When news broke that Windsor Circle, one of the Triangle’s best-known emerging entrepreneurial companies, had laid off nearly half its staff, CEO and co-founder Matt Williamson didn’t duck media questions. “Buck stops with me,” he says.
“I made the call. Strategic decisions unfortunately don’t happen in a vacuum though so it impacted people that I was very fond of. I’d hire every single one of those people again in a heartbeat. Hardworking, committed and smart. “
But there were more than layoffs. Some senior staff, for example, are consultants now rather than full-time. However, Williamson insists that the culture of the company – something in which he takes great pride – has not suffered as part of the job action.
(Note: The Skinny paid a visit to employer rating site Glass Door to see how Windsor Circle scored: A 4.7 on a 5-point scale with 87 percent of employees surveyed saying they would recommend working at the company to a friend. And Williamson scores “100%” as a CEO.)
Williamson also says Windsor Circle was NOT experiencing a decline in revenue. Plus, the $1 million in new capital he raised after the layoffs were made are for underwriting the costs of the pivot, not to pay for any expenses related to the layoffs. (More coverage: Inside the pivot decision: Why the change? Why the layoffs?)
Windsor Circle, which provides data services and analysis designed to improve e-commerce performance by customers, is redirecting its attention to larger customers, explained Williamson. That in turn requires a smaller team, thus the cuts.
But since the layoffs were made last month, Williamson says almost all the affected employees have already found new jobs and the restructured company is “pumped up” to pursue the pivot in a new direction.
“Our investors liked our plan to go upmarket and the way I configured the team to go after that opportunity and as such they put their money where their mouths are,” he adds.
Advise from mentors
One of his board members, Scot Wingo, went through a similar pivot and reboot at his ecommerce firm, ChannelAdvisor. That company also made the decision to move “upmarket,” as Williamson says, resulting in many changes.
“Yes, similar,” Williamson says when asked about Wingo and ChannelAdvisor.
“I very actively seek advise from mentors and yes, we were all seeing similar indicators that we should move upmarket.”
Interestingly, Williamson says the company was “still growing” when the decision was made to shrink staff and refocus. But he acknowledges there were warning signs changes needed to be made.
“Nope. We’re still growing,” he replies when asked about revenue losses.
“I just want to grow in a different direction on the back of our upmarket success (higher client ROI and satisfaction, more stickiness, bigger contract sizes). All the indicators are there. It’s going to take a few quarters to prove that strategy out but we’re pumped and running hard.”
Williamson also points out that the pivot and layoffs “all happened almost a month ago so this is water under the bridge and we’re fired up to prove out our next mission! We’re pumped up and running forward on our strategy of focusing on the enterprise.
“Reconfiguration happens sometimes and while it’s hard because you deeply care about the people involved, you set strategies and execute on them based on what’s best at creating value.”
The Windsor Circle mission vs. its own status
The company’s own website asks some of the questions that Williamson and the board mulled in debating its future.
“Are You Growing a Sustainable eCommerce Business?,” Windsor Circle asks.
“The answer may surprise you. More customers than ever are demanding a personalized, one-to-one experience with their favorite retailers; however, many retailers are more concerned with that single first conversion, instead of taking the necessary steps to grow a more profitable customer relationship. Windsor Circle is a Predictive Lifecycle and Retention Marketing platform. We help retailers grow customer lifetime value and increase customer retention. We power predictive, personalized, and automated marketing programs through the entire lifecycle, including browse abandonment, cart recovery, post-purchase, product replenishment, loyalty, and win-back campaigns using a retailer’s existing marketing software.”
The answers to the internal questions at Windsor Circle led to changes beyond layoffs.
“All of our team members are still actively contributing but some are now in consulting roles,” Williamson says when asked if any senior executives were let go. “You have to right size the management team to the staff so that you’re not top heavy.” No names are disclosed.
As for future hiring, Williamson says: “We have asked many team members to adapt into new roles and we’ll run for a quarter or two to prove our strategy. If we hit like we think we will, then yes we’ll hire again.”
Culture intact, he says
Making layoffs, especially at such a huge scale, can be a devastating experience not only for individuals and families affected but for morale among those who keep their jobs. Yet Williamson insists Windsor Circle’s remaining team is focused on what’s ahead, not behind, and that corporate culture remains intact.
“I’d question the idea that the trust and culture needs rebuilding,” he replies when asked: How are you going to rebuild your corporate trust/culture with remaining employees?
“It’s precisely our trust and culture that allowed this amazing team of professionals to digest a hard change and then charge up the hill.
“We’ve been told that the way we handled it reinforced the kind of people we are and the culture we already have (openly sharing the data and the plan, 100% of the management team present and helping on the day of the restructuring, the push to get resumes out to over 40 CEOs immediately).
“Culture and trust are bedrock concepts. They are what allowed us to push through and I am thankful every day for such committed, caring people.”
Williamson and management immediately set out to help laid-off workers find jobs.
“Most of them” have already landed new positions, he says.
“Within 36-48 hours of sharing with our team the hard decision, we’d sent their resumes in the form of a resume book to over 40 CEOs in the area via our networks.
“Our people come first and we hustled to get them in front of peer companies’ executives. One employee reported having 17 inquiries in less than a week.”