Plenty of enterprises hit pause on their expansion plans last year but forging ahead has paid dividends for ANZ homegrown software house, writes Katy Medlock, Head of UK at Forbury.
Could the timing have been any worse? Forbury is one of the prop-tech sector’s leading lights in Australia and New Zealand with a customer list comprising a who’s who of the construction and property sphere across the region.
International expansion – into China and the UK – had been on the agenda for a while. After COVID hit, our directors took the brave decision to press ahead anyway, hiring me, a London based ‘go to market’ specialist, who had been working with Forbury on a consultancy basis, to head up the UK division and spearhead a northern hemisphere push.
Onboarding from afar
It was a leap of faith for both parties – hiring and being hired without a single face to face meeting – but, from a business and personal perspective, it’s paid off. Rather than wasting 12 months in ‘wait and see what happens’ mode, we channelled Winston Churchill who famously observed that one should never let a good crisis go to waste.
We didn’t. With the help of my colleagues on the other side of the planet, I spent 2020 connecting with the industry, building brand awareness and, yes, even welcoming our first customers. This is not something we’d have thought possible before the pandemic.
Besides getting comfortable with the remote onboarding of employees (me!), these are some of the things the company and I did to make growth happen during that extraordinary, challenging year.
Getting out and about to industry events is the traditional means of gaining a foothold in a new market, in normal times at least. It doesn’t work when prospective clients have abandoned their city offices and sent their teams home.
Being in lockdown meant I needed to get comfortable with meeting and greeting differently – reaching out to people online, asking to catch up via Zoom and, if the encounter went well, requesting an introduction to another contact or several.
It’s less natural than chatting at a function and it required me to become much more deliberate in my interactions – outlining in advance the things I wanted to discuss and the value we might both derive from the meeting. Becoming comfortable with this new modus operandi meant I was able to spend the lockdown period rubbing shoulders virtually with influencers and decision makers.
Going all-in online
Demonstrating the Forbury platform remotely, rather than face-to-face, has been surprisingly effective. It’s designed for the screen and putting it through its paces online means audiences concentrate more closely than they might in a boardroom, where it’s easy for their attention to be diverted.
These last few months, the company has committed to putting all its other corporate and learning collateral, including Forbury training modules, online too. Having that instant access to everything users need to get the platform up and running has meant new customers haven’t had to delay their roll-outs until office life restarts. That’s definitely helped us to clinch more than one sale.
Building strong bonds within the business
It’s the people who hold an enterprise together, in good times and in bad. Connecting with colleagues back in New Zealand regularly throughout the year helped keep me focused on our growth goals, and motivated to do everything I could to achieve them, despite the adverse circumstances in which I was operating. As well as making me a virtual participant in strategy and staff meetings, one of our directors scheduled a weekly ‘watercooler session’ with me to ensure I was au fait with all the informal ‘news and views’ from around the office.
Eyes on the prize
We’re more than a year since the UK started our first national lockdown. If you’d have told me back then that I’d be fully immersed into a business where I’d not met a single person, I would not have believed it was possible. I might not meet my colleagues for the next 12 months either, but we’ve still successfully launched our business into a new market. Despite the sadness and challenges the pandemic has brought us, it is amazing to see what it has made possible.