Transformation plans have become a growing trend in recent years. Many such plans focus on topics such as digital transformation or aim to achieve efficiency gains. But the COVID-19 pandemic was the turning point that finally pushed many companies out of their comfort zone. Let’s explore some success stories spearheaded by Esade graduates.
Although we are operating in an uncertain environment, the decisions we make today will affect our opportunities in the future. This was the premise behind “Transformation: An Imperative for 2021”. In this Refresher Programme session, Luis Vives, Associate Professor in the Department of Strategy and General Management and Deputy Dean of Programmes in the MBA Unit at Esade, explained that the pandemic has forced each and every one of us to rethink our operating model and re-evaluate the keys to future success.
According to Luis Vives, organisations often become overly reliant on their past experience and success, while underestimating the benefits of the unknown and promoting successful people who may end up generating complacency. The essential thing, he argued, is to stay relevant by building and preparing for success.
However, Vives noted, transformation does not apply only to companies. It also applies to you. That’s why you need to develop a higher purpose by fostering a culture of supporting transformation and seizing opportunities.
Visit the Content Hub. to watch the Refresher Programme session “Transformation: An Imperative for 2021”.
We spoke with three alumni who have transformed their businesses to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic by seizing present opportunities and facing the uncertain future with motivation and open-mindedness.
José Ángel Prado Pena (PMD 15), General Manager of Hotel Playa del Sol and Hotel Surfing Colors
The Hotel Playa del Sol, in San Bartolomé de Tirajana on the island of Gran Canaria, has achieved 100% occupancy by catering to digital nomads. The hotel offers these itinerant professionals newly refurbished rooms, with a minimum stay of one month.
“We came up with this idea by actively listening to our customers,” explained José Ángel. “We identified the need for both of our hotels to offer longer stays at lower prices than usual for this type of property. Customers were looking for a safe place to take refuge from COVID. At the same time, when they shut down their laptop at the end of the day, they wanted to be able to dive into the pool, swim in the Atlantic Ocean, go surfing, go cycling or practice their favourite sport.”
Hotel Playa de Sol and Hotel Surfing Colors have had to drastically lower their prices, but without compromising the value they offer for the money. They have eliminated some services and now offer others at an additional fee, but always with the goal of meeting customers’ expectations. On the more technical side, they have had to adapt both hotels, for example by improving their Wi-Fi connections, installing additional electrical sockets (for example, in bathrooms) and building a co-working space in the hotel on Fuerteventura.
According to José Ángel, the success of the enterprise came down to the good fortune of having his father by his side: “My father was a Galician visionary who moved to the Canary Islands 45 years ago, when I was a baby. As it happens, I accompanied him on that first trip.” The second key factor was the type of property: both hotels feature numerous apartments. Thirdly, they focused on analysing all the information they received via different channels during the lockdown period, selecting the most salient information and minimising risks when making decisions: “Our approach was to always remain open so that we could tap into any market that opened its doors to tourists.” Fourthly, and no less importantly, they developed a powerful communication strategy featuring a novel advertising system in the Madrid and Barcelona metro areas, in addition to an alliance with Iberia Express: “This allowed us to offer our hotels to their customers and, best of all, to do so the old-fashioned way: by means of an exchange without spending any money.” Finally, there was the operational aspect of adapting to customers’ needs.
“The most important thing was to keep moving, with the owners, the managers, and the rest of the employees all working as a coordinated team to achieve our goal,” explained José Ángel.
Jaume Colomer (MBA 13), International Music Business School
Jaume Colomer is the co-founder and executive director of the International Music Business School (IMB), which is dedicated to creating a new education system targeting professionals in the music business.
Before COVID-19, IMB’s training was 100% classroom-based, revolving around a practical module that culminated in the organisation of a music festival at the Sala Apolo. Therefore, the pandemic’s impact on the school might have been total. “For the 2020-2021 edition, we were on track to break our enrolment record. COVID-19 was a big shock that created a very high level of stress,” Jaume explained. They decided to seek out reliable information and develop future scenarios to prepare an online contingency plan for the programmes that were already underway. The plan went into effect one week before lockdown.
All classes went online, and students were allowed to choose from three alternatives for the practical activities: organising an online festival, organising face-to-face events for small groups in accordance with the current restrictions, and doing an individual project with a practical orientation and application. “By April 2020, it was clear to us that we were in this for the long haul and that the economy was going to take a big hit,” explained Jaume. We had two options: go into hibernation mode and wait for the next edition, or invest twice as much to innovate so that we could be number one after the crisis. Hibernation was more prudent – and it was also the option that guaranteed short-term cash flow. But we decided to go with the second option, even though it was riskier. In fact, if we hadn’t done that, given the trends in the e-learning market, we would have quickly become obsolete. Besides, with a good plan and a good team, you can get financing.”
Then they went one step further and reworked their system to make it modular. Instead of following a predefined programme, students could now choose their training modules and decide when to study for them. “In this way, we offer our students continuing education over the course of their careers, thereby increasing the lifetime value”, explained Jaume. “All of the modules – automatic online, livestream and blended – have a practical applicability in the job market.”
Jaume Colomer shared a few tips on how to carry out a successful transformation on short notice:
– Understand what is happening in the world. Be on the lookout for opportunities and trends.
– Use truly reliable information when making important decisions.
– Develop a plan with as much detail as possible as quickly as you can, allowing for changes and modifications that are easy to implement on the fly.
– Make sure everyone understands that change is coming. Energise and motivate your people to ensure that they are open to it.
– Prepare a structure that allows for flexible implementation.
– Have very efficient and clear communication flows. Provide key tools and incentives.
– Implement the plan promptly and progressively.
– Be very attentive and give special treatment to all customers who are affected by this transformation process.
– Have a very clear idea of the value you offer so that you can keep offering it.
Claudia de la Riva y Julio Ruiz (MBA 08), co-founders of Nannyfy
The startup created by Claudia de la Riva and Julio Ruiz transformed its business model in order to weather the pandemic. Nannyfy started as an app for hiring nannies but ending up becoming a content platform.
In its early days, Nannyfy was a marketplace that connected families with trusted nannies on a pay-per-use basis. “In 2019, we won the award for the best app in the sector in Spain and were listed by Google as one of the top 300 startups in the world. We were growing in line with our business idea. We were working on a B2C segment, offering our service as a social benefit so that employees could strike a better work-life balance,” explained Claudia.
But when COVID came along, a service that focused on hiring and moving people around was no longer viable. “We developed a contingency plan and understood that this new paradigm was going to be an opportunity, because people were going to need us. We decided to digitise the online care and learning sector, since we knew that we had the necessary resources: more than 4,500 nannies all over Spain and more than 17,000 families that needed our help.” In less than 48 hours, Nannyfy switched to offering live online activities with nannies in a safe environment, in groups of up to eight children. The response was such that the platform reached 6,000 children in the month of May. The team understood that the product was perfectly adaptable to a post-pandemic world, since the digitalisation of education was the logical next step.
“We launched the app in October and we now have more than 60,000 families, people are seeing us in the United States and Latin America, and we are finalising a €3 million round of financing with this business model,” Claudia explained proudly.
But the transformation was also filled with challenges. “The most difficult thing was to adapt the entire team to our new model,” added Claudia. “We had to hire new people to do things we didn’t know how to do. Maintaining this mindset of constant change, learning to design a suitable product day by day – it has been very stressful. And working remotely has also meant adapting our team dynamics.”
Claudia’s recipe for success is confidence: “The important thing is to believe in yourself and not to be afraid. If you have a good structure, lots of internal talent, and you are making changes that are in sync with the environment, you are unlikely to fail. You have to have the ambition to make things happen. And even if they don’t happen, you will learn something.”