Q&A with Tammy Cohen, Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of InfoMart
If you ask Tammy Cohen how she pivoted her background screening company after COVID, she will say she didn’t — it was her team that did. That incredible team effort led to the development of a new COVID management and screening software designed to help companies, schools, and events get back to business — SymTem™.
Earlier this year, Tammy was one of the finalists in the WBENCPitch Pivot tournament. This blog is part of a series highlighting the women entrepreneurs who pivoted their businesses and stepped outside of the box to create or offer products, services, and solutions that fill supply chain gaps during the COVID-19 pandemic. WBENC is proud to tell the stories of these incredible women business owners and showcase their resilience and innovation.
Read our Q&A with Tammy Cohen on how she led her team through a pivot, what she learned about her leadership style in the process, and some excellent advice for fellow female entrepreneurs.
How was your business impacted by COVID-19?
InfoMart is a background screening company, and our business relies on employers hiring. When the hiring halted, so did our daily volume. Fortunately, we have some accounts that provide essential services, and they maintained business as usual. But with a staff of 150, the challenge was daunting—how were we going to continue through this crisis?
I know many feared for the future of their businesses. But I never entertained that InfoMart would not pull through. I knew my team. We were going to make it.
How did you pivot your business to survive and thrive through this crisis?
I didn’t pivot my business. A team of over 30 people pivoted InfoMart. As much as our success is based on our new platform, SymTem™, the story of our pivot is cradled in the dedication, commitment, and long hours of collaboration my team has put in. This wasn’t normal, everyday teamwork; this was the type of camaraderie and support you see only when you know the situation could be dire.
As the Chief Visionary Officer, my job is to look at future trends and develop products and services that will meet the future needs of our clients. We had already been working on a “New World of Work” suite of services. With interviewing and hiring going virtual and the new place of work remote, we began offering new services, like virtual drug testing and remote interview assessments. Unfortunately, everything we were developing was geared around hiring, and employers aren’t hiring. I had to change my focus to how to get InfoMart and my clients back to work, now. That is when I swiveled to the needs of reentry.
One day, watching a webinar on re-entry, it hit me: I am the “Queen of Screen,” and there is no reason I can’t screen for COVID-19. That is what started our amazing journey just eight weeks ago.
As entrepreneurs, we have all experienced situations in which we have to work literally night and day. That weekend is still a blur to me as I created a wireframe to share with my team that following Monday.
When I presented the concept of screening for COVID-19 as a pathway to keeping our working family together and getting our clients back to work, the leadership, management, and tech teams didn’t even question if we should do it. They immediately jumped into action; they readjusted work assignments, changed deadlines, and displayed a good old-fashioned hit-the-ground-and-get-the-job-done attitude.
Even now, I will be working at 3:00 in the morning and see two or three other people on Slack working. Again, our story of success is the undying commitment of our team.
SymTem started out as an app to screen for symptoms and temperatures. It’s a daily, remote solution to keep COVID-19 far from the workplace. However, it morphed into a powerful back-office system that helps employers manage COVID-19 guidance and re-entry.
We launch in two weeks, and we already have over a dozen clients signed up. It has been such an amazing and blessed journey.
What have you learned about yourself and your leadership style throughout this process?
Throughout this process, I’ve learned that my leadership style of “hire the right people and trust them to get the job done” and one of our core principles of “roll up your sleeves” have both really paid off. I’m usually a lot more hands-off when it comes to development and new product initiatives; I give the vision and the team makes it happen. This time, though, it was about pivoting in a way to save jobs and get our customers and community back to work. I needed to stay involved at every step to see that this project is executed successfully and according to my vision. If I trust my instincts, my team will follow suit.
What’s next for your business?
Employers are hiring again, so our business has started to trend upwards. As for our pivot, SymTem, we continue to fiercely develop, market, and promote the platform.
We want to put America back to work, and we feel we can play a big part.
What piece of advice would you give to other women business owners or aspiring business owners on how to best navigate a crisis?
In my 30 years as an entrepreneur, I have survived the dot-com bubble, wars, and recessions. What I have found to be true in every crisis is that you must go into action quickly, never waste a second on worry or pity, and stand on your faith. You are an entrepreneur. You get to enjoy privileges in life that many will never get to experience, but it comes with a heavy burden at times. As an entrepreneur, expect crisis. Expect hard times. And then jump into action.
When my children were young and they would fall, they would cry loudly because they weren’t sure if they we hurt. I always told my girls to “rub it and run, rub it and run.” That is how I handle a crisis. I never fall into a place of depression or worry. I never sulk. I don’t lose sleep because I am up working towards a solution. Solutions don’t fall in your lap; you have to go out and seek them. Webinars, blogs, ebooks—absorb all you can, and a solution will come to you. And once you get that solution…run!
What do you think makes for a successful business pitch?
Passion and practice. You must love what you do, and people see that in your pitch. It takes hours and hours of preparation and practice for just a 5-minute pitch. It doesn’t matter how great you are on your feet; every single word is important and valuable.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped during this crisis?
There are no words to describe the resource WBENC has been during this crisis. I have watched almost every webinar from every RPO. The virtual matchmakers have been great opportunities. The COVID-19 WBE directory has provided many of the ancillary services to our platform. My WBE sisters have brainstormed with me (thank you Patti Massey!), they have referred leads to me (thank you Kathleen Hunt!), they have motivated me to drive hard (thank you Sharon Mahin!). And my greatest thanks to Kittie Watson, as she kept me centered and faithful.