Leaders Scaling Up Like You: Adapting and Excelling during Covid-19

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In ‘Leaders Scaling Up Like You’, we interview some of our rapidly scaling executives on how they are leading their fast-growing companies. Each featured leader is committed to two success imperatives; igniting a company that makes the world a better place while simultaneously developing themselves as a leader. This quarter’s edition is with CEO Shenandoah Davis of Adventure Nannies.

Key Takeaways: 

  1. When facing a crisis, turn to your team for the answers 
  2. Rapidly adapt to the environment, experiment (Covid-19 in this case), and trust it will bring innovation 
  3. Coaching is a significant contributing factor to pivoting and rapidly scaling up a business


Leading a Nanny Agency During COVID-19

Ms. Davis and Adventure Nannies faced a uniquely difficult time this year managing the direct impact of COVID-19 on their business. However, like any wise and innovative entrepreneur, Ms. Davis ideated with her founder and leadership team to find a new business model that they could not only pivot to but that they could leverage into a rapidly scaling company that is doing better now than ever.

Shenandoah has been leading Adventure Nannies since 2016. Adventure Nannies is a full-service nationwide nanny agency that initially focused on matching top nannies, educators, & household employees, to active and traveling families on adventures around the world. For obvious reasons, their initial business model was hit HARD by the current pandemic. Instantly travel shut down and the demand for traveling nannies started to decline. We asked Ms. Davis what it was like to lead a company impacted with COVID, and how she went about landing on Adventure Nannies’ new business model. 

“In March when COVID hit, I was in Germany and was instantly faced with the realization that I may have difficulty getting back into the US. I became aware that the next few weeks would determine whether or not I was going to be firing my staff of 10 over Zoom. 

Our high-touch business went from 30 clients to 4 overnight. We immediately gave families the option to put their searches on hold. We suspended commissions temporarily and quickly shifted our focus to offering private educators under the assumption that many families would be seeking private educators for the rest of the school year and the upcoming academic year. We were able to devote our staff's extra time preparing new resources to share with families who were considering this option. 

While we had been offering private educator searches for 5 years, it was a small percentage (less than 5%) of our annual revenue, but our assumption was on target and in 2020, this part of the business grew to over 30% of our revenue.” 

Due to the company’s ability to pivot and scale in just nine short months, Adventure Nannies has expanded its team from 10 to 13 and expanded local searches into Colorado and Washington. They’ve increased their revenues by over 30 percent, with a customer base of 140 families in 2019 to now over 300 clients in close of 2020. 

 Davis attributes her recent success to three key factors:

1. Turn to the Team to Solve Problems

Trust and empower the team to boldly forge ahead on new ideas regarding the necessary business model that will help solve a crisis. Have the game plan fully mapped, and give the team the ability to experiment in the midst of the ever-changing landscape.

       2. Customer Relationship

Be gracious in providing resources and support to your customers, even those who you think may not convert into clients. Go the extra mile to your tried and true clients and to those clients on the verge of conversion.

3. Being Transparent

Give employees job security and maintain their positions while at the same time provide them transparency surrounding the financial impact on business. Turn to them to resolve financial shortcomings, don’t ‘go it alone. 


Ms. Davis with Founder Brandy Schultz and her son and nephew

Developing Herself As a Leader

When Ms. Davis was hired in 2016 she was hired as the COO. Now she’s running the company as CEO. Transitioning from being part of a team to leading the company required her to develop her personal leadership style. It also demanded she spend less time on daily execution of tasks, and more time developing strategic thinking capabilities, delegation abilities, and coaching skills that supported the effectiveness of others on her team. Ms. Davis said, “In the early days of Adventure Nannies, I knew how to do every task in the company but now, as a result of coaching, I've been able to take a step back from my business and develop more of a coaching mindset with my team to empower them. Many of my work calls' now are coaching conversations with my leadership team and assisting them in having coaching conversations with the employees they manage; and that works better for everyone.

“From the moment I began working at Adventure Nannies, I immediately felt in-over my head, but the agency couldn’t afford another expense at this stage. After spending a few years in the nanny agency industry it felt like we had learned as much about the domestic staffing world as we could from our peers and wanted to expand from running a successful agency to running a successful business. That’s when I realized that executive coaching would help us reach that step. That’s when I decided to hire an executive coach.

My relationship with executive coaching is now such an inherent part of my decision-making process that I can't imagine living without it. Coaching has made it so much easier for me to take on big growth projects at Adventure Nannies. I have had the opportunity to bounce ideas off of, and discuss potential pitfalls with, my coach.” 



Doing Good, Having Fun, and Prospering

In addition to saving Adventure Nannies from extinction and developing herself as a CEO, Ms. Davis is doing additional good in the world through the Nanny Relief Fund. In April 2020, Ms. Davis was part of a team that founded the Nanny Relief Fund to provide financial benefits to the many nannies across the country who have been impacted by COVID-19. It is estimated that over 95% of nannies working in the US are not paid legally by the families who employ them. Because of this, many have not been eligible to receive unemployment, stimulus checks, or other sources of aid. Anybody who is interested in helping and learning more can visit their website.

For Families who are interested in Adventure Nannies or are looking for a nanny private educator, or newborn care specialist, please reach out to Adventure Nannies through their website or by filling out their Family Contact Form.

Thank you Ms. Davis for doing good, having fun, and prospering!


More Leadership Development Resources

In our extra, Ms. Davis explains in detail how the challenges Adventure Nannies faced made them excel as a company. Read her full interview here

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