It’s easy for business leaders to say that people are their most important asset. Unfortunately, these words have no meaning unless the leaders follow their rhetoric.
Over the past few years – in the wake of the Covid pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, runaway inflation and wild stock market fluctuations – even the best-meaning leaders have struggled to do make their people feel highly valued.
For a case study of a company that has prevailed in this fight, it’s hard to top Wix, the Tel Aviv-based website builder whose president and COO Nir Zohar in a September 13 interview told me, “Doing the right thing is good business.”
While all these recent challenges have put business leaders on edge, Zohar – a former lieutenant commander in the Israeli Navy, according to the Washington Post – helped lead an operation to provide security for nearly 1,000 Ukrainian employees shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Relocation of mission-essential employees from Ukraine to Krakow
One such operation struck me as an amazing demonstration of Wix’s commitment to protecting its employees. Wix began preparing to evacuate its employees from Ukraine in early February, but as the invasion escalated, Wix sent 45 mission-essential employees to the Ukrainian border.
Wix rented buses to transport employees from Kyiv to the western border of Ukraine. To move them from there to Krakow in Poland, 30 Wix employees from Lithuania volunteered to get in their car, drive 600 miles to meet these employees at the Polish border and make sure they had “food, blankets, diapers, SIM cards for their phones and payment cards,” before their trip to Krakow, the Post reported.
Once resettled in Krakow, Wix found homes for their families, set up communication channels, arranged to pay them in local currency, and provided them with food and other essentials.
Communicating with stressed employees
Zohar – who along with CEO Avishai Abrahami collaborates to run Wix. While Abrahami focuses on strategy and product, Zohar takes care of the day-to-day management of Wix. Together with the company’s marketing director, they make decisions in their areas of responsibility, but negotiate and/or inform others to obtain the best results and avoid unpleasant surprises.
Zohar’s management challenges have changed dramatically over the past few years. However, communication remained a constant. As he said, “So much communication — emails, show-of-hand video conferences with employees. At the start of the pandemic, business was booming for us. But our people were stressed. They were worried for their health, the health of their families, and the volatility and uncertainty.In addition to getting our people out of Ukraine, one of our employees was killed in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
Zohar offered a simple prescription for business leaders looking to help employees during times of stress. As he said, “There is no magic. Engage in open communication with the entire company. Be honest with employees. Earn their trust. Don’t make them feel like you’re hiding something. .”
Dealing with the slowdown in demand
Many companies that were the darlings of the pandemic – such as Zoom, Netflix, Peloton and Shopify – have seen a dramatic slowdown in demand as the pandemic quarantine has given way to people getting out and doing things – like buy goods and services and collaborate with other people – face to face.
For Wix – whose revenue growth fell from 29% in 2021 to 9% in the last quarter of June 2022 – this slowdown – which caused its stock to fall 79% from its peak in February 2021 – reflects a decline in the growth of the Internet.
As Zohar said, “Wix is facing massive external headwinds. The growth of the internet has accelerated with the spread of Covid. There is now a slowdown in the expansion of the internet. With people who shop in stores and high inflation, an economic downturn causes an internet recession.”
Wix is optimistic about its growth potential. “We are expanding to professionals, designers and agencies, and we are very optimistic. We have a mature business of self-creators — [‘where businesses or individuals use WIX to create websites for themselves,’ according to Seeking Alpha] — and a growing Partners business [– in which ‘web developers use WIX to develop websites for their customers’]“, said Zohar.
In the face of these headwinds, Wix is investing for its future growth. Wix expects revenue to grow 8% in the current quarter and reach 10% for all of 2022. Over the next three years, Wix expects to post 23% annual growth – with its self-creator business down 8% in 2022 while its partner business grows 31% this year and 37% over the next three years, SeekingAlpha noted.
By doing the right thing in times of high stress, Wix is a role model for business leaders everywhere.