The New Normal – A Day with Midven’s Investment Director, Gio.
Earlier this year, we talked to Giovanni Finocchio, MEIF Investment Director at Midven about what a day at Midven looked like. Needless to say, things look very different now in the present situation. As the lockdown eases on the 4th of July, the nation has to continue learning what the new normal looks like. Gio, talks about finding cadence in the new normal, what working with new portfolio companies looks like in a follow up to his post earlier this year.
Since the start of lockdown, what does your regular day currently look like?
A number of things have changed For example, I now get an extra hour in bed! I guess that’s an advantage of not commuting daily. Breakfast is no longer at the desk, but at the kitchen table before I make my way to my home office to get on with my day.
At the start of lockdown, nobody knew what to expect and the job entailed focussing on the existing portfolio companies to ensure they were preparing their business for the worst (i.e. no sales and dwindling cash balances). My colleagues and I needed to make sure that our companies were conserving funds, talking to their customers and their staff – the latter, to make sure people could work safely.
We quickly got to understand what the implications were for our portfolio businesses – for some companies, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. A number of our companies and their customers realised that business must continue, and in this tech enabled world, most of their people could work remotely. For many, the issue continues to be ‘winning new business’.
While we are seeing some green shoots – there is some sense of weariness, apprehension but it’s not all doom and gloom. A lot of our companies are seeing an increase in their turnover again, they’re seeing new opportunities as lockdown eases and things start up again.
How do you manage work-life balance as you work from home?
It is important to take regular breaks. Unlike, at the office which is open plan, there are no colleagues to talk to, just the rest of the family working from different rooms. Lunch time is now different, and I’m getting to be a dab hand at crafting my own sandwich. Although, in true Italian style, I should be preparing pasta at lunchtime!
The good thing of late is that the golf courses are open! With no commute, I can now play golf some evenings – I really should be getting better at the game!
How has working from home impacted your role and how you work with your team?
To start with, you can’t just look up from your desk to speak with your colleagues – you need to make an effort to make a call or set up a video meeting. Our roles required us to attend networking events and this has stopped for the time being. I have found that I’ve spent more time on the telephone or video with my contact base – what did we do before video!
I think working from home has its merits, but my role also relies on getting out and meeting people.
As a team, we’re finding working remotely can work well, it requires regular communication. We talk about 3 to 4 times a day especially when we are working on a deal. Since lockdown, I’ve had three deals go all the way through our investment process and they’re now at final stages of completion! Ultimately, it’s a team effort, with everyone doing their bit. I guess it helps that we’ve all worked together for some time!
How have portfolio companies taken to Midven’s work-from-home policy?
As we are in regular contact, they haven’t really noticed apart from not being able to meet face-to-face. For all intents and purposes, we are here, we are answering phone/video calls and emails etc. Board meetings still go on and the monthly online meetings are more succinct.
The thing is, lockdown has taken a little of the social element away, exchanging pleasantries on a call or video conference isn’t quite the same! That said, we still carry on and discover new ways to be social.
Has anything changed in terms of how you deal with new, potential portfolio companies?
The main thing is that we are not meeting the teams of companies that we like, face-to face.
Therefore, my advice to prospective investee companies is to produce better business plans, so that an investor will want to jump on a video call to find out more.
Once on the call, they have to be more succinct and get the benefits of their business across. In a face to face environment, the meetings tend to flow better. On video, meetings tend to be more direct and you stick to a slightly more clinical question and answer routine.
I also think, on video it is more difficult to see how the teams interact with each other; you don’t see the dynamics as much. Investors like to see how the individuals gel as a team, it is one of the ingredients to the success of the business.
What is your advice to companies on conducting meetings with investors in the new normal?
I think they need to ensure they communicate their business model better. With many early-stage businesses, it’s not always clear how they are going to generate revenues. For them, it’s still all about the tech. Whereas for an investor, we want to know if they’re operating in a big market place. Who is going to buy their products/services? How often are they going to buy, and at what price?
Is there anything that business owners should consider during this time?
They should consider the impact COVID-19 on their current business. How stable is their customer base and are their potential customers still buying? The companies will have had a growth plan, but that growth plan will have been interrupted, investors want to know what do they expect to happen now?
In the last blog, we talked about socialising. How do you socialise during this time?
Yes, at Midven we do like to socialise; unfortunately, that cannot happen face to face for the time being, so we have to rely on virtual meetups.
On the business front, the Midland Engine (MEIF) team holds weekly updates; for those of us who are working on a specific opportunity together, we’re in constant touch. On Fridays, we try to get as many staff as possible on a video call, it’s an opportunity to have a non-work related chat and wind down over a drink.
As for work life balance, as mentioned I like to get on the golf course a couple of times a week, particularly during the light nights and fine weather. Otherwise, I try to end my working day with a short walk.