We talked to Max Trudel of Voilà! and this what he had to say about the smarter way to manage a workforce during the pandemic
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Max Trudel: We are doing well at this time; everyone is safe and kept working, so we do feel blessed on that end. As entrepreneurs, we also had the luck to have our businesses to focus on, and adapting to this new reality gets us busy and motivated, hence keeping the spirits high!
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Voilà.
Max Trudel: I have worked in technology for the past 12 years, starting various businesses and culminating projects along the way. A great deal of this time was spent consulting with companies to optimize their operational and sales processes. This is where I met our founder, Martin Ouellet, whom I could describe as a serial builder in contrast to serial entrepreneurs who, like myself, split their time across multiple simultaneous projects, he has always been able to focus on building great and disruptive businesses before moving to his next project, which I admire. Martin had built, grown, and sold recruitment leader Taleo up to 2012 and developed a few businesses since. We collaborated on a few projects before joining our efforts with those of other cofounders Jeanette Butler and Christian Gauthier to give birth to his latest idea, which is now Voilà! With Martin’s product vision and HR tech business expertise, Christian’s technical know-how, Jeanette’s funding experience, and my background being in our customers’ seat, I believe we had a strong team to get Voilà! Off the ground.
How does Voilà innovate?
Max Trudel: We try to innovate by including the employees in the scheduling process as much as possible. We build tools for operations and HR managers, but in the end, all methods depend on the employee’s engagement. So we try to make HR management more of a conversation than one-way communication, which is where much effort is often wasted. We also bring the technology’s intelligence in the mix to structure and control the process to ensure every business rule is respected along the way. It may be ironic, but minimizing the number of human interactions required to manage the process makes it more humane as everyone can bring his input to it.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Max Trudel: Honestly, our own business was not directly affected as we could efficiently work from home. However, our clients were, with the government closing entire pans of the economy and the pandemic bringing insecurity. Since the beginning, our goal is to listen to our clients and try to give them the tools they need to adapt to their workforce management to whatever new reality they are facing. We added Covid checks to our time clocks, recent reports, timesheets, which are easier to fill and monitor when working from home, premium management, and so on. While trying to stay focused on our roadmap, all of this is also to be ready when everything reopens.
We also brought special attention to our employees to keep their morale high and keep them motivated. We had been delivering to them provision of video get-togethers, doughnuts deliveries, and we make sure to organize a killer Christmas party even if we need to do it remotely.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Max Trudel: Fortunately, no. We pivoted early enough to new niches and kept revenues pretty stable. Of course, it slowed our growth, but at least it got us to keep what we had worked so hard to get.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Max Trudel: I’m a runner, so I was lucky enough to be able to keep going for a jog when work was too overwhelming. I also force myself to close my computer at certain times. I think developing a strict non-working routine is essential. In the beginning, I was working 20 hours a day for seven days, but when it was clear this was not about to stop, I took a step back and made myself some rules. With our homes becoming our offices, we still need to set our barriers to avoid getting swallowed by work and keep a mental balance. Get up, make your bed (thanks to Lewis Howes for the tip), get a coffee and once your day is somewhat structured, then open your laptop for a first meeting. And close it before getting dinner and a late evening run.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Max Trudel: We have a few depending on the geography, with Deputy and When I work probably being the biggest guys out there. I think staying focused on our game plan is the way we’ll keep growing in the market. Also, being smaller, we are still more agile and can better adapt and test new ideas when the world pivots like it has this year. We strongly believe that this will be the key to our success.
We also intensely focused on partnership. We believe that joining forces with our partners and developing new alliances with consultants, HR, and operational tech will only make us all stronger.
Your final thoughts?
Max Trudel: Being in business is about adapting, reinventing how we do things, and getting excited by change and the need to reinvent the world. Thus, if you see it this way, the past year remains a great challenge but should also be a source of motivation and energy for our next big moves.