By Maria Cardova 

Some companies—like Symplicity Designs—are used to dealing with crisis. They are a company dedicated to teaching, coaching, and training organizations how to improve, innovate, and grow faster. They are often brought into companies that are in the midst of a crisis or messy transition. Their job is to give businesses tools to survive and stabilize, and then to thrive. But even they were taken aback by the chaos that resulted from the pandemic.  

Matt Symes—one of the founding partners of Symplicity Designs—mentioned that the very beginning of the pandemic “felt like they’ve been thrown into a washing machine.” Taking into account the predictions from leaders like Bill Gates and Barack Obama, and looking into the history of the Spanish Flu, Symes and his team knew the pandemic would be significant. “Very quickly it was clear to our team at Symplicity that this was going to be a seismic shift.” Fortunately, Symes and his team do their best work on the precipice of disaster.  

Even though everything that happened during the pandemic was new, they knew from experience that they needed to step out of panic mode and get grounded in how to manage. They reached out to all their clients—current and past—to offer specific guidance to move forward with their businesses. Symplicity offered a few thoughts from their perspective and showed their clients the process they use to make decisions in the fog of war. Since all of their services had to be offered remotely, they decided to launch webinars to help businesses. The main goal of the webinars was to help people stabilize their thinking and provide them with tools to manage through the pandemic. In the first weeks, Symplicity successfully hosted 83 webinars with between 20 and 400 attendees. “Initially the audience was mostly from Atlantic Canada, but over time there were people from across Canada, as well as South Africa and Europe.” The webinars were so successful, that they started making them once a day. 

Despite this, Symplicity Designs was hit hard during the first six weeks of the pandemic. The organization prides itself on giving returns on investment to all of its clients, and they consider that purchasing their services shows short- and long-term results. However, Symes stated that “in a time of chaos we’re also the first thing people cut out of the budget.” For this reason, the company shifted its priorities from profit levels and shareholder return to breaking even. “Business can sometimes be inhumane. We made a decision early on that we would be human.” In order to lead Symplicity to recovery, Symes and his team focused on getting clear on who our ideal clients are and working to focus on stabilizing and building the business to prepare for an uncertain future. “We won’t hit pre-pandemic revenue levels for several years, but our projections show us at our second highest profitability levels this year.” 

Symplicity Designs benefitted from the Fredericton chamber’s activities and resources during the COVID-19 crisis. “The senior leaders at Symplicity relied on the good work by Krista and the whole team as one of the most important inputs to how we made decisions.” The chamber simplified and clarified all the information coming out of Ottawa and at a provincial level, providing a must-read digest at the end of each day. These activities helped Symplicity Designs manage their business during the crisis. Even at a time when businesses re-evaluated their expenses, Symes claimed that “the value the Fredericton Chamber provided to all of us during the pandemic ensured our commitment to our membership.” 

Symes has an unwavering faith that they will figure out the COVID-19 virus threat, but he is not blind to the fact that the pandemic will change things in a way we do not yet understand. Symes claims that the effects of the pandemic will be reflected on mental health, buying behavior and the economy overall. “I hope business will maintain the humanity it rediscovered during the crisis. I hope we come out stronger because of what we’ve had to face.” 

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