Shanghai CEOs have experienced an extreme survival challenge in the past two months.
A CEO told Hu olfactory that the dilemma he was facing was that “the store was closed, there was no business, the employees were idle, and they did not dare to lay off staff or return the lease”; Some founders found that fate was handled by “Yunli”, and community group buying maintained his only cash flow; There are also investors who frankly say that many projects in the past 60 days can only “hang on” and “endure hard”: “in the second half of 2021, they thought the environment was good and expanded their stores. The epidemic suddenly came, and the book cash soon bottomed out.”
Pressure is transmitted in the capillaries of the company. Many Shanghai companies set up psychological assistance hotlines or consultants for employees during the epidemic period, and even some CEOs “end up” every day to appease depressed employees to eat on time. A founder told Hu olfactory that the impact of 2022 was “very different” from that of 2019. “It was unexpected that the time was so long, the strength was so strong and the influence was so deep.”
But this is like a “survival teaching lesson”. In order to survive, the CEOs in Shanghai tried every means to survive. The extreme survival of more than two months forced enterprises to transform: accelerating online collaboration, trying community group buying, making efforts to drain private areas, and changing performance models… “Shanghai must be on the list of cities that can make people fall and get up again.” On the evening of May 31, an investor in Shanghai sighed in the circle of friends.
In the past few days, Hu olfactory has had a dialogue with many CEOs in Shanghai, who come from various fields such as automobile, technology and consumption. In the face of tiger sniffing, they shared dry goods and poured out their own repertoire and insight under the epidemic situation.
“No need for mandatory assessment”
Liyifan, CEO of Hesai Technology
In April, liyifan, CEO of Hesai technology, ended his isolation. He realized that the epidemic might continue, so he seriously interviewed his friends in the United States. Because the United States and even the whole western society are used to working at home, liyifan tried to learn some experience from it.
After collecting some experience, liyifan made some adjustments to the company’s communication and management methods:
First, there needs to be a more mandatory way of communication. Before, he hated the regular meeting, but now the company has gradually fixed the time and content of the regular meeting and strengthened communication.
Second, we need to use appropriate communication tools to reduce the difficulty and cost of communication. At present, Hesai is using flying books. The home isolation of the epidemic has strengthened the company’s reliance on such office tools. Many things that need to be met can be met online through electronic means.
Third, the company launched the training every Friday afternoon, two to three hours each time, to talk about some hard core technologies of the company’s business, training on the use of online office tools, etc., but it is not a mandatory training. Employees can participate if they want to, and can leave early if they come.
Liyifan feels that on the one hand, such training is unnecessary for mandatory assessment. After all, most of the mandatory things have no effect. On the other hand, he forces himself to better prepare training materials.
In practice, Li Yifan’s feelings are: “To some extent, the epidemic situation has prompted us to use more advanced tools. The communication concept brought about by more advanced tools will make the information more unobstructed. This is equivalent to an upgrade of the organizational structure, because the relationship between us has become different. When I answered questions at the training meeting, I felt that I was a live webcast celebrity. But this is good, that is to say, you see that the cost of online conferences is very low, and its net value is not high It’s so low. “
Although online tools can solve some of the difficulties brought about by home office, some things are unavoidable difficulties for Hesai.
As a leading lidar company with manufacturing capacity in China, Hesai’s factory needs to ensure delivery in closed-loop production, which means a lot of psychological comfort work for closed-loop employees. Because lidar is still in the early stage of large-scale application, offline communication is also extremely necessary in order to obtain more customers.
Liyifan said: “My logic is that in an absolutely clear environment – the information is absolutely transparent, there is no middle ground, and it is the decision of 0 and 1 – you do not need to meet. The simplest example is that you have an Apple phone in your hand, I want to buy your new iPhone, we do not need to meet, you say 8000, I say 7500, right? But if you have a painting in your hand, I want to buy your painting, right? That’s it It’s all troublesome. That means I have to meet and see the painting. You also need to observe my expression when I see the painting, right? “
“There are some mature businesses, such as the autonomous driving industry we have won, and our company has the largest global share, which is closer to you buying an apple mobile phone. The customer already knows the brand of Hesai very well and knows what he is buying very well. Sometimes I can make a deal without seeing him.
However, there are still some businesses. For example, we now do a lot of this kind of automobile factory business. Many automobile industries have very long cycles and the information is not transparent, which means that the information available to customers is very far from the actual situation. I think it is very important to meet in this kind of business.
I said that just like buying a painting, you have to be able to look at the other person’s expression and weigh the weight of the painting. These are very important. It’s useless for you to send a picture. I think the most difficult sales job must be selling paintings, right? No one says selling Apple phones is difficult, right? “
Even though the pace of the epidemic has slowed down, work efficiency has inevitably decreased, and business development is difficult, Li Yifan still feels that the impact of the epidemic is actually optimistic.
“Do you really ask the current generation of entrepreneurs who can spend three days a year doing this (deep thinking) In my opinion, most entrepreneurs today – at least I am absolutely so – have done too little in-depth thinking. When the company and I are very busy, I really don’t have time to study the long-term strategy, and I really don’t have time to communicate more deeply with people. Of course, it is not easy to have in-depth communication with people because the epidemic situation has not been seen, but it does give us some opportunities to think about long-term strategies. If you have more time to think, you will have more theoretical basis to discuss with us, and you will probably know what to do in the general direction. “
As for whether they will make some seemingly rational but unreasonable decisions because of excessive thinking and overcorrection, Liyifan said: “I did not think deeply before, so now I think it’s good to have such a chance. But you said that one day, because I pondered every day, I didn’t seriously work on the first curve of good business, and the new second curve killed the company? I don’t think anyone can do it today.”
“Reexamine the private domain”
Wuxiaomei, CEO of seesaw coffee
“We will never lie flat.” Sally (wuxiaomei), founder and CEO of seesaw coffee, told Hu olfactory that the key problem to consider in the face of the epidemic is how to take this “opportunity” to make the organization grow better.
The outbreak coincided with seesaw’s expansion stage, which brought great pressure to seesaw: in order to expand, seesaw hoarded many talents and some high-quality sites, while the outbreak put pressure on seesaw’s cash flow. The initial “panic” did not last long. Sally realized that the problem needed to be solved as soon as possible. The top priority was to keep the company’s business running.
“Logistics, production and operation all face many challenges, but the prerequisite is to have goods to sell.”
She felt lucky that a few years ago, seesaw’s supply chain team focused on building a digital supply chain – in the case of an epidemic, the digital supply chain enabled seesaw to have faster response ability and accelerated the online collaboration of the supply chain. Seesaw’s contract demand and replenishment demand can be delivered and executed immediately, which makes seesaw the first batch of coffee chain enterprises in Shanghai to open group purchase business and provide stable supply guarantee.
After having the goods, we should consider how to “sell” them.
One of the biggest impacts of the epidemic on the “chain coffee stores” in Shanghai is that the existing user access methods have changed dramatically. After losing the “store” port, “private domain” traffic has become the key lifeline – a large number of ordinary consumers have evolved into leaders. Offline coffee stores have rapidly evolved the ability of “community group buying” under the epidemic, but it is not easy to do a good job in community group buying of coffee.
At the beginning, seesaw adopted tools such as fast group buying, which is an entry-level tool for many coffee and catering brands to enter the “group buying” during the epidemic. However, Sally and others soon found that the existing tools could not solve the deep problem: users could not precipitate.
The key logic behind this is: if you just want to sell goods for a short time, then the existing tools are enough; However, if we think about the long term and want to take the opportunity to lay out the future, we need to make deeper changes and attempts.
But deep transformation is not easy. At the “basic end”, seesaw urgently developed small programs and built a link between official account – enterprise wechat drainage – enterprise wechat private domain group; On the “human side”, seesaw’s offline operation team began to change from a single store management idea to a user operation idea. The core logic of the change at both ends is to shorten the distance between users and seesaw, and achieve more efficient communication and touch.
One detail is that Sally and other seesaw executives have joined different “user private domain groups”. In these groups, users can directly roast or share their feelings. These “feedback” from the user side was quickly seen by Sally and other executives and evolved into “solutions” for products or services. In order to adapt to such changes, seesaw quickly supplemented the customer service team within one month and ensured that there were at least five full-time customer service staff in each private wechat group.
“Efficiency needs to be greatly improved, and the response speed to the market and users needs to be significantly faster.” After Sally’s reply, she said that efficiency is the key to testing the company under the epidemic situation. For seesaw, efficiency is reflected in three levels: first, the efficiency of the supply chain. Since the whole supply chain of seesaw is not outsourced, the company can control the supply chain under the epidemic situation; On the marketing side, seesaw precipitated a large number of users into the private wechat group through multiple official official account throughout April, and “accuracy” is the key to improving the efficiency of the marketing side; At the operation end, collaboration between departments is very important. Seesaw’s organizational structure is highly flat. In addition to high communication efficiency, seesaw also carries out organizational iteration at any time.
“Small step iteration is the key. Compared with large companies, faster response and more efficient internal information flow are our competitiveness.” Sally believes that tools such as “group buying” and enterprise wechat are actually being tried by everyone in the coffee circle. At this time, the competition is about the operation effect and execution effect.
Compared with the epidemic in 2019, Sally feels that this wave may bring more “future impact” to the company and the industry. For example, with the popularity of “coffee group purchase” in Shanghai, the private domain value with “enterprise wechat” as the key port is being re examined. “It may even become a channel for new product launch or exclusive release in the future. Obviously, enterprise wechat has become a crucial private domain position.”
“Always have plan B”
Ren pan, CEO of Xiaopai Technology
“Facts show that we were a little optimistic.” After 68 days of working at home, Ren pan felt this way.
Two months ago, Xiaopai technology, where Ren pan is located, received a notice from the park that all enterprises in the park are working at home in response to the requirements of the epidemic prevention policy. As CEO of the company, he did not overreact to the notice at first.
“The epidemic in Shanghai was well controlled before. We generally believe that normal office work will resume in a week or two.” However, with the sharp increase of confirmed cases in the news broadcast, Ren pan gradually realized that this home office may be completely different from the past, and the company is about to face unprecedented challenges.
Founded in 2015, Xiaopai technology focuses on the development of VR hardware products and has grown rapidly in the past two years with the help of the “meta universe”. Ren pan admitted, “to some extent, the epidemic is good for our industry, because the long-term home life makes everyone want to try new forms of entertainment.”
Xiaopai technology can be seen as a microcosm of the domestic VR industry: while benefiting from the epidemic, it is also trapped by the epidemic.
Different from the “sinking group” in the industry, the “deep customization” route advocated by Xiaopai technology. According to the plan, Xiaopai technology will focus on the domestic market this year. But at present, how to ensure the product R & D cycle has become a difficult problem in front of them.
For this reason, Ren pan decided to suspend the development of some auxiliary products during the closure and control of the epidemic, so as to concentrate resources to ensure the normal R & D rhythm of core products, and let all business departments promote the daily work through the daily “plan + review”.
“In terms of R & D, the execution efficiency of our team has not been significantly reduced due to home office.” However, Ren pan also frankly said that Xiaopai technology is a hardware manufacturer after all, and the R & D drawings still need to be presented on the physical products, which brings some difficulties to the R & D work.
Normally, when the R & D team completes the design work of drawing and lay board, it should be handed over to the Shanghai factory for punching. However, the punching factory in Shanghai is also in the state of shutdown. Ren pan quickly coordinated with other factories after discussing with colleagues to solve this problem.
Compared with R & D, which can be completed online, logistics blockade is the real challenge that Ren pan needs to face.
“In the past, Shanghai, as the headquarters of the company, assumed the role of a goods distribution center. After the products of factories in Shandong and Jiangxi were offline, they would be uniformly sent to Shanghai, and then sent overseas through customs declaration in Shanghai.” Ren Pan said that with the deepening impact of the epidemic on logistics and storage, the channels for sending Xiaopai technology overseas have been basically blocked.
If this problem cannot be solved, Xiaopai technology may face the risk of losing its overseas potential market. To this end, Ren Panhe’s management team decided to let Rizhao’s factory bypass the Shanghai warehouse for direct delivery. Of course, adjusting the place of shipment is not a simple task. It involves a series of processes from export declaration to audit and inspection. Xiaopai technology subsequently completed the opening of this standby logistics channel in mid April. As of the interview, Ren Pan said that the logistics operation efficiency has basically returned to the level before the epidemic.
“Under the epidemic, our delivery time has been extended a lot, but few consumers have cancelled their orders. This is a very touching and gratifying point for us.” From Ren Pan’s point of view, today’s Xiaopai technology can’t live without geek players. Xiaopai technology has been a company with high “user participation” since its inception. In 2017, Xiaopai Technology launched the world’s first 8K VR head display device. The product broke the VR crowdfunding world record with a crowdfunding amount of US $4.23 million on the overseas crowdfunding platform KickStarter. The previous holder of this record was oculus.
“Since the preparation of the company in 2015, I have never experienced the ‘return to zero’ status under my eyes, which gives me time to accompany my family and also gives me time to think about what our initial intention for users is?” Ren Pan said that Xiaopai technology is lucky. In the eye of the storm of the epidemic, it can still keep the basic plate, and has spare power to maintain product R & D and market expansion.
However, Ren pan believes that luck and disaster have always been one and two sides, and the key is whether we can give full play to our subjective initiative. Since the beginning of the epidemic in 2020, the management of Xiaopai technology has realized that there may be a risk of “putting all the eggs in one basket” in the company structure at that time, so it has established a branch R & D center in Qingdao, Shandong Province. Facts have proved that this decision has played a great role in the epidemic in Shanghai.
“As an enterprise manager, we must keep Plan B, which may never be used, but it is the life-saving straw of the enterprise at the critical moment.” This is Ren Pan’s greatest insight into the Shanghai epidemic.
“No pressure on employees”
Zhou Bing, co-founder of Zhong Xuegao
“This generation of young people grew up in a stable and calm environment. Some sudden challenges are a kind of exercise for them.” Zhou Bing, co-founder of Zhong Xuegao, believes that the epidemic has enabled “young people” to grow up. According to him, zhongxuegao headquarters in Shanghai has more than 700 employees, most of whom are post-90s, post-95s and post-00s.
Since mid March, Zhong Xuegao’s employees in Shanghai have started to work at home. At that time, the company found that some employees had changed their mentality, so Zhong Xuegao organized a variety of employee activities and matched the employee psychological hotline. “We are preparing for a bigger war after the unsealing.” Zhou Bing said that the detail that Zhong Xuegao paid great attention to during the epidemic was “not letting employees have nothing to do”. Both the company level and the department level will frequently discuss and communicate with employees, constantly adjust employees’ mentality, and continuously penetrate the company’s core values.
“In the past four years, we have developed too fast. In the process of rapid growth of an enterprise, there will always be some imperfections.” Zhou Bing told Hu olfactory that the epidemic situation gave him a chance to think calmly. He thought about many basic issues: supply chain, user experience, consumer perception
Zhou Bing gave a detail. One of the things he thought about and started to optimize during the epidemic was “efficient communication between departments”. Zhou Bing felt that after more than four years of rapid development, some boxes in the company needed to be optimized. He admitted that some cumbersome processes and existing modules have become dogmatic and have lost their vitality.
The efficiency of internal communication directly affects the user experience. In Zhou Bing’s view, internal skill is the bottom layer of a company. Only companies with a stronger bottom layer can be more liked by consumers. For example, whether feedback from the market can be immediately changed into adjustment of products and services, and the flow efficiency of these key feedback within the company is crucial. “Today’s consumers are becoming more picky and have more choices. You need to constantly optimize the way users reach and improve the user experience.”
Under the epidemic situation, it is difficult to do a good job in user experience. “We need to think about how to face the problem and establish some principles based on it.” Zhou Bing described a detail. At that time, due to the logistics problems of the partner, some Zhong Xuegao arrived after delay. At this time, Zhong Xuegao can attribute the responsibility to a third party. However, after internal discussion, Zhong Xuegao chose to make compensation first: allow users to refund in full and compensate for gift certificates; Or get gifts while delaying the receipt. “The key is to solve the actual problems of consumers.”
Another detail concerns choice. At that time, a dealer found Zhong Xuegao and suggested him to try community group purchase. Zhou Bing said that Zhong Xuegao’s senior executives specially held a serious meeting to discuss this. After weighing various factors, they finally gave up group buying. “We realize that in the stage of transportation capacity shortage, daily necessities are more important. We greeted all dealers and hoped that they would not be the community group purchase of Zhong Xuegao in Shanghai under the epidemic.”
Zhou Bing said that in the new consumption circle, people always like to say that “online celebrities die quickly”, and twists and turns and fluctuations are the only way for brand growth. During the epidemic period, although the Shanghai market was affected, Zhong Xuegao’s sales in the second and third tier cities increased significantly. Zhou Bing revealed that the sales from the sinking market within three months had exceeded the annual sales in 2021 in the same region. It is worth noting that in the four years since its birth, Zhong Xuegao has continuously invested in “infrastructure”, and these early-stage investments enable them to “maintain operation” under the epidemic situation: procurement of supply chain, production equipment, R & D, self built warehouse… When the epidemic situation makes Shanghai, where Zhong Xuegao’s headquarters is located, fall into “stagnation”, Zhong Xuegao’s nationwide “infrastructure” ensures the operation of the company. “Looking back, these basic inputs have caused a great economic burden to the company, but Zhong Xuegao withstood the pressure with these basic components under the epidemic, which makes our investment in the future more firm.”
Zhou Bing believes that such investment will make Zhong Xuegao feel more down-to-earth: “in the past, it was an era when people were more in pursuit of sales, but today the competition is about the supply chain and details. The epidemic taught enterprises to survive more solidly.”
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