There’s a plethora of mediums you can search for content, from infographics and articles to videos and podcasts. Craig Hewitt, founder and CEO of Castos podcast hosting and analytics service, is quite familiar with the latter.
“We’re a software business that helps people in a remote fashion to communicate through podcasting. For a long time, and even to a decent extent now, I didn’t think about coronavirus,” explains Craig. “We’re one of the few people that have been positively affected by this.”
Staying Together, Even When Apart
Craig and his team have been a fully remote work tribe since business began, so they’re no strangers to working from home. However, that’s not to say that recent stress hasn’t flipped their normal schedules upside-down.
“We have one-on-ones for 30 minutes, each person every week, and a lot of times we don’t talk about any business. All they say is, ‘This is really great to be able to talk to somebody that knows my life and doesn’t judge me,’” Craig shares.
“Really anybody can build the software we built, and anybody can do the marketing we do, but the people behind the business is what makes it. If they’re not happy and content with life, then we have huge problems.
So my focus really is not running out of money, which is not an issue fortunately, but keeping our team happy and growing our team. I feel like that’s always my job, but just more so now.”
Embracing Empathy and Open Communication
Emotional intelligence is an essential quality every great leader should share. The ability to understand what your team is going through personally — and how that may affect them professionally — has been a talking point of many leaders guiding teams through the pandemic.
“We’re all home (more) and we’re all maybe working more, but working less effectively. And so acknowledging that and saying, ‘If you only have two good hours a day of work, let’s make sure we tackle the most important thing first,” explains Craig. “I try to give the team the personal power to say, ‘I did my most important thing, if I emotionally can’t handle it today, or I just don’t have the time because I’m home-schooling my kids, or I’m just in a shitty mood,’ then you can just put it down and walk away knowing that if you did that one thing for the day your job is done.”
The founder and CEO also does his part to remain cognizant of the risk of team members’ burning out.
“We try to be pretty efficient with our meetings, start on time, and get right to it, but now there’s a lot of time to just, ‘How are you doing? How is everyone feeling? Do you need time off? Do you need to just bug out for a while?’” Craig shares. “Maybe it’s 75% chit-chat and 25% catch up on stuff. But we have team calls during the week too, so most of our ‘doing work stuff’ happens in those meetings.”
Speaking of “work stuff,” how has business been affected with the majority of podcast creators and listeners working remotely?
Riding the Curve of Consumer Behavior
“Podcasting in general is more active now than ever, and we’ve been fortunate to kind of just be in the right place at the right time in that respect,” Craig admits. “We’re seeing a lot more people coming in and starting podcasts, and people that are already our customers starting second and third podcasts.”
Yet with the changes COVID has brought about, not all podcasters can keep up with their normal scheduling. So, Craig and his team have rolled out new offers that allow users to put their podcasts on hold and keep their accounts live for a small monthly fee.
“Those are the folks that are financially impacted by this the most, of which there’s a lot. We were happy to be able to do that to help them out, to keep their podcast alive, because there’s this huge back catalog of content for a lot of people that they don’t want to see go away. And for us, that’s the least we can do,” he explains.
In addition to existing customers, Craig and the team have been ramping up efforts to educate prospective customers.
“We have done quite a bit with YouTube. It’s mostly educational walk-throughs, ‘this is how you do the thing that you’re wanting to do,’ kind of tutorials. [New customers] come in and say, ‘I want to start a podcast but what the hell is an RSS feed?’ In a video I can take five minutes to explain what an RSS feed is, and all the pieces of it, and what it looks like, and why you need it, and all that kind of stuff,” the CEO shares. “People are not willing to read that blog post, right? But they would listen to that part of a video a lot more often.”
Looking to the Future as a Team
As fortunate as Craig may feel given the positive growth in his space, the current status of the economy has not been lost on him or his team.
“I’ve seen a lot of my friends in the industry get affected really significantly, and it’s not their fault,” Craig said. “They don’t have bad businesses, or they weren’t mismanaging their businesses or anything. So even though we’ve been, again, positively affected by the shift in the market and people’s behaviors, it does kind of put me on edge to say, ‘The house could fall tomorrow.’”
Knowing that business can accelerate or be brought to a screeching halt at any moment is intimidating to say the least, but the Castos founder is remaining motivated.
“Finding ways for us to become an asset rather than a liability on the mental balance sheet of our customers is something that we’ve been thinking about a lot,” Craig reveals. “Understanding where we are on the risk spectrum from a couple different perspectives, and doing everything we can from a cash-flow management … perspective to stay on the right side of that risk is definitely something I’ve thought about a lot.”
For now, Craig and his tribe will remain tuned into their customers needs, confident empathy and adaptability will work in their favor.
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