All of last week, partners and suppliers were asking us how it is that Telarus had COVID-19 informational websites, flyers, and complete work-at-home presentations done and available to partners two-weeks before everyone else. We saw this early, took it seriously and started looking forward, and planning for what “could” happen.
Much of our discussion today will be in the same mindset – helping you to look forward. It’s more important than ever to create plans and strategies for what you can do to adjust your business based upon what “could” happen. We are definitely in a situation where you hope for the best but plan for the worst, and if you’re prepared, you’ll end up way ahead of your competition.
- Unemployment Report – Record unemployment reports in the past two weeks have rocked the economy and, perhaps more importantly, people’s confidence in the economy.
- Estimates for Shutdown Time – The challenge we face in planning is the uncertainty around how long the shutdown will last and how long it will take to get back to normal. Will we just flip the economy back on like a light switch, or will it be a slow-rolling start that gradually picks up?
- Providers – The most likely scenarios include how we come out of this, when will people travel, and what the future holds for industry events.
As business owners, you have to make assumptions even though the future isn’t clear, so we gather the best information possible and plan for multiple scenarios and then leave room to adjust for when we have better information.
Let’s look at the industries that are flourishing in this situation. These include:
- Transportation / Logistics
- Grocery Stores
- Home Delivery
- Online Retailers / E-Commerce
- Internet Providers / Telecoms
- Video Conferencing Platforms
- SaaS Providers
- Mortgage Brokers (low rates)
- Online Gaming
In contrast, we see a significant impact on the following industries:
- Gig Economy (not Giga-bit, but “Gig” – Uber drivers, etc.)
- Big Box Retailers (Electronics, Clothes, etc.)
- Music (Concerts, etc.)
- Musical Theater
- Auto Industry
- Cruise Liners
- Energy / Oil (Price war + drop in demand)
- Real Estate
- Insurance (Business Interruption Insurance)
Telarus Observations and Projections
For sales that closed in March, we saw late-stage sales and work-at-home oriented sales rush to a close. We also saw many projects push, especially large network deals and SMB sales. Businesses appear to be reassessing where they are and what they need to do to address the situation. There is quite a bit of activity in account additions and bandwidth as many of our partners are selling add on products and deepening the wallet-share with existing clients.
Looking forward to April and beyond, we are hearing that new logo prospecting is slowing. On sales activity we are hearing both sides from partners. If you feel like you’re just sitting around, you are not alone. Depending upon your model, and sales focus, for example, those that support the struggling industries above, we are hearing about a few partners that just aren’t busy. On the flip side, there are several partners saying they’ve never been busier, and are putting together projects to solve big problems, in many cases, in a rush.
With those elements at play, we anticipate sales will be near flat in April and lighter in May as businesses get their footing and choose their path forward. However, sales will rebound as customers seek cost optimization just like they did in ’08 and ’09. We also expect the work-at-home trend to continue, and we’ll talk about this at the end.
Revenue Predictions for Q2-2020 through Q2 2021
Moving on from new sales to revenue, meaning your monthly commission, obviously, it’s great to be in a residual business. We’ve not had any suppliers fail to make a commission payment, nor do we expect one to stop paying. Providers have continued to pay Telarus through downturns and even bankruptcy because they need you to renew and sell to new customers. However, projecting out from now to Q2 2021, we do encourage you to plan for a decline due to individual accounts attritioning. Once again, we’re dealing with uncertainly here. Providers have not been able to give us an estimate of credits they’ll offer (which impact commissions) or an estimate of cancels, so we’re left to make our own assumptions.
So, what does this mean for you? We advise you to plan for different scenarios, including commission reductions and reduction in cash due to accelerated attrition.
Plan for each of the following scenarios:
- 10% decrease in Commission – Plan / Hiring freeze, preserve cash where possible.
- 20% decrease in Commission – Plan / Cost reductions, travel cuts, get liquid (Telarus loans – get cash in the bank.
- 30% decrease in Commission – Plan / Layoffs? Who can you survive without?
If none of these scenarios actually happens, you’re in great shape, but if you’ve already gone through the thought exercise, you’ll know what to do.
- Cash-based carriers /you’ll feel an impact on your May commissions
- Billed carriers /you’ll get paid as usual, but you have to plan for charge-backs when bills don’t get paid
- Don’t get caught in a false sense of security. Plan ahead and check out the Small Business Association website to learn how to apply for Federal Aid http://covid19relief.sba.gov/.
What is Telarus doing?
We’ve made adjustment internally and these may give you some ideas of what you may want to do with your company. The first thing we addressed was the transition to send employees home. We had to evaluate the situation of each employee when it came to their setup, laptops, headset, and even ask – do you have a desk to use at home?
Next, we built a program for employees who have had a spouse lose their job. Then we recognized that sending employees home was going to present a whole new challenge – homeschooling while trying to work. We had to loosen our freaky fast response requirement and created additional backup channels to allow working parents some flexibility.
Then it hit us – we have employees who were stressed about necessities – diapers, baby wipes, and peanut butter were hot commodities in Utah – so we created the Telarus Employee “Take What You Need” Store. This helped ease their minds and allowed them to turn their attention back to work.
We have also created ways for our teams to connect in this new virtual world. From team hangouts, organized game groups, regular surveys through Olumo, and happy hour events, we are spending time together and reinforcing connections. We have increased frequency of our company-wide all-hands meetings, created a SharePoint COVID-19 information page, lengthened our internal weekly videos – aka “The RAP,” and increased the rate of company-wide e-mail updates.
We believe the method of training and events will change, so we are working to innovate here. We’d suggest that you start thinking about how you can train your employees when a supplier can’t come to sit in your conference room. We have to start training our managers, which may be you, around the mindset that our management styles will have to change. It’s a new world. Whether it be working from home, or just changed perspectives. We will need to change how we communicate, our expectations around kids and pets during conference calls, and on.
Business Development Strategies
These days we would encourage you to measure profitability in relationships, not revenue. Take this opportunity to reach out to your customers with two simple questions, “How are you?” and “Is there anything I can do for you?” These show you care and let them know you are there for them during these crazy times.
Here are some ways you can offer to help when asked:
- Cost reduction (areas that need to be addressed: broadband, POTS lines, network, SIP, wireless).
- Technology Transformation: This is just accelerating an existing trend and is one of the permanent changes we expect. We’re in the middle of the largest proof of concept ever.
- W@H technologies (regular): internet + Video + UCaaS (easy) // Security is getting overlooked: cloud-based firewall, SD-WAN, VPN.
- W@H for Contact Centers: CCaaS (80% of the market still on-premise).
- W@H internet access options: unlimited 4G can add capacity and provide clean communication channels for employees at home dealing with homeschooling, etc.
- Fixing “impulse buy” technology recently sourced, which has created additional problems.
- Recruiting (finding more referral partners/people who need to earn some extra cash)
Our future is brighter than ever as the services you sell are more in demand than they have ever been, and businesses will be changing and optimizing their services.
Having said that, the short-term scenario is troublesome. The longer the shutdown goes, and the more businesses slow-pay or no-pay, it has a compounding effect through the economy and not just to your commission. Know that Telarus has plans in place for the downturn, and we feel confident in your prospects.
The channel’s fortunes don’t go up and down with the market. We succeed in environments of CHANGE, and this in an environment in which we will thrive.
Our ask of you is to prepare for the short term and once you’ve made your plans, turn outward to help those around you.