Mike Boyle first saw people wearing masks and began hearing talk about a pandemic in late February, while vacationing with his wife in Mexico before the U.S. borders closed.
Immediately upon his arrival back to his home in Pennsylvania, Boyle, president of information technology services at RCM Technologies (Pennsauken), began preparing his division for any possible outcome.
In less than a month, he had 285 people — internal staff, consultants, and clients included — ready to work from home as quarantine orders were being implemented for all nonessential workers.
Boyle discussed the steps he took in preparation for the pandemic with David Stengle, the director of Startup Grind Princeton, on his Pandemic Pivots chat on Zoom. The hour-long program focuses on the actions being taken by startups and others in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a swift and relatively smooth transition for everyone,” Boyle said. “The interesting part was really just getting everybody set up on how to work remotely. Not necessarily the equipment. We had the equipment for this new normal.
“It was the culture and structure that needed to be adapted to a 100 percent remote work lifestyle.” Mike Boyle, RCM Technologies
“It was the culture and structure that needed to be adapted to a 100 percent remote work lifestyle,” he said.
“We are all continuing to learn. We structure our days the same way. The only difference now is that we do it from home. It’s more about connecting in a personal way with our coworkers and clients, whether that’s on Zoom or Skype or FaceTime. It’s more important than ever, now that we’ve lost that in-person connection,” Boyle said.
“It was about a month before our clients began hiring our consultants again. It was difficult for people to adjust to making connections with consultants through virtual interviews and meetings,” he said.
Resetting the Expectations of the Board
From the beginning, Boyle made it a priority to reset the expectations of his board by preparing for the worst. He said the country’s $180 billion IT sector could lose 16 percent of generated revenue due to the pandemic. He told the board it might see a 40 percent decrease in their business.
In anticipation of the losses, Boyle immediately made budget cuts of $1.5 million in travel and entertainment expenses, preferring to cut expenditures instead of employees.
“We heard things were going to be bad. By the end of the first week in March, we made sure everybody was ready to be logged in remotely, and I began planning for everyone to be fully out of the office by March 12th or 13th,” he said.
So far though, Boyle and his division have been lucky, with a “growth of 3.8 percent and an incremental stabilization in our business during this pandemic.” He added that, “as of May 27, RCM has not lost market share.”
David Stengle agreed with Boyle’s actions, noting that “a key takeaway here is [to go] to your board early when there is a Titanic change like this. It is really smart when you are managing the expectations of the board. If they hear it after the numbers go south, it is a very different conversation than saying, ‘I see the writing on the wall, and this is my concern.’”
Boyle said, “We are sales-driven culture, and salespeople are never satisfied with their salary, so they want to make commissions. We are not doing anything different. We are just at home. They still have to make the same amount of calls, get the same amount of appointments and make the same amount of deals that we would make if you were working at the office,” Boyle said.
“The success of the business during this unprecedented time wasn’t a coincidence,” he added. “I didn’t want to make the pandemic an excuse. It was just a different environment, and we adapted.”