CEO Blog: What the past year has taught me
By Rémi Racine
It has now been a year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, triggering the lockdown that continues to affect millions around the world.
It is a milestone marked above all by shock at the millions of lives lost to COVID-19 and the countless who have suffered physically and mentally over the past 12 months. At the same time, it is a moment to marvel at the incredible feat of science that brought us not just one but several life-saving vaccines to fight the virus in less than a year. It’s with mixed feelings like these that I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of the past year – for our communities, for Behaviour and the video game industry more broadly.
A time for heroes
In terms our communities, the pandemic brought into clear relief the importance of our essential workers, from bus drivers and grocery store clerks to the courageous women and men who staff our hospitals, my daughter among them. When push comes to shove, this is the unassuming minority the majority depends on to get it through. I can only hope that the popular support and respect they so justly deserved remains top of mind and doesn’t fade as the threat of COVID-19 recedes.
A wake-up call
The past year also brought into sharp focus both the shortcomings of the institutions whose job it is to plan for and safeguard our societies against pandemics and the beleaguered state of our healthcare and education systems. Across the board we weren’t ready – and we should have been. The upside of this is the fact our communities are now fully awake to the great and dire needs of our health-care system and our schools. There can be no turning away from them now.
Sharing our good fortune
The experience of Behaviour and the video game industry more broadly over the past year is one of the rare good news stories to come out of the pandemic. The industry has proven to be resilient to recession and even managed growth over the past year. It’s an accomplishment one hesitates to herald, but it feels good to know our games have been a source of comfort, community and fun for millions during what has been an otherwise stressful, scary time.
As a company that is deeply proud of its human approach to business, using Behaviour’s good fortune to take care of our colleagues and to help hospitals and community organizations in our hometown of Montreal took on a new, primordial importance.
As CEO, it was my job to reassure our teams and ensure we stayed true to our values. I introduced a weekly email to check in with everyone at home and reassure them that they weren’t alone, that they had support and we were all in this together. I also ramped up my tradition of hosting regular breakfasts with staff, the only difference being they took place online rather than over a home-cooked meal in our beloved bEstro. At the community level, Behaviour provided urgent funding to food banks and several charities whose sources of funding had been decimated by the pandemic. We also provided financial support for programs and COVID-19 research at several Montreal hospitals.
One of the brightest spots for me in the past year was the operation we put in place to hand-deliver our staff Christmas gift to everyone working from home. I jumped at the opportunity to take part and enjoy some rare in-person contact with those on our delivery route. It was a wonderful experience that captured both the spirit of the season and the essence of Behaviour, and it’s one I’ll never forget.
Two key lessons
Looking back over the past 12 months there are a couple of key lessons that stand out.
One is that working from home actually works. If I’m honest, I never would have believed this if the pandemic hadn’t forced it on us. I’m a social creature and the office has always been my happy place. The creative energy that is the lifeblood of Behaviour is palpable there and it energizes me to speak with staff and see our teams in action on the daily. Prior to the pandemic, to say I didn’t believe in working from home, that I felt it was inherently unproductive, would be an understatement. The past 12 months, however, have proven me wrong, and dramatically so. The performance and professionalism of our teams despite the circumstances have convinced me that we can be just as effective at home. Even when it is deemed safe for our entire workforce to return to the office, working from home will remain a permanent option at Behaviour.
The other key lesson is that companies survive based on the strength of their teams. Even in a shock-resistant industry like ours, success depends on a formidable team and that is precisely what we have here at Behaviour. As CEO, my strength is meeting people in their office, in their boardroom. With boardrooms currently off-limits, I’m stuck behind a camera and much less helpful than I was. With my role reduced, I rely more on my team than ever before, and they have delivered unprecedented results.