Early action and transparency in navigating COVID-19 at Emptor

October 21, 2020

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Oriana Fuentes
Written By
Oriana Fuentes
Topic
Management
Emptor is a B2B SaaS company that began in 2016, we were bootstrapped for most of our existence until we raised a seed round with DILA and Angel Ventures for some cash flexibility. As a still (mostly) bootstrapped, profitable, and multinational company, strategic management is a crucial component of running the business. This way of operating has ensured we focus on building products that provide value to our clients. In a way, we see them as our investors.

We started tracking COVID-19 in late January. Given our international operations and multinational clients we stay attuned to macroeconomic events and societal trends globally and in Latin America. Sensing potential impact, we began to perform scenario analysis of different dips in revenues, from mild to severe, and browsed for liquidity sources such as loans and/or venture debt.

COVID-19 began affecting the Americas, and we saw revenues decline for some of our products. We had to take decisions amid high uncertainty, but with no viable way of predicting the span of the crisis, how does one even model this kind of Black Swan event?

We had to take decisions amid high uncertainty


We started working through some hard questions. We knew our business was recession proof, but was it COVID-proof? Did we still believe in the business medium term and long term? Should our company remain structurally the same?

The first step was modeling out scenarios over 12 months: neutral, mild, moderate, severe, and u-shaped (two waves). We modeled cash burn and then set a series of knock-in triggers (I started my career in derivatives and options structuring). This was done to ensure we made decisions with discipline instead of delaying measures in hopes that there would be improvement.

We decided we still believed in the medium term and long term prospects of Emptor, especially amid a recessionary environment. We also decided the structure of the team was still one we needed once we left the COVID-19 phase into global recession. The most important objective was to preserve the team and its structure as we endured the halt in economic and human activity in Latin America.


The most important objective was to preserve the team and its structure as we endured the halt in economic and human activity in Latin America


By the weekend of April 12th I had seen a continuous, steep decline of predicted revenues for about 10 days. We immediately spoke to our team’s senior leaders to explain the situation. We provided data and sought their support in communicating with the rest of the organization. Transparency and hearing our leaders’ questions and concerns were crucial in handling the crisis and beginning cost cutting measures. The next day, Gabriel and I spoke to every single Emptor team member on 1:1 calls to explain measures and invite questions. The team took a paycut, projects were shelved, the sales team was directed to sharpen their focus, and the rest of the organization invested their time into preparatory work for a recovery, or even rapid growth once LatAm moved into a recession. We were all in this together.


Aside from the pressure the organization was facing, COVID-19 was also generating high levels of anxiety for our team members. We created weekly programming through our Wellness Program to provide stress management techniques and creative outlets and methods for eating well and staying active during quarantine.

Since that very stressful weekend mid April, we’ve seen steady recovery and then rapid growth, taking us back to our pre-COVID-19 levels. Our team’s commitment, strong cash management, and products supporting LatAm’s digital economy helped us weather the crisis and avoid cutting a significant part of the team or having to shutter the organization. Our team’s effort during Q2 in gearing up for a flurry of activity this Q3 and Q4 is paying off. We are more organized, focused, and have launched key initiatives such as data-driven product management, rehashed OKRs, and we’ve even launched in new countries. We’re excited for this coming last quarter, expecting growth and new opportunities to continue supporting the LatAm digital ecosystem.
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