CEO's COVID-19 diary: 'There couldn't be worse time to get sick'
Saturday 21st/Sunday 22nd March
I don’t want to believe it, but I started to develop a fever on Saturday evening. Overnight I am unable to sleep and on Sunday I wake up feeling dreadful. I make it to the sofa and sleep again, with zero energy. I’m very fatigued with a high temperature but not the tell-tale sign of a cough yet.
I hope it isn’t coronavirus but the tell-tale signs are there. There couldn’t be a worse time to get sick. Tomorrow is the start of our second week of working from home and we are in full pivot mode, having to move one of our major SaaS conferences to a remote-only format in time for June. This will be the week we announce it to the public so all the finer details need to be finalised.
Then again, there never is a good time to get ill.
I wake up feeling terrible again. There is no question – I have COVID-19. I cancel all my one-to-ones and other meetings. I tell various members of my team to action whatever needs actioning without my approval. It makes me appreciate that I really do trust my team to know what they should be doing. Rest and recuperation is the most important thing for me today. Towards the end of the day I develop the dry cough that we keep hearing about.
I feel slightly better, though I have read that symptoms of CV can get better then worse again. I slept badly though. In my mind is what a big week we have, preparing for tomorrow’s announcement of SaaStock Remote. Today is supposed to be the start of our two-day quarterly offsite meeting, which was supposed to be in the Park Plaza in Westminster but for obvious reasons has been moved to Zoom and Miro, like every meeting we’ll have for at least three weeks.
I want to join but decide to stay in bed. I'm able to respond to emails so I let the team know I'm there if they have questions. But a 45-minute call with the bank at 11am leaves me exhausted and I have to go back to bed for one and a half hours.
I’m able to join the leadership team get-together on Zoom on day two of our quarterly offsite. SaaStock Remote is announced to our mailing list and goes up on the website at 9am. Suddenly I’m feeling very positive.
I tell the leadership team to close Slack and ignore emails so that they can focus on the day ahead.
We use the time to discuss our business’ purpose and core values. We work in teams using Miro, a platform which helps teams jointly brainstorm with virtual sticky notes. Someone discovers Zoom’s breakout rooms so we use this too. We analyse strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, of which COVID-19 is front and centre. We take breaks every hour. By the end of the day, everyone on the team knows what they will be focusing on for the next 90 days. All efforts are on organising our remote conference, which is new to all of us.
The team tell me how grateful they are for the offsite and report feeling inspired. In these challenging times it’s amazing how a glimmer of positivity can change your mood.
I’m feeling even better, but still tired. The 23 team members who weren’t at the meeting joined a full-company meeting on Zoom. We update them on the previous day’s decisions.
We go through priorities for the next 90 days, broken down by department. Then we go into huddles to discuss what this looks like over 30 days. We input our goals and actions into a web app called Align, which lets you set priorities and tasks. It dawns on me that we’ve never been this prepared for a quarter, ever!
I’m starting to feel healthy again and my mind is clearer. I’ve got two podcast recordings – the first of which I’m the guest, the second of which I’m the interviewer. The former is with Tech.eu, to talk about the launch of the remote-only conference, and we do it on Squadcast. The latter is my own – The SaaS Revolution Show – and I speak to Andy Byrne, CEO of Clari over Zoom. Andy is using the virtual background of a boardroom.
Next up is to check the new deck on Keynote to go to potential new partnerships for the remote conference. It's ready to go and transferred onto Docsend. The team moved fast!
We end the week with our weekly ‘virtual happy hour’ at 5pm. I’m not feeling up to it but this is one week where we certainly need to cement the team bond so I show up with a non-alcoholic drink.
It is Sunday before I feel back to full health again and I reflect on how grateful I am that this virus only struck me mildly and I was still able to lead my business, and not add to the strain on our brave health service staff. Footage from UK hospitals is haunting and my experience shouldn’t make any of us complacent.
No matter how big your responsibilities, this virus can strike down any of us. Keep everything remote for as long as you can.