14 December 2020

Surviving a Pandemic

Whilst it’s far from over I wanted to speak frankly about how we managed to do this whilst we’ve watched our competitors go under over the past nine months.

By Wade Tink
CEO | Co-Founder

At the commencement of COVID, I was hearing lots of influencers saying “this is a time for leadership”, to which I just laughed; simply because it’s ALWAYS a time for leadership. 

Telling our team to exhibit leadership throughout COVID is like telling a lion to look fearsome. It’s ridiculous.

As a team we have been thriving and leadership at all levels couldn’t be stronger.

From a leadership perspective we were prepared for COVID; from a practical standpoint, we were not. As an organisation we are at ground zero for the impact of COVID alongside airlines and tourism operators. At the early stages of the pandemic we were experiencing 3 years of business challenges in a day: we would go to work in the morning with the world being one way, by lunch that had changed, and by close of day the world was completely different again. 

Whilst it’s far from over I wanted to speak frankly about how we managed to do this. How are we still here, whilst we’ve watched our competitors go under over the past nine months. Certainly, we haven’t got everything right and it’s been really hard. Really frickin’ hard, as it has been for a lot of Australians and a huge number of people around the world.  

So whilst all those ‘experts’ from the start of COVID writing blogs, professing leadership and how good all their stuff is have all gone quiet now, nine months later, in the depths of it still and without an end point, I wanted to speak to you about what’s happened and what we’ve done.  

Our incredible team through lockdown

The Team

Throughout COVID, our team has been absolutely incredible. They have blown every expectation out of the park.

We lost 50% of our revenue as a starting point in March. Fact.

Our team went completely remote through the iso period and reduced our overall loss from an initial 50% against the same time last year to only 17% as at the end of June. They did this whilst working in an environment where we have only been able to pay them between 3-4 days per week. The uncertainty in their employment situation still persists as our ability to deliver on our services remains blocked by international travel bans, well out of our control.

Throughout this period, we lost only one team member to go to another opportunity and he was already on the way before COVID commenced. 

How do you explain this to anyone else? I don’t know, but it humbles me to such a degree that I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

I don’t say it enough, but once again for all of our team’s efforts: thank you.

The Purpose

A large component that has determined the outcome for us this year has been 8 words created in an unkept basement in Surry Hills.

Those words are our purpose: Solve social issues around the world using enterprise.

People join PEV because of the purpose and they realise that there are a million different ways to get there, regardless of any pandemic.They realise that it’s a tough road and there will be a multitude of other problems, challenges, set-backs, international disasters, etc. Beyond this, a lot of challenges will be internal in trying to tackle a problem so large in order to realise a vision so big. This is what they signed up for and that’s what they take everywhere they go and in everything they do – even when they don’t realise it.

So whilst we witnessed AIM Overseas, WorldStrides, Antipodeans, STA and more, go into administration around us, we were able to reaffirm what really matters: a common commitment to those 8 words and for me personally, a commitment that I don’t want Lexi (my daughter) to grow up in a world where Project Everest Ventures doesn’t exist.

A large component that has determined the outcome for us this year has been 8 words created in an unkept basement in Surry Hills.

Those words are our purpose: Solve social issues around the world using enterprise.

The Tactics

Out-Contributing to Improve Student Traction

Problem: The way that we have previously brought students on board has been primarily on campus. In fact, 80% of this was face-to-face engagement with students on campus. When universities sent all their students home, that avenue was immediately gone.

Solution: We switched from face-to-face to digital, which involved us going direct to students to engage them about what we were doing and how we’re going about it. Fortunately, we managed to succeed and that part of our business was down only 6% on the same time last year. An incredible achievement.

Longer-impact: We have a strategic initiative now titled “100% Digital by 2022”, meaning we are now executing on this strategy with the renewed method of ‘out-contributing’ everyone in the marketplace. We launched our ‘Career KickStarter Challenge’ in Dec 2020 with the aim to get youth engaged and prepared to be a part of the Global Social Enterprise movement: 100% online. This is a staggered 5 day short course in response to the challenges we see our community and young people facing to step into the workplace with purpose and paycheck hand-in-hand. Going forward, we are going to find more ways to prove our value and get people engaged with us directly by the example of out-contribution. 

The 5 Day “Career Kickstarter Challenge” Kit

Expanded Product Roadmap

Problem: Our services were based overseas and international travel bans were in place indefinitely.

Solution: In just seven weeks we turned our service offering from being something we’re delivering exclusively in developing economies internationally, adapting it to be delivered and completed online, still with real-world impact outcomes. We have delivered this with results consistent with our overseas programs.

Longer-impact: We have developed a product roadmap to which we will be able to deliver much higher value to all our stakeholders going forward.

One of our newest Impact Partners, 4Ize, enables accessible diagnosis and treatment of common vision issues affecting 1 billion people globally. 

Increasing services to Impact Partners

Problem: Our impact partner services were based primarily on an overseas value proposition.

Solution: We adapted our service offering to broaden into a full suite of products that supported the early stage journey of a technology partner, including business planning, funding and grants submissions. We attracted greater numbers of impact partners onboard despite the pandemic.

Longer-impact: This broadened scope has evolved into our new engagement with companies that aspire to be a part of the social and environmental movement. B Clinics supports companies to become Certified B Corps and throughout the process, as we have seen, adapt their business models towards social enterprises or embedded impact. We are rolling this out properly in 2021.

Providing more value to our communities

Problem: As the Victorian outbreak escalated, we realised in August that we weren’t going to be able to operate globally at all over summer.

Solution: We embarked upon the biggest value provision to our community that has been seen in our industry by offering them greater opportunities in the short term, whilst delivering our originally agreed experience at a future date. We had a huge uptake, which solidified our position and gave us the green light we needed to execute on the changes the community wanted to see of us.

Longer-impact: We have developed local, Australian-based projects in partnership with community partners as part of our product roadmap. These will enable us to engage both locally and internationally when travel bans are lifted.  

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