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SwipedOn went from tech startup to offering a global-leading visitor management system with major multinational clients. But Covid-19 delivered a true test of their ability and agility, as Hadleigh Ford explains.

Running a business in New Zealand has never been as testing, exciting and ripe for blue-sky thinking as it is right now. On the one hand – the whole world is just a Zoom call away. But on the other hand, the closed borders and uncertainty of how the local and global economy will evolve, leaves us constantly on the edge of our seats. Trying to act on a rapidly-changing pandemic-ravaged world stage is not suited to the conservative business director.

At SwipedOn, we identified early on that our core business offering was vulnerable because it was reliant on people being physically together in workplaces and touching a communal device. To stay relevant, we had to act quickly and shift our entire technical team’s focus to finding a solution for the drastic change in workplace activity and new tracing requirements.

Our clients needed to leverage their visitor management systems to ensure the health and wellbeing of people associated with their business. With an established system of signing in visitors, contractors and employees into workplaces, our product offering was naturally well-suited for contact tracing as well. However, at the start of the pandemic our technology still relied on physical interaction with a communal device. We knew that had to change and the shift to a completely touch free system took us only three weeks from conception to the MVP release – which is absolutely a record pace. We have an incredible team who quickly realised what was at stake – globally and within the business – so we acted accordingly.

The new touch free functionality was extremely well received and resulted in the highest customer Net Promoter Score that we have on record in the business. Customer satisfaction was, and is, our top priority and it was a key driver for us in delivering innovative technological solutions quickly, to help the world get back to work.

In saying that, there is no doubt that the world has changed forever. The pandemic accelerated technical adoption by years – if not a decade – and also made us rethink how and where we work. We have clients in over 70 countries, and we’ve seen varied responses to maintaining BAU and returning to the office. We service many essential industries that operated ‘as normal’ through the pandemic with the help of our employee and visitor screening, recording movements and conducting workplace contact tracing where required. For other industries, workplace flexibility is here to stay, whether location, time or approach.


Behold the new hybrid workplace

Even though it was disruptive at first, being able to work from home had several benefits for both employees and management. In New Zealand, we’ve already glimpsed what the post pandemic world and workplace looks like. Yes, we all love working from home – but the news is that life mostly returns to normal and physical offices are largely here to stay. The only lasting change is likely to be increased flexibility, much to the benefit of employees and employers alike.

The new hybrid workplace has also presented additional business opportunities. Location is no longer necessarily a competitive advantage – which is good news for us who come from a country that more often than not gets left out of the world map!

A new advantage point for companies wanting to export, is that people no longer expect us to be present in physical meetings. If we’re pitching to a company in New York, we’re right there alongside our US based competition, whereas in the past we may not have even had a look in. The broad adoption of the virtual meeting room has opened the door for all New Zealand companies wanting to pitch internationally and the playing field for international business has been levelled.

This change has been huge for us and has helped us win and maintain business with some of our largest clients including Bayer, Disney, The University of Texas Austin, FedEx, United States Cold Storage, 3M, Krispy Kreme, Gate Gourmet and Bosch.

Also, once the dust settled, we used the time to strategize as to how the world would look in the future and what we needed to do to stay in the game. It paid off, as our solution is now a valuable tool for companies worldwide in pre-screening employees and visitors for set requirements, such as health or vaccination queries. Never before has it been more important to be in control of the movement of people while also keeping up with the health, security and employee privacy concerns surrounding the handling and storage of personal data.


Staying (and gaining) in the game

From here we will continue to add value to the future way of working by quickly adapting to the changing requirements and needs of our clients. One example is a new tool we are developing for touch-free desk bookings for the growing market of flexible office spaces and hot desks.

The goal for our business is not to have all the answers, but to stay agile and effectively react to future headwinds, as they undoubtedly will present themselves. As a business and software developer – we managed to not only stay in the game but significantly grow our business by quickly responding to changing needs and integrating the new public safety measures into our product offerings.


Advice for expanding businesses

If there is one thing 2020 has taught me, it is that new opportunities arise when you’re thinking on your feet, so here are my top three tips for businesses wanting to expand internationally in the current environment:

1. If something isn’t working – don’t be afraid to change direction or approach, ‘pivot’ is an often-used cliché for good reason.
2. Re-evaluate and accentuate your unique attributes, what was of minor importance months ago may now be your unique selling point.
3. Think big, the world has opened up to you and opportunities abound, don’t be restricted by habitual thinking


The most important thing businesses can do to stay relevant and compete on the world stage is to evaluate the changes happening globally and how they impact your customers. This will allow you to anticipate future demands and predict what your business needs to do to continually fit into the puzzle.

Testing times demand our best – and I’m confident that as a country, the opportunity to grow our knowledge-based economy has never been so within our reach.


Hadleigh Ford (pictured below) is CEO of SwipedOn.(link is external) SwipedOn is unique in that more than 80 percent of their business is international and their biggest markets are the UK, USA and Australia.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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