Published April 29, 2020
We asked Andy Coster, CEO of the innovative, global technology company Hammerforce, and leading businessman and Hammerforce director Rob Fyfe, to provide their insights into why speed will be critical to winning in the Covid-19 business world.
“We’re living in a world of adversity, but it’s not static; it’s dynamic and unpredictable. We are facing significant constraints on how we operate, yet that also drives creativity and innovation. Businesses need to be agile and must be adapting and innovating now to survive and to be able to take advantage of new opportunities,” says Andy Coster.
“Speed is critical. If you want your business to go faster, you need to be asking yourself and your team – what are we going to do on Monday morning to make that happen?”.
Rob Fyfe believes this need for speed plays well to the inherent characteristics and strengths of New Zealand companies like Hammerforce, which have business models that are innovative, agile and can rapidly adapt to the disruptive nature of Covid-19.
“Speed is about doing. It’s about making decisions and acting on them. In a health sense, speed is about how quickly countries can detect the virus and trace those who have been in contact with someone who has the virus and adapt to the new data at a public health level. In an economic sense, it’s about how quickly businesses can adapt to be sustainable and thrive in this new world amidst all the constraints, new dynamics and the closing of international borders.
“Everyone is learning daily and weekly about how this virus behaves and what the health and economic consequences are going to be. Moving forward, everything is going to be unpredictable which is why agility, innovation and being dynamic will define the companies that will succeed.”
“I’ve always said constraint is a catalyst for innovation. The more you constrain your parameters, the more you’re forced to innovate to figure out how to operate within those new constraints. Take the current constraint on international travel – that in itself is going to force us to innovate as a country in a really positive way.”
“But you need to work quickly. Companies who understand those constraints and have the business models and leadership that allow them to rapidly think and act outside the frame are going to be the winners out of this.”
“Hammerforce is a great example and I’m actually super excited. It’s really innovative and has an ethos that means the team relentlessly work at speed to adapt the technology to the needs of the different global partners we work with. I think about our customers and potential licensees of our technology, and even as we work through this challenging time, they’re constantly blown away by how fast we can move,” says Rob Fyfe.
CEO of Hammerforce, Andy Coster adds to this “Right now the world is in a situation of extreme adversity, and that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Adversity forces us to be creative and to innovate to find our competitive advantage in this new world.
“Speed of innovation is not a static concept, and to be successful, businesses will need to move at pace, and be able to rapidly adapt to an unpredictable environment. While we can predict that this virus will create new waves of adversity, we don’t know when, where, or to what extent. Businesses need to plan now as to how they can adapt to the unpredictable.
“Hammerforce is an IP company that licenses valve-actuation technology. It enables our partners to develop a customised product that delivers significant competitive advantages within their industries.
“I’ve always said a brilliant idea is only as good as its implementation, which is why we operate a strong partnership model. Every application of our technology is evolved to solve a relevant problem. Our team works really closely with our customers to bring new thinking and ensure the technology fits with the commercial needs of their business which ultimately delivers better value.
“Our business model is holistic which means we think and act differently to how technology and engineering companies might traditionally behave. We run parallel workflows where individual team members have the skills and expertise to deliver on every aspect of the process and project – reducing timeframes and risk and enabling our partners to disrupt their industries and gain the competitive advantage they need.
“Hammerforce works with global partners, which has, up until recently, meant we’ve jumped on a plane to meet face to face, to work alongside our existing customers or potential licensees of our technology. As international borders have closed around the world, the barrier to distance has completely evaporated, and this has created new opportunities.
“With Hammerforce’s head office based in New Zealand at this stage (and an evolving London presence), we’ve needed to adapt to a different way of working, and fast.”
“On one level we have discovered that there are massive upsides to working across two different time frames in our ability to deliver at speed. To adapt to the constraints around travel and face to face meetings, we’ve created a 24-hour work shift – our customers in Europe go to bed with an unsolved problem and by the time they get to work in the morning, we’ve provided an answer. Our ability to solve problems at pace and deliver real commercial benefits to our customers, at a time they need it the most, is absolutely phenomenal.”
“The other side of it though, is that communicating and working remotely is not the same as interacting in person. Regardless of how tech-savvy we might be, face to face meetings are still the most effective way to capture attention, engage and drive productive partnerships.“
“EQ is essential to forming a trusted, credible and profitable relationship with customers but it’s much harder to deliver EQ via technology than IQ. Sure, you can have conversations and run meetings via video conference, but it’s definitely not easy to read and manage people’s emotions or understand the subtleties of what’s going on for them – all of which are fundamental in a business sense and can make or break a deal.”
“The relationships we have with our partners are really close – they’re intimate, they’re collaborative and they’re aimed at solving seemingly impossible problems.
“Through innovating and being agile, there is no distance barrier to delivering our business solutions. But for Hammerforce, we are now focussed on how we can rapidly adapt to becoming tactile with customers, in the new technical world.”
“We’ve needed to think really quickly about how we can achieve the same level of personal interaction to support and drive our partnership model, via technology. Critical to this is really understanding each of our customers or partners in the B2B world; and adapting to how we communicate and build a relationship with them.
“Tactile engagement in a technical world is not a one size fits all approach. Not every partner will be comfortable with Zoom; and making sure we really focus on the unique needs of each partner or potential partner is vital to success.
“Our solution lies in the development of an internal matrix to segment our customers and potential customers based on their technical sophistication and ability to adapt to working remotely, and on how well we know them and how they work.
“Based on what we know about each partner, the matrix has enabled us to develop bespoke plans for working together and continuing to develop our relationship in a way that overcomes the physical constraints. From our matrix flows three pillars:
“Pillar 1 relates to our existing partners. We’re established, we know one another well, and we’ve spent a lot of time face to face. This means we’ve been able to work out the best way of using technology to continue working with them.”
“Pillar 2 is slightly different; this focuses on new partners who want to license our technology. It requires us to tell our story to a global audience in a way that resonates, and then using our London based director, former FTSE CEO and Chair, James Drummond as a ‘continuity anchor’. James will be able to have face to face meetings and form a tactile relationship with potential licensees while the team have technical interactions and engagement.”
“Pillar 3 is about taking our lessons from the first two pillars and quickly building it into a new model. This is a new world that integrates technological engagement with having some sort of physical interaction and presence. “
“If there is one certainty from Covid-19, it is that our world is going to be uncertain for a long time yet. It is imperative that businesses focus with urgency on what they need to do to be agile, and how they are going to work with their customers within the constraints of the new environment.
“From this adversity will emerge innovation and opportunity, and those companies that can adapt at speed will be in the driving seat to be successful,” says Andy Coster.