- What has been the biggest challenge for Exertis over the last few months?
I think like most businesses, it was just about managing the uncertainty. Last year was all about Brexit and then suddenly, Covid-19 happened and nobody saw this affecting us the way it did. We suddenly had to shift from numerous offices to fully remote - which our IT team did a fantastic job of managing.
However, then it's about ensuring our management team are comfortable with remote management and have the tools to keep their staff engaged and morale up without seeing each other face to face for months.
We also recognised that some people had challenges working from home, so we went through stringent preparation to open offices and allow that small group of people back to the office. I think there is a significant mental health toll lockdown can take on people and as an organisation, we have really worked hard to speak to our people and support them, ensuring they know we have a team of mental health first aiders available to them.
Lockdown really does affect every individual differently especially with so many families affected by Covid-19 and the challenge for us has been ensuring our people know we are here for them and have tools to help them.
- What achievements have Exertis been most proud of since the lockdown?
Our people. We are incredibly proud and thankful to our amazing warehouse team in particular who have done a great job in supporting the public sector and healthcare requirements. The team are continuing to work extremely hard while practicing social distancing, and it's fantastic to see what they are doing to enable frontline workers and remote working across the country.
- How do you think the channel in general has coped during these challenging times?
The channel has always been renowned for its innovation and resilience, and I think largely speaking we have seen that throughout this crisis whether that's through businesses reinventing themselves or through them evolving how they go to market (digital marketing, eCommerce, etc).
Naturally, some businesses have had significant challenges - such as the AV reseller who has an installation orientated business and consequently haven't been able to carry out their work. I feel for these guys as the last four months must have been very challenged. It is promising though, that we can now see the business pipeline building back as the country slowly returns to work.
- What does the channel need to do going forward to keep this momentum going?
For me it's simple. If we focus on and listen to our customers, we maintain relevance. We work really hard to be customer centric and to understand their needs and this then allows us to evolve with them. We see this across the channel and if organisations continue listening to their customers, they will continue to find opportunity and identify new requirements which they can meet in this ever-evolving industry.
- How do you think the roles of sales and marketing teams will evolve as we eventually move out of these challenging times?
I certainly think we will see less travel from traditionally field-based sales, for example, a BDM could now meet numerous customers in a day rather than just one or two, and there is real value in the ability to support more companies more frequently.
Generally, we will see a continual shift towards digital sales and marketing vehicles in terms of customer acquisition and conversion across the channel, not only is this how our audiences consume content anyway, but this has only been further reaffirmed and accelerated through this crisis.
I also think we will see many more businesses looking to transact online and at Exertis, we have the tools to support them on that journey, whether that is building them a web shop solution or helping them with things like SEO, rich content, or digital marketing to ensure they generate traffic, leads and sales. Businesses who today rely on telesales will be focusing on their eCommerce strategy I am sure.
- Why is it important for channel firms to enter awards like the SMAs?
It always comes down to the people, so it's really important for the industry to come together and celebrate success. It's a great way of recognising employees and the hard graft that is being done across the channel. We take real pride in what we do and so of course, being shortlisted for awards such as the SMAs is very important for all of us.
Check out CRN's video chat with Paul here.
The 2020 SMAs take place on three consecutive days running from 14/15/16 July - to register for the awards, please click here.
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