First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Cherie Curtis: Most importantly we are all well and safe. However, there is no doubt 2020 has required significant adjustment to our way of life and work. As a mum of two children and a full time CEO, juggling everything well, sure can be a challenge at the best of times and COVID has thrown us all a different set of challenges. However, it has also provided us with many new, unexpected blessings. I have found that COVID has significantly slowed our pace of life by having fewer commitments to run around to and having more time at home with my family.
This has enabled me to be more present and to be more focused on what is really important, both with work and at home. I think it is only in retrospect that I can now see just how over loaded our lives were with ‘distractions’. Things that were really important are not that important. COVID19 has allowed us to recalibrate our lives and to be more purposeful in our actions. I believe this is helping me to be more effective both as a mother and as leader.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Revelian
Cherie Curtis: This blog article provides a lot of good information to answer this particular question: https://www.revelian.com/employer/blog/from-intern-to-ceo-cherie-curtis-finalist-in-the-telstra-business-womens-awards/
How does Revelian innovate?
Cherie Curtis: We have a long history of innovation at Revelian; despite being 21 years old, we really do act like a start-up in many ways. Our approach to innovation centres around being at the leading edge of problem-solving for our customers, and using a combination of science and technology to deliver innovations that employers than trust to inform their people decisions. And then it’s about ensuring you have the right people, with the right skills, and the right tools, to turn concepts into realities – brand new products or iterations of existing ones.
A good example of this is when we launched our first game-based assessment back in 2015. We didn’t have any prior blueprints or recipes for success, but we had good experience, knowledge, talent and enough courage to give it a go. We were prepared to learn and pivot as we needed to base on our findings and customer feedback. And importantly, we had a passionate belief that what we were doing would take our business and our industry forward substantially, and be invaluable for our customers.
Fortunately, we were right. When it came to launching our second game-based assessment (which has won a number of awards), and our third, we had some great experience to draw from, a range of learnings to use to help us adapt and iterate, and importantly, some wonderful new global customers who were prepared to come on the innovation journey with us and provide us with insights, ideas, feedback and support.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Cherie Curtis: Our core business is to provide innovative psychometric assessment solutions to support hiring decisions. So if hiring activity is slowing… well the knock-on effect for companies like us is obvious. We’ve needed to re-assess our revenue projections and our development priorities, take a new look at our target geographies and industries, and focus on supporting our talent even more than usual to ensure we come out the other side strong.
We made the decision very early on to transition all of our people to working from home and to adjust our hours and ways of working to support this. As a tech company, this was a lot easier for us than it is for other organisations and many of our people already worked a hybrid home/office model. It’s clear that in a changeable environment like we’re facing now, you need to be agile in all aspects of your business, and to have the courage to act decisively to ensure your people are safe and your business has solid foundations for survival and to eventually move back into growth mode. The question that remains is how quickly that can happen.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Cherie Curtis: Like many organisations, we did need to make some early, proactive decisions around cost control measures and investment priorities as we anticipated the impacting of COVID to the broader market. It was actually a good exercise to do as it gave us a new lens on which costs and activities would stand us in the best stead for business survival and future growth, and in some ways forced us to make a couple of decisions we had been mulling over for some time.
We also made some adjustments to working hours and salaries for a number of our people, starting with our Senior Leadership Team. This is always a difficult decision, and should only be explored after all other avenues are exhausted (which we did). It’s a testament to our people and their belief in supporting the broader team, that they were willing to come on this journey with us, despite negative personal impact to many of them. I think what this exercise reinforced for me is how important it is to be honest and transparent during times of change and flux, and that it’s ok to be human and show that humanity as a leader – in fact, it’s essential to do so.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Revelian in the future?
Cherie Curtis: Stress is a very personal thing and we all manage it differently. Personally, I feel a strong sense of accountability for our team and our business and in uncertain times, ensuring the stability of both is what keeps me up at night. Other than a long soak in the bathtub with a good glass of red, one of my main coping mechanisms is to remain solution focused and to keep working through issues until I reach a resolution or outcome. That is, I have learned over the years to segment my attention cleanly and to narrow in on the source of stress or the challenge and to pour my energy into addressing it.
This enables me to be actively working towards a solution. I hold a deep belief that, together, we can solve any problem. So, although I often face stressful situations, I know they are all transactional and solvable. I need to get busy solving it with the right people. This habit has helped me to develop a healthy method of dealing with stress, but also to ensure I am engaging with others in the business to ‘share the load’ and ‘workshop’ solutions together. This helps to perpetuate the trust in our working relationships, provide greater sense of accomplishment when addressed and builds expertise in the business for future challenges.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Cherie Curtis: Now I’d be giving away trade secrets if I told you that! Our competitors range from traditional test publishers through to some of the newest market entrants in interactive psychometric assessment. And we have different tactics and strategies to compete with each of them. Suffice to say, the innovation roadmap we have in place for coming years will mean we’ll be in the game for a long time yet.
Your final thoughts
Cherie Curtis: If ever there was a time to live our organisational values, the current environment is it. Being brave and bold, collaborating to deliver and never, ever compromising on our ethics will stand us in very good stead during a time of heightened change and uncertainty.
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