Lockdown in a Corporate Transformation Consultancy with Nils Schmeling

The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Daniele Busato

The Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview recorded in June 2020, Julia Skupchenko meets Nils Schmeling, the managing partner at NECXT, an international boutique consultancy based in the Netherlands. He shares how COVID 19 has affected his business. Before the lockdown, Nils and his team of seasoned experts prepared inspirational tours across the world for corporate leaders to give them “aha” moments or “mind clicks” which are essential to bringing the cultural change into their companies. With the lockdown, it became practically impossible. Just like their clients, they felt a sense of urgency to make the change. Within two weeks there was the first virtual inspiration tour. Nils shares that it helped him that his clients did not want to stand still and wanted to go on with the transformation to remain ahead of the competition.

Where are you based?

Nils: I am based in the Netherlands, together with the basis of my team. We are a boutique consultancy here, with some people in Shanghai and Zurich as well (but most people are here in the Netherlands).

Tell us more about NECXT.

Nils: NECXT is a consultancy specialized in bringing inspiration into transformation. We focus on helping larger organizations go from point A to B, but what sets us apart is that we believe that leaders and the people around them — if they want to move — they need to feel it by heart and have to be convinced about what is going on. “A-ha!” moments are necessary (we call them “mind clicks”), and we organize these mind clicks, make sure they happen, by bringing inspiration, whether it’s with extremely cool inspirational events, through a thread on the topic of the change you have to make to be ready for the future or by connecting with the best inspirational organizations and experts from around the globe.

How do you usually deliver your service?

Nils: We’ve encountered a big change on that. It’s a trusted business, so we connect with larger organizations and listen very much to what is going on and what kind of transformation they are in. Then we try to find the right way to bring in the transformation and combine it in a way that fits with the organization in question, whether it’s a philanthropic or commercial organization. We co-create, it’s never like “Ok here is your solution, onto the next one”, because we believe that you need two to tango to actually get something done. It’s a people’s business.

How was it going before the lockdown?

Nils: Before the lockdown, we were travelling all over the world every week to visit organizations and understand the transformations, see at what point we are and how we want to move from there.

How did the lockdown affect you and your team?

Nils: It affected us very much. As we know from experience, we love to do our work in physical presence, stimulating all senses. Suddenly we got locked up, which meant we couldn’t travel anymore: overnight, a bunch of sessions we had scheduled had to be re-planned to virtual sessions. This saved us: by pulling the switch so early in the beginning and re-thinking everything, just ten days later we already had our first virtual tourist; usually these things take months, but we organized ourselves and even discovered new unexpected opportunities.

Did you ever reach out to your clients and see what they thought about this?

Nils: We did reach out to our clients, and many of them had different opinions and reactions. Some froze, expecting that this situation would have gone away soon, others took action, understanding that the world doesn’t stand still and that if they were to stop while competitors tried to move on, they would have lost many clients. We are kind of in a sweet spot because clients spending all of their time now on Zoom for meetings found out that they needed something more to evolve; coincidentally, you bring in the energy required for this by learning from others, so that’s where we come in. I think that we’ll be the winners of tomorrow.

Can you tell us more about the tours?

Nils: The basic idea of the tour is that you understand the challenge of the organization and connect it with knowledge on how experts, leaders and organizations have managed to achieve certain goals. In the physical world, the interconnection between people was very valuable, simply taking the bus or having dinner together. This has changed very much and time for it is now limited. We used to do these tours in 2 to 7 days, but in the new Covid world this is not possible, because they must now be maximum three or four hours. So we’ve lost some positive features, slowly fading away, but we’ve seen also that when people are together in the virtual Breakout Room they are all stumbling upon each other to share their experiences and knowledge, and we find new ways to bring all this together. Yet, I still miss the physical tour world.

Has your competition also adapted to this new world?

Nils: In the combination of things that we do (bring in the inspiration first and then follow it with activation) there are not many that we know about.

What are your plans for the upcoming months?

Nils: Our plans are to bring these learnings to the outside world and to inspire other organizations to evolve and adapt because this situation could last for still a very long time. We invite companies to do what we call “goobing” (Go Out Of the Building) and learn from each other, this is the name of the game. Exploring and sharing skills and expertise are essential to remaining alive as a company.

About the Guest

NECXT is an international boutique consultancy based in the Netherlands that brings inspiration into the transformation of corporate organizations. We focus on organizing inspirational events around change. Inspirational tours are about taking leaders, their peers and colleagues on the journey to other companies that already embraced the change and achieved something astonishing to share their experience and what they learnt. We serve large & global organisations in transforming to future-readiness & innovation. We do inspiration & activation of transformations with the customer at heart. https://necxt.com/

The UN-registered nonprofit social initiative that helps small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.