When COVID-19 and Lockdown hit New Zealand in March 2020, Redvespa was just one of many businesses that needed to pivot in order to protect its business. While many businesses opted to immediately cut jobs, Redvespa held firm and looked forward. This meant not only looking at how to protect the business and its people, but at how we might operate in the future to ensure we would thrive again.
Our business relies on Consultants being engaged in work with our community of clients. COVID-19 saw many of these clients shift focus to protect their own business, vastly reducing the priority of projects we were engaged with. While this provided challenges to Redvespa, it also created opportunity.
We don’t consider staff to be ‘on the bench’ when they’re not working with clients. Instead, we engage them and their skills in support of our business and our own internal projects. Under COVID, this enabled us to use these skills to benefit our business, our people, and our clients in new ways. We invested in Research and Development, focusing on taking the time to be imaginative and innovative. For our people, we created opportunities to learn, develop skills, and play their part in our business’ pivot. The advantages of this approach flowed through to clients who benefited from innovative solutions to their own COVID-19 inspired challenges.
Internally, we adapted our sales processes in response to a changing market. Our Consultants developed new systems and processes to ensure our Market Engagement Team had the most up-to-date and relevant resources to hand, supporting them in having values-led conversations with our clients.
In 2019, we created a new role to support the development of Redvespa: Head of Evolution. Under COVID-19, Keith Shering, in this role, led an enormous amount of work centred on innovation. The pinnacle of this was the rapid development of an internal Startup Jam. Traditionally a high-impact event held over a weekend, our Startup Jam was held virtually with teams of regionally-separated Consultants supported by internal staff skilled in specialised areas. We engaged some of our key client contacts as judges and encouraged them to apply real world experience in providing direct feedback to the unique new business offerings developed. Ideas taken from Startup Jam have continued to evolve, with several Consultants working to craft variations which have been delivered to clients.
People care is at the core of Redvespa so, with the swift shift to Working From Home, we sought to implement initiatives that went beyond the delivery of roles and supported finding a new work/life balance. We arranged fresh food deliveries to staff who were self-isolating, created a Working From Home newsletter to support wellbeing, and we implemented an immediate budget to provide financial support to ensure home offices were set up safely. Out of Lockdown, we continued to encourage a balance of Working From Home and from the office, providing health and safety and Ways of Working guides and best practice examples.
Our Consultants come from diverse backgrounds and are highly skilled Business Analysts. Working collaboratively with clients, they identify problems and develop solutions. In pivoting to focus on initiatives under COVID-19, they were challenged to develop new skills and work in unfamiliar areas.
Startup Jam forced a level of entrepreneurial thinking that was new to many, and engaged them directly in our focus on evolution – an element embedded in Redvespa but new enough that few Consultants had previously had the opportunity to work directly with it. The teamwork requirement of Startup Jam meant participants took on specific roles – such as product or commercial development. This provided a safe space for them to develop new skills and understanding while still embracing the courage required of a new challenge.
Having Consultants available to work internally is not new to Redvespa – we have long embraced having Consultants work alongside key support staff for the betterment of our own business. However, the number of Consultants working internally during COVID-19 exceeded any previous experience. This put pressure on key support staff and saw a shift in focus as we adapted our processes. Staff served as mentors to Startup Jam teams, worked as Project Owners with Consultants, and adapted Policies to embrace new processes and a refreshed Way of Working. One support role, in particular, has almost entirely been refocused to acknowledge the value and scale of engaging Consultants in innovative internal work.
Having worked according to Agile principles for some time, and with the Head of Evolution role established, served us well in adapting to these new challenges but it would be short-sighted to say it was easy. Greater awareness of mental wellbeing, including a natural desire from Consultants to feel that they are adding value to Redvespa, ensured we had to regularly check-in with staff and provide support where necessary.
The work completed during Lockdown has ensured we can adapt quickly to the changing post-Lockdown market. Our investment was so valuable, that we are continuing to prioritise internal projects with an evolution focus. That is, those that offer Redvespa, our clients, and our community the opportunity to thrive.
Although the focus during Lockdown was internal initiatives, the months since have seen us grasp the opportunity to further advance these ideas. For some, that’s investment in making them fit for our purpose as ongoing support measures for Redvespa internally. For others, we’ve been able to test prototypes with clients and others in the community.
One prototype we’ve tested with our community is The Good Business Toolkit. Based on our own Business for Good work, this initiative seeks to enable other businesses to identify their social and environmental purposes alongside sustaining a profitable and rewarding business. This represents the evolution of our offerings, as it’s not traditional Business Analysis but does illustrate the shift to businesses being more aware of their impact and more intentional about the positive change they can create. It is, however, very strongly tied to who we are as a business, with our philosophy of Being in Business for Good embodied throughout Redvespa and an area where we have invested extensively in our own learning and development.
KPMG’s 2017 survey of Corporate Responsibility placed New Zealand businesses below the global average in terms of sustainability performance. Redvespa has long focused on being a leader in this space and bringing others with us. We have produced and distributed a guide to wellbeing for New Zealand’s youth, Your Kingdom, and produce an annual Impact Report demonstrating transparency in our approach to social and environmental sustainability. As well as introducing The Good Business Toolkit in the wake of COVID-19, our The Good Project offering, which provides our services to not-for-profits at reduced rates, continues to be a focus for us.
Redvespa has always been unique in its business analysis specialism and we’ve always looked outside the Business Analysis and Consultancy industries for community involvement and engagement. Historically that has seen us engaging strongly in our Business for Good philosophy, building social purpose partnerships, such as the one we have with Lazy Sneakers – providing secondhand sneakers to people in need, and joining the global B Corp community. Under COVID, we’re even more committed to those communities and have refocused our efforts locally.
The initiatives developed through COVID-19 Lockdown and beyond reflect these areas – focusing on our impact going beyond our core industries and ensuring we support the communities closest to us, as a business and as individuals. We are committed to continuing to be leaders in the Business for Good space and developing www.yourkingdom.co.nz over the last few months is just one example of this commitment. We continue to develop initiatives in this space knowing how effective and transformative they have been for our business with the hope that experience can be reflected in the transformation of other, values-aligned businesses.
We don’t believe transformation happens solely through communities engaging in our initiatives. We emphasise storytelling as a tool for change. Through our website, LinkedIn, contributions to external publications, and by speaking at events, we share those learnings.
The transformation of New Zealand business, focused on balancing purpose and profit, needs to be a community effort. It’s not just about Redvespa’s clients engaging and paying for our services, it’s about conversations, sharing, learning. Our COVID initiatives embrace this.