The concept of partnership matters a lot here at Tech Soft 3D, even more so during this pandemic.
In fact, we don’t have customers, we have partners. Our contracts are not “License & Distribution Agreements”, but rather, “Partnership Agreements”. We talk about our role as Strategic Technology Partners to the companies we are working with. We take that partnership responsibility seriously, and in fact it’s rooted in our first Core Value, Build Positive Relationships.
Our opinion is that the best way to build a positive relationship is to approach is as a partnership – where both sides seek to support and foster the others’ success – which is quite different than a relationship being simply transactional, (“If you do X for me, I will then do Y for you”).
This global COVID-19 crisis has caused many of us - individuals, companies and societies to ask themselves questions about things they have previously taken for granted. Along those lines, one of the questions we have been asking ourselves is, “What does it mean to be a good partner and to build positive relationships in this uniquely challenging time.”
I’m sure our answer to this will evolve as we begin to learn what elements of our current situation are temporary and which will shape the “new normal”, but for now, we thought we’d share how we are thinking about it:
With our Partners:
- Support New Revenue Streams. While we always had a strong interest in helping our partners develop and ship commercially successful products, we’re mindful that helping our partners get their new products to market quickly is even more vital, since our partners need these new revenue streams more urgently than ever. That has become our priority #1.
- Enable Revenue. While we always strive to resolve technical issues that arise as quickly as possible, and we’re particularly sensitive to anything that is impacting our partner’s revenue, we need to be extra responsive when we know that a particular issue is impacting a potential sale for one of our partners, since we know that they probably need this revenue more than ever before. We’re putting things in place to be able to determine when this is the case and to prioritize our engineering activity accordingly.
- Be Flexible. Working with a spirit of partnership matters more to us than the wording in a contract clause, so we always strive to work with our partners when they need flexibility on our part to better run their business. Since our fates are tied to those of our partners, we don’t want our business model or the wording of our contracts to get in their way of our partners making smart decisions about their business. During this time, we’re striving to be even more flexible, such as allowing our partners to provide additional licenses for free, so their users can work from home – operating on the basis of trust in the partnership and not delaying action with a bureaucratic approach.
- Extend Grace. There is little question that some companies will face cash challenges during this time. We’re not immune to that ourselves, so we must be a bit cautious, but having some flexibility with partners who may be struggling to make payments on time is an important foundation of partnership. We have been doing this for 23 years so we know that 99% of our partners are doing their best to make payments as quickly as their cash will allow. We also know that this crisis will pass relatively quickly, but the memory of how we handled this situation with our partners will last a long time. We want the lasting impression to be that we were flexible when our partners needed us to be.
- Add Extra Value. One thing all companies need in order to make the best possible decisions is information, especially in times of uncertainty. We realize we’re in the unique position of being closely connected to hundreds of companies developing 3D software. We are in touch with them regularly and talking with them about what they are seeing in their markets and what economic impacts they are expecting as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We have been summarizing what we are learning from these conversations to share with our partners so they can understand the aggregate view across the industry. In addition, we’re using our relationships to bring together company leaders via Zoom meetings to share views and information and to make useful connections.
This sense of partnership extends beyond our partners. Internally, the instinct to Build Positive Relationships is manifesting itself in some unique ways during this unique time. Specifically:
- Flexibility. Here again, flexibility can go a long way. With everyone suddenly working from home, there are new challenges faced by some of our team. Not everyone has a great set-up for working from home. They may not have the space, they may have wi-fi bandwidth issues, etc. Some people have the challenge of having children at home – and perhaps they are juggling working hours with their partner, as well as being school teachers to their children. We start with the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can to be as productive as possible, we do what we can to support them, and we don’t have unrealistic expectations of what’s possible. We know everyone is doing their best to help our partners, support their colleagues and contribute to the company’s goals and that’s all we can reasonably ask for.
- Connection and Empathy. This is a difficult time emotionally for many people. Isolation is difficult – whether you are cooped up with the same people day-in and day-out, or if you’re grappling with the challenges of being isolated on your own. Many are worried about older relatives, or the state of the world, or their financial future if someone in their family is among those who lost their jobs, etc. This all takes a mental and emotional toll on people that we need to be sensitive to. Since we can’t see them in the office kitchen, we may not see that they need extra support. During this time, we need to reach out more regularly and more deeply than we might otherwise. This kind of care might at first seem like it’s beyond the responsibility of a manager or a company – after all, isn’t this the responsibility of families and friends? We think the company is a critical part of anyone’s support system. These are people whom we spend many hours with day-after-day. When that support is taken away, it’s difficult so we need to spend the time to show that we care, to check in and to support one another however possible.
- Pull Together. To help with all of that, we’re doing what most companies do with Zoom happy hours, but we also offered a mental health ‘day off’ to help people juggling work and home responsibilities, we set up a Slack channel for people to be able to ask for and offer assistance with tutoring kids in different subjects and everyone is taking a bit of extra time to reach out to colleagues and to use the time at the start of meetings for a humanity check-in.
- Information Helps. We also know that worry about the future is a major cause of stress, so we are keeping our team updated on what we are seeing in the market, what economic impacts we are expecting and what we are doing about it. We can’t entirely remove people’s concerns about whether we may see more serious economic impacts in the future, but we know that transparency, truth and sharing a balanced, clear-eyed plan can help.
We have always believed that having a strong sense of partnership and of building positive relationships was the right way to approach business, and we can see during this global pandemic that those traits are even more critical than ever before.