As we gear up for our digital conference in June we take a look at the daunting task of running a business during COVID-19. Jessica Walker sits down with Erik Bergman, co founder of Catena Media, founder of great.com and a regular at SiGMA events
Explore some of his key points below or watch the full interview on SIGMA TV.
This is a situation which not a lot of people in their lifetimes would have experienced, so as an entrepreneur and maybe speaking to our readers who are also in the business world, what kind of things would you say to them when it comes to pivoting towards being creative at this time?
I think you need to accept that this is a very unique situation. If you are struggling to stay focused and motivated in a world crisis, it's very important to just be kind to yourself. It's okay to not be productive all the time, it's okay to lose your attention when the world is upside down and when you're worried about your health, the health of others and the world in general.
I think it's important to value the fear in this and to let that fear take place if you're feeling it. I felt very, very scared and I struggled a lot with that feeling. I processed that fear before I felt that I could move on - I think that the first thing is that this is an extreme situation, it's okay to not be fully productive in an extreme situation and secondly I think, at least for me, it's been so beneficial to just get rid of the media cycle.
I have deleted my stock market apps because I'm not going to sell anything, even though the market’s been on a roller-coaster ride. I've stopped reading any news, I've deleted most of my social media apps and I've started logging out of everything.
It's really hard, so I think these are key things that instead of thinking so much about how to pivot the business, how to make the best out of this situation. Ask yourself what's best for your health right now and how can you can prioritise your own well-being.
You also have to make sure that your colleagues are fine, that they’re comfortable. So I think that as well as in the gaming space, we've seen that actually people are becoming more HR-focused in their role and approach when it comes to making sure their employees are safe and comfortable and happy.
Do you think we are seeing people more conscious of the human aspect?
Definitely, because I think it's under these extreme conditions it's impossible not to notice people's emotions. If someone is not showing emotions regularly but suddenly you can really tell that they are bothered or they're afraid - that topic becomes a topic of conversation. Emotions and the human aspect of things will come to the surface more than usual.
Do we think this is going to impact the future? Once this is over and once things start to pick up again do you think this will actually change the way that people interact, the way people network and communicate, even how people do business moving forward?
I believe that remote organisations are the future and I believe that freedom is the future - one way or another if you work from home and you are on your own schedule, you will have more freedom and I think that freedom is the ultimate goal for a human in lots of ways.
So I believe that this is progress that we've been seeing for a long time and I think that Corona speeds that up because suddenly everyone has to try it, even if they haven't tried it before lots of them will realise this worked just as well and maybe we don't need this big expensive office, maybe we can have people working from other places.
Select things that work for you. During my Catena years, because I wanted to be in earlier as I’m an early bird, so I felt like I needed to stay late. I wanted people to see that I was working hard all the time because I thought that was a good thing to show.
I want this to be as big as possible fifty years from now and the most important element for that to happen is for me to love this company for 50 years. So my joy in this project, my passion in this project is the top priority.
Something we see in the gaming industry is that most employees stay in the job between six and maybe 24 months and often the lower end of that scale. I'm aiming for having people who never leave because I believe that that brings so much more value out of someone than it does to constantly recruit. I have confidence that in the long run it means that things will scale so much better, it will unleash so much more power and people will stay on for so much longer.
Despite the situation with COVID-19, do you still have some really optimistic milestones that you're looking forward to?
I'm super excited about the things that we're doing, so I've been focusing so much on social media and our podcast over the last six months. And this is something that from a short-term business perspective makes absolutely no sense. But I can already see now that we're more or less finding top talent from all over the world without even trying.
I feel this is going to spiral into more and more positive things that from a short-term perspective wouldn't have made any sense but from a fifty-year perspective.
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