Data Gurus


Key Takeaways of the Impact of Covid-19 on Middle Market Firms with Nicole Schmidt and Chuck Mitchell | Ep. 110

Nicole Schmidt and Chuck Mitchell are joining Sima today as panelists for a webinar on the impact of Covid 19 on middle-market firms.

People have been impacted by Covid 19 all over the world. The purpose of this webinar is to provide context, perspective, and some key takeaways for executives to consider as they plan for the future beyond 2020.

About Sima 

Sima Vasa is a Senior Advisor at Oberon Securities. She has over ten years of entrepreneurial experience, operator experience, running a business unit of 45 million dollars for one of the largest market research firms, and also as an executive at IBM. Currently, she has an advisory services firm called Infinity Squared Ventures.

About Nicole

Nicole Schmidt is the managing partner and co-founder of Oberon Securities. She is a member of Oberon’s management team, and she brings more than 22 years of entrepreneurial experience and leadership to the firm. She spearheads Oberon’s consumer and retail group and is actively involved in the firm’s TMT practice. Before co-founding Oberon in 2001, Nicole was a partner at a software incubator. She also spent eight years as a senior equity analyst on both the buy-side and sell-side, covering a range of technologies.

About Chuck

Chuck Mitchell is the executive director at The Conference Board. Since he joined The Conference Board in 1997, as the head of publishing, he has authored dozens of reports on business and economic issues. They include the most recent, Beyond Technology, Building a New Organizational Culture to Succeed in an Era of Digital Transformation and Inclusion Plus Innovation, Leveraging Diversity of Thought to Generate Business Growth. Chuck also co-authors The Conference Board’s annual CEO Challenge Report. He recently completed a two-and-a-half-year assignment, Asian Pacific, based in Hong Kong.

Transforming organizations into digitally-driven enterprises

C-level executives see an opportunity to transform their organizations into digitally-driven enterprises that will make them leaner and more agile.

Being digitally driven

The mandate of being digitally driven requires the acquisition of new skills and investment. Chuck points out that the trend was already underway pre Covid, and Covid has accelerated the movement towards it. It requires a thoughtful and strategic plan to avoid sacrificing the long term for the short-term.

Collaboration through technology

Nicole points out that today, people are no longer centralized, so they have to collaborate through technology. A lot of companies currently think that the physical space might not be quite as important as they historically thought.

A cultural challenge

The challenge in the Covid era is about cultural transformation within organizations. And operating remotely compounds the difficulty of transforming that culture internally.

The function level in digitally transformed organizations

Artificial intelligence and robotic processes will start to replace routine tasks, so the function will be impacted by changing the jobs people do and how they interact with technology. Things are likely to become smaller and leaner to cut costs.

Business travel

Business travel is unlikely to come back as robust as it was pre-Covid.

Cost-cutting strategies

Travel and marketing budgets are getting cut. And another cost-cutting strategy, according to the CEOs who responded to Chuck’s survey, is a movement towards a more contingent and flexible workforce, or fewer full-timers.

Manufacturing abroad

More C-suite executives appear to be re-evaluating whether their manufacturing should be abroad, particularly of products that are critical for consumers, like pharmaceuticals and auto supplies.

Empowering workers

Chuck sees that empowering workers is going to be one of the changes in the workplace going forward.

Changes in leadership style

Leaders have to adjust and find ways of leading in the new and unproven territory. They also need to be empathetic, help their employees to become more resilient, and check-in with their remote staff, rather than checking on them.

Major consumer trends that will stick 

By making things very easy for consumers and catering to everybody’s desires, online stores like Amazon have created a perfect backdrop for accelerating their market penetration. Companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime have also accelerated.

Mom and pop retail stores

Nicole sees a re-emergence of smaller, mom and pop-type retail stores in the longer term.

Consumer expectation is raising the online bar 

The online bar is becoming much higher now because consumers can compare the digital experience they are getting from small firms with the very best digital experience they have had online.

Corporations adopting a new philosophy

More corporations seem to want to be authentic and purpose-driven and represent a higher purpose than they did before.

New types of industries

That could give rise to new types of industries, like ones that are cleaning up the environment and replacing the fossil fuel industry. And we are also likely to see more green companies coming into existence and more greening of existing companies.


Millennials have indicated that they want to connect with brands and companies. And that moves companies in the direction of embracing a more ethical code on the business side.

Social safety nets and public health issues

Societies will invest more in social safety nets and pay more attention to public health issues.

Social issues

A lot of Chuck’s research points to the rising expectations of customers, consumers, and employees for organizations to take a stand on social issues and become agents for social change.  

How recovery will look 

With the possible exception of China and Japan, the virus is likely to dictate the speed of the recovery. Depending on the way that the virus is managed, we are looking to 2021 and beyond for any kind of return to meaningful growth.


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Sima is passionate about data and loves to share, learn, and help others that share that passion. If you love data as much as she does, subscribe on iTunes, and don’t forget to leave a rating and review!