First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Annette McDonald: Here in our state of Queensland, in Australia, we’ve been affected in the economy, but fortunately remained relatively free of Covid-19. The country as a whole has fared particularly well on the health side of things, so now the hard slog is rebuilding the business side of things.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Easil
Annette McDonald: My background is in Graphic Design, and I’ve owned a creative agency for over 20 years. It grew to be a very successful company with over 30 staff, and with a large clientele. We reached a stage where we were unable to service the number of clients and workload that was coming into the studio efficiently, and outsourcing was not a viable solution.
As we had previous experience in developing software to improve efficiency, we decided to go down the path of creating software that would allow our clients to access high-end templates, and easy-to-use tools, that would enable them to still look professional. This plan evolved quickly, and expanded past our existing clientele and into the global market, where we’ve had growth with both individuals, and teams using Easil.
A few years later, and here we are – we’ve rebuilt the tool to scale to enterprise size clients and millions of users, yet there is so much more to come!
How does Easil innovate?
Annette McDonald: As browser technologies evolve, we like to push the boundaries of what type of design and publishing can be achieved within the browser, and reproduce as a rendered graphic. We constantly roll out new features for that design side, as well as developing ways for our users to work collaboratively, whilst still producing high end, on-brand collateral. Research & development is a large part of our day-to-day operations.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Annette McDonald: Coronavirus has affected a large proportion of our clientele who are in the Hospitality industry, and that has meant they were unable to pay for subscriptions. As goodwill to many of our clients, we provided free access to the platform to allow them to start to plan out their re-opening promotions, and it’s great to see some of them emerging post-covid19 and operating their businesses again.
At the other side of the spectrum, we had more distributed teams approach us for a solution that was easy-to-use and quickly onboard while their businesses had been turned upside down. We helped quickly onboard several larger teams to allow their marketing and sales people to produce materials while working from home.
Within our own team, we were able to move to a fully remote work situation, as we had previously already been working on a flexible work week with a balance of in-studio and WFM arrangements. With these existing systems in place, we were able to continue development, marketing, sales and support without missing a beat.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Annette McDonald: We’ve slightly pivoted our product focus to attend to the unique needs of some of the larger teams that were on boarding. This pivot did have side-effects of not working on some features that were catering for our larger client base – but only in terms of a delay. We have learnt that a change of direction with what the market is screaming for – is always a viable option 🙂
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Easil in the future?
Annette McDonald: We understand that stress and anxiety can hit us in different ways as individuals. We cannot approach work in this day and time as a one size fits all solution. Having trust in our team means that flexible workspaces and times will produce better outcomes, and allow individuals to go to the gym, a swim or walk when they’re not feeling at their optimum, and understand that the requirements of their job will still be attended to.
Some of our team cope better working with others in the office (with ample space), to have social interaction all day, whilst others may work an entire month from home, and be happy with interaction via weekly video-calls, and all-day Slack-ing! Whatever works – whilst we achieve our goals – works for management.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Annette McDonald: There are many DIY Design applications and tools on the market, but the main one we’re often compared to is Canva. They are a major player in the game, but we definitely have our place and our own fans. We focus on excellent customer service, the highest quality design templates (to ensure a professional look), and agility. We move fast!
Your final thoughts
2020 has been a challenging year for us all, but one that’s pushed us to rethink how we can work in different ways, how it impacts the environment, and how we can all innovate. We look forward to seeing the world emerge from the crisis, and learn from the positives that we’ve experienced.