SGB Executive reached out to a handful of executives in the active lifestyle space to explore what adjustments they’ve made as a result of the pandemic and which ones will likely continue once the crisis subsides.

The exact question was: “What major change did you make to your business during the COVID-19 crisis that you are going to make permanent?”

The following are some of the responses. The first round of replies was published in SGB Executive on Monday. The article can be found here.

Jon Frederick, Country Manager, Rab & Lowe Alpine
“One change we have made as a result of the COVID-19 crisis that will turn permanent is the implementation of virtual communications. Some of it sounds so obvious when I say it, but monthly video calls with all of our sales reps to talk through shared challenges, with our athletes to show new products and seasonal efforts, with our PR teams to coordinate new product launches. These were all things that we tried to do in person with less frequency, but now that we have dialed into our virtual communication and it is more widely accepted, we plan to maintain the frequency of these meetings without the need for additional travel.”

Matthew Betcher, Creative and Marketing Director, Allied Feather & Down
The one thing this pandemic has done to all brands and companies is really forcing them to think about how they are working in general. We were able to shift and pivot quickly portions of our bedding manufacturing into producing PPE as others have done. Again, as we all have had to do, we also became quickly reliant on digital technology to interact with one another as we worked from home.

“The interesting thing about both of these is that they allowed us to consider the environmental impact through a slightly different lens. While we all tend to look at how our immediate products and processing impact the environment, I think we have been doing so — as an industry — with perhaps larger blinders than we like to think. As we started to see the need for PPE, like masks, we looked at our offices in China at the possibility of importing the ubiquitous and cheap disposable masks. But instead of doing that, we made the decision to focus on the production of sustainable reusable masks. This actually allowed us to employ more people in our bedding factories than before COVID-19. It also allows us to sell to the hospitality and service industries that we would otherwise never approach with a reusable and sustainable option for their employees and so that masks do not become the new cigarette butt.

“There was also a coming together through technology that ironically empowered a new connection between departments that will continue and hopefully bring more synergy to Allied as a whole. We are all working so hard in providing the best and most sustainable products but the pandemic has, for us, highlighted ways that we can move forward with all working together in a more thoughtful and efficient way that can build better communication while significantly reducing our footprint.”

Tom DeFrancia, Founder, RovR Products
“Monday morning meetings are now Monday morning meeting hikes.”

Mike Erwin, Sales Manager, North America, Sweet Protection
As a company, it is very important for the people involved to keep in close contact. Collaborating on solutions to problems is fundamental to the success of any company. Here at Sweet Protection, it has been amazing to see co-workers working together in a purely digital format and embracing the challenges that it can create. Not only is this ability important for productivity but also for the comradery we all stoke and cherish that is involved with working in this beloved industry. I can say that we have done this successfully, and we are better for it.

“This has created a relaxed and confident office/home work flexibility that didn’t necessarily exist in the past. It shows in times like these that the people you work with and their character can really shine in challenging times. We have now learned that we can be a tight unit regardless of physical distances and that we care deeply about a common goal.

“My quarantine partner and I… Or as I refer to her as “my QP”, more importantly, have learned how to tolerate each other’s cooking more and appreciate burnt chicken.”

Drew Saunders, Country Manager, Salewa North America
“The overarching change that we made is that we learned to adapt – really quickly. In terms of specific changes that will turn out to be long-lasting, there are two that stand out. First is that we immediately entrusted our employees to work completely remotely, and they stepped up in such a major way by demonstrating their commitment and personal responsibility to getting their jobs done at a high level. It did not matter where they were working. After that experience, it will not make sense for us to go fully back to a traditional office model where all employees come to the office every day. We have not defined it yet, but we most definitely will have a new approach. The other change is that we implemented so many new digital tools in a short period of time that our business took major steps forward very quickly. There are so many examples — conducting a virtual international Brand convention, holding multiple virtual North American sales meetings, rolling out new digital tool kits for reps and retailers, increasing the use of software like Microsoft Teams and chat, and even just holding regular team Zoom calls to sing happy birthday to co-workers or share a beer on Friday afternoon happy hours. The circumstances pushed us to evolve very quickly, and we connected with our partners and employees in so many new ways that our business won’t be the same as a result.”

Illustration courtesy Deloitte