Five Principles For Successfully Navigating Through A Crisis


Adam Froman, Founder and CEO of global research technology company Delvinia, is known as a visionary business leader who wears his heart on his sleeve and passionately believes digital platforms can be used to create meaningful, human connections between companies and their customers. Under Adam’s leadership, Delvinia has evolved from operating as a traditional digital consultancy to become an innovative scale-up that is transforming how data is being collected and used to power better decision-making.  

I had the opportunity to interview Adam recently about his company, leadership style and his core principles that have guided him throughout his career journey, including during the COVID-19 crisis. Here are some of the highlights from that interview:

Jill Griffin: Tell me about your background and business.

Adam Froman: My roots are in human factors engineering – where you design products taking the human into consideration – but my passion is digital strategy and innovation. While Corporate America provided me with my foundation, having initially worked as a strategy consultant , I’m more of an entrepreneur and innovator by nature. I’m most compelled with how we can take human knowledge and put it into a computer to drive a customer-centric user experience.

When I started my business in 1998, I noticed a gap in the industry. Few companies were looking at technology from the user’s point of view – that is, how consumers use technology to learn, work, play or communicate with one another, and how technology can be applied to create an optimal digital customer experience. I also realized early on that every digital touchpoint collected data. So collecting data on that digital experience would help an organization better understand and engage with their consumers. That’s the foundation on which I built Delvinia – digital and data.

Griffin: Why is strong leadership so important given the current climate?

Froman: Leadership can make or break a company in the best of times, and is even more critical during a crisis. Staying calm and focused, providing open communication with staff at all levels, and maintaining a strong cash flow model have helped me lead my company through various crises, including the dot com crash, the financial recession and the current pandemic.

The current crisis is a bit different – not only has it stalled the economy but it is impacting the health and well-being of people across the world. Focusing on employee safety first is a must. This emphasis on safety, coupled with open communication, is key. At the onset of the crisis I began emailing my staff twice a day, sharing a mix of business updates from our executive team and anecdotal stories to keep morale high. Social interaction is a huge part of our business, and keeping our culture alive and staff engaged while working remotely is a significant endeavor.

In addition, our cash flow model enables us to project 12 months into the future. We have developed some worst-case business scenarios (before government support mechanisms were even implemented) and I have modelled the cash flow to ensure that we have not had to lay off or furlough any staff. I urge other CEOs to implement a forward-looking cash flow model in order to navigate through crises.  

Griffin: What are your five core values, and how have they helped you navigate through COVID-19?

Froman: In 2013 I wrote the e-book, Delve In, Dig Deep: An Entrepreneurial Journey where I detail my 5 Ps or core principles that have guided me during my career, and which I recently revisited as I lead my company through COVID-19:

Patience. If you do have a bad day, it’s okay. But it’s important to be patient rather than consistently reactive or emotional as that’s when mistakes happen. What’s more, patience helps me face day-to-day business challenges and plan for the future, including mapping out a return-to-work strategy.

Perspective. Staying calm and confident is key to helping me maintain my perspective, allows me to manage financial instability brought on by the pandemic, and helps my executive team and staff stay focused on what they do best so the business can continue running smoothly despite the unknown timeline of the pandemic.

Perseverance. I’m never afraid to keep pushing ahead, and I’ve been able to persevere during several crises. It’s also allowed me to find ways to manage cash flow, tap into government funding when needed, and embody accountability in everything that I do.

People. Delvinia would not be where it is without our people. Fostering two-way communication is of paramount importance if you want teams to feel valued and maintain morale. In addition to my daily all-staff emails, I encourage staff to share their stories and experiences. This recently resulted in a series of honest, raw perspectives on navigating through COVID-19.  

Passion. My passion for data and digital technologies, for creating user experiences and for building a cutting-edge research technology company helps me be an effective business leader. The pandemic has also refuelled my passion for the business, and propelled me to keep uncovering new digital solutions while continuing to inspire my team.  

Griffin: Why is business continuity planning integral to managing through a crisis?

Froman: Having a business continuity plan in place that can be implemented at the start of a crisis helps to make sure business can continue operating as normally as possible under the circumstances. For my company, this involved having a strategy in place to ensure teams could transition to working remotely relatively seamlessly, are set up with VPN access and the necessary digital collaboration tools like Zoom and Slack so we could continue working and collaborating. Our ISO certification helped significantly, and meant we knew we could ensure all employees could migrate to working remotely nearly overnight.

Griffin: How can business leaders prepare for a post-pandemic world?

Froman: The pandemic has demonstrated that the old way of doing business is not necessarily the best way. We have been evangelizing how companies need to transform in the market research and insight fields by continuing to adopt new and emerging digital technologies. And the pandemic is undoubtedly accelerating that digital transformation. Companies that rely heavily on consumer research are becoming more receptive to AI and machine learning to conduct chat-based interviews at scale and run AI-powered focus groups, as examples.

Beyond digital transformation, my hope is that business leaders will continue to understand the importance of advance planning, leading with humility and perspective, supporting their employees through obstacles, fostering two-way communication, and ultimately empowering their teams to strive towards a common purpose or goal.



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