicking within their personal lives and businesses, what do you think are the most common mistakes that businesses make during a time of crisis?

It’s quite a loaded question.  I think it really depends on the unique situation of each business, each organization and each company.  Things like, do they have financial status or access to credit or even their own core values.

Another one of the things that we’ve done at Pivotree, is we’ve tried to address this really early on.  One of the first things that we did was reassess our company values and wrote up a set of temporary values, some of which are common to our corporate values but just more temporary for this specific situation.  We’re allowing those values to really guide some of the decisions that we’re making.

Some of the things that, for instance, we’ve come up with is let’s help flatten the curve, let’s have honest communications, let’s prioritize our people and our staff and let’s keep them in their jobs.  Let’s maintain unity and make sure we are servicing our customers and our partners and delivering what is now really even more of an essential service.  Respect our vendors and partners, and know everyone’s going through similar situations, we’re all in this together and need to retain optimism.

We know we’re going to come out of this, it’s just a matter of time.  So, we are using those values to really guide the types of decisions that we’re making.  So, again, in this time of crisis, I think every organization needs something like that to guide the decisions that they’re making.

 

Ruthless prioritization is critical in times of crisis.  Obviously, whether it comes to cutting costs, decreasing our labor force, whatever that might be, it’s obviously a really hard job for leadership these days.  Any words of advice to other leaders on how to make the right decisions when prioritizing these decisions?

Yeah, have a good set of values that can help you drive your prioritization and stay true to those values.  I think it does fall back to that.  I will share with you, we are seeing a lot of people again adapting, changing to the situation.

We have luxury clothing retailers that are now changing their manufacturing lines to deliver surgical gowns and masks.  So, I think what you have to look at is how can your organization help either continue to deliver an essential service, if you’re in that business, or if it’s not an essential business, can you change your manufacturing.  Can you change what you’re doing to help the global situation?  So, I think those that do really well in this time are going to be those that are looking to adapt to see how they can participate positively in this global situation.

 

There are also studies and supporting data that show that organizations that invest even more in times of crisis, benefit more in the future.  I find it pretty interesting because the rest of the world is pretty much doing the opposite. Everyone is in self-preservation mode saving cash and, preparing for the unknown. What do you think about investing even more in times of crisis? What’s your take on that?

You know, I think there are various studies out there that do show that.  Again, those that have access to capital credit or good cash reserves, those that are investing in this time will come out, no doubt, stronger. I think it really depends, again, on your situation.  If you’ve got the cash, there’s going to be innovation that comes out of the situation for sure.

So, I do believe that those that can invest, can afford to invest, that can think outside the box, that can adapt, will no doubt come out of this situation far stronger.

 

Do you think organizations that don’t have a lot of capital today will start thinking about having more capital for a crisis in the future?  Do you think companies will start having that mindset?

I think this is going to change more than that even. I think the way organizations are now prepared for business continuity, global disruptions, local and even regional disruptions.  I think people are going to take that a lot more seriously.  I think the gap to getting more access to capital and credit is going to be key.  But, I think there’s going to be many more changes than just getting more money on your balance sheet, and I think you’re going to see leaderships looking at their internal processes, the way they operate, the way they work, the way the supply chain runs and they’re going to make sure that if this happens again that they’re going to be more prepared.

There’s no doubt that the countries in and around Asia that suffered the SARS crisis a few years ago were better prepared than Western Europe and North America.  So, I think there will be a lot of lessons to be learned and there will be a lot of changes going forward in the way organizations prepare for something like this next time.

 

So ‘turns’ or crisis can come in many forms, and obviously appear without much notice as we’ve already experienced, but they can also take different forms. Obviously, what we’re experiencing right now is really tragic and scary but there are also crises like an unexpected security breach or a new competitor that comes into the market. The notion of infinite adaptability mindset seems really critical for businesses to be constantly adapting to changes.  Whether it’s having a technology stack or architecture that’s adaptable or having resources that are really agile or having that team structure that is really agile.  How do you think Pivotree can help with that adaptability for our clients?

Well, our motto at Pivotree is adapt relentlessly. I’ve been with the company for 11 years and the company that I’m at today is not the company I joined 11 years ago.  Pivotree has a really, really strong and deep history in innovation and adapting.  Whether it’s what we’ve done with Oracle commerce and ATG moving to the cloud, or the headless commerce work that we’ve done.  We went from a traditional data center company to a company that is really heavily invested in cloud and adapting and helping our customers to do that as well.  So, we’ve gone through and learned a lot of lessons around how to adapt and how to innovate.

This is part and parcel to selecting the right products and services that you take to the market, but there’s also a lot of internal change management.  To your point, setting up agile teams that can go away and set up something by themselves and grow that into a full business or a practice within the organization.  Business processes need to be adapted and changed.

I think Pivotree has a lot of experience that we can bring to people.  So, I do feel very strongly that we can help companies think through adapting, think through changing.  It’s something that we have a very, very deep rich history in.

 

My last question is a fun question. If you were born with a superpower, what would it be?

You take me back to my childhood days now. Um, I think it would be just super cool to fly, to get up into the clouds. Yeah, no pun intended.

 

Our focus at Pivotree is to help clients build a foundation that can quickly respond and adapt, no matter where the business or economic climate takes us next. And this is exactly what we’ll continue doing during these unpredictable times. To discuss how our team can help your organization today, contact us here and one of our experts will be in touch.


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Dilya is a strategic marketing professional with 10+ years of experience in various industries including: automotive, manufacturing and technology. She spent the last 6 years working for leading software providers, helping them drive demand and raise awareness in the industry. As a Pivotree’s Director of Marketing, Dilya works closely with clients to deeply understand their unique needs and how they leverage technology to help with their digital transformation journey.

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