Guilherme Faria of Penbrothers tells us how they connect global companies with exceptional teams.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Guilherme Faria: Thankfully, I can’t really complain. After a few months in the city, we’ve decided to move the family to the countryside in July 2020 and live here since then. We can do our walks outside, giving us a certain sense of freedom within this new normal.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Penbrothers.
Guilherme Faria: I was raised and born in Portugal. Since I lived in a small city, I always dreamt of seeing the world and going overseas. Before co-founding Penbrothers with Nicolas Bievro in the Philippines, I lived and worked in the US, Italy, Korea, Japan, and China. This has given me the opportunity to learn various languages and understand different cultures.
Penbrothers was built out of a market need. I wanted to hire some people in the Philippines without the need to open a local entity, and there were no agencies catering to small entities and startups. The internet connection was also very poor at most co-working spaces. This created the opportunity to kick off an employment agency with the coolest offices in town, and of course, the fastest internet.
How does Penbrothers innovate?
Guilherme Faria: Innovation comes with problems. If problems are just issues waiting for solutions, then we have to look at them as opportunities to innovate.
You need to listen to your clients, the market needs, and go there. Put the finger where it hurts, where no one else wants to go. The tougher our clients get, the more innovative we become.
Currently, we are working on building a low-touch ERP with clients/employees’ front end so that they can answer all questions without the need for human intervention. This came from the understanding of what our clients need/want.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Guilherme Faria: Given that the pandemic highly hurt a part of our revenue used to come from office space rental and offices, we were heavily hit in the first few months of COVID. As time evolved, we also started to look at our business to see what needed to change to adapt to the new normal. We had to take some measures to cut costs accordingly and focus on the employment side of the business. Thankfully, we are now seeing things getting back to normal.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Guilherme Faria: Unfortunately we had to, given the fact that some of our offices closed due to low occupancy. These were dramatic times for the business, as we had to make very tough decisions given the reality we faced. The biggest lesson learned? That no matter what decisions need to be taken, empathy and transparency need to play a big part of it – and that is what we always do.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Guilherme Faria: We took the opportunity to be fewer hands on and create a low touch frontend for clients & employees. We have always been client-centric, and this was a time to be even more close to them by checking in regularly and understand their struggles so that we could adapt.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Guilherme Faria: No.
Your final thoughts?
Guilherme Faria: Adapt, adapt, adapt. This past year has definitely been a tough one, which will stay with us for many years to come, but it was also the one where I learned the most. We are now focusing on the opportunities coming our way as COVID regresses and life gets back to normal – there will be many changes, so better adapt fast.
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