“One of the toughest transformations to take on is when the business is growing and performing well, and there’s no immediate reason to embark on a big change.”
Virox Technologies is a disruptive chemical engineering and disinfectant innovator. In 1998 with Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide®, they effectively created a new product category that has been an industry leader since.
Throughout COVID, the business was thriving. Nonetheless, Randy and his team decided to take on the development of a completely new product line, one that, when successful, would run the risk of cannibalizing their own core business.
It’s the ultimate level of transformation, but as Randy shares with me here, the journey was worth it because he believed that looking long-term would ultimately tee them up for an even stronger market and growth position in the years ahead.” Here, I share highlights from a recent conversation with Randy about how he successfully led his team through their transformation journey.
Michael: “Thanks for joining me, Randy, and let’s start with your ‘why.’ It would have been easy for Virox to stay on course and continue as a successful business that had seen record sales and growth coming out of the pandemic.
Tell us about the inspiration and impetus behind the decision to develop this new product line.”
Randy: “The decision came out of our strategic planning process called ‘We’d Be Screwed If.’ It’s a worst-case scenario discussion that includes everyone in the company. Six years ago, we realized that once our patents expire, if a competitor releases a similar product to ours and undercuts the price, it could seriously damage our business.
Sure, it might take a few years to get the formulation and have it registered, but eventually, it would happen. We calculated that we had approximately 20 years of a first mover advantage and brand recognition, and that would be it.
Instead of waiting for that to happen, we decided to reinvent and disrupt ourselves first. The team was then challenged to develop the next generation formula that became our product line.”
Michael: “Can you tell me about the people side of the transformation? What you described is the most extreme form of reinvention – and generally, people don’t like that level of change. How did you and your team navigate this?”
“Our goal was to engage the team at a level where they felt like they fully owned it. We wanted them to see their actions and ideas integrated into the process, so they felt ownership of the transformation.”
Randy: “From the beginning, we knew keeping our people informed was critical to achieve our goals. We ensured they were involved throughout the process.
Our goal was to engage the team at a level where they felt like they fully owned it. We wanted them to see their actions and ideas integrated into the process, so they felt ownership of the transformation.
We involved younger team members, through our Future Leadership Team (FLT), by giving them critical projects around the go-to-market strategy. FLT members have the front-line insight and expertise to recognize new demand areas and potential problems. This helped get the next generation of our talent even more committed with a greater sense of ownership around the product.
As a result, the initiative created transformation champions across the organization.”
Michael: “How did you keep such a large team engaged while navigating so much ongoing change? After all, transformation at this level is a significant multi-year effort and keeping the team onside can be challenging.
Randy: “Yes, it can be challenging. However, our success stemmed from a core part of our culture: transparency.
For the past 2 decades, I have sent a weekly company-wide update, authored by my leadership team and myself. The idea is that if you read it, you will understand everything going on at the company in all functions of the business. We do this to foster discussion about how we can constantly improve and evolve by highlighting the achievements but also the challenges.
We leveraged the weekly company-wide update as a vehicle for communicating the transformation. Transformation is a constant and iterative process. So, it was important to share all milestones: from new business cards to the go-to-market plan to website mockups.
Ongoing conversations make us better, and keeping the team informed and engaged during every step of the transformation process is a core part of who we are.
Michael: “We got to know the Virox team – and in fact, had the privilege of working alongside them. And I have to say, it is an amazing leadership team that rises to the occasion with every challenge you throw at them. So, I’m curious, why bring in an outside team to help when you have that internal bench strength?”
Randy: “We engaged Level5 because I wanted the internal team, especially our pipeline of upcoming talent, to learn the processes and tools that would elevate their capabilities.
Working with Level5 allowed my team to upskill themselves which led to refinement of our internal methodology. They also helped include people from all facets of the organization. For instance, Level5 included our scientists in the transformation strategy and process which is not easy to do internally because it is seen as outside of their purview. The third party helps to legitimize and validate the whole journey.”
“Working with Level5 allowed my team to upskill themselves which led to refinement of our internal methodology. They also helped include people from all facets of the organization.”
Michael: “You’ve shared your thoughts about transformation and disruption, the importance of bringing people along for the ride, transparency, communications, and the power of third-party partners. Any other final advice on the transformation you’d like to share?”
Randy: “It is crucial to have the team understand the ‘why’ behind the transformation. This goes beyond capabilities and mechanisms to the driving business reason that we can’t just sit on our laurels. Transformation is a lot of work, and often it is extra work on top of what your team is already doing. The key to success is to demonstrate the importance of undertaking the initiative.