When COVID hit, companies went scrambling. Customers needed a lot of help and employees were scared and needed to shift to working from home. That stress and change is enought to break a company. Intuit’s core mission enabled it to stay the course and marshall resources from across the company to help its small business customers.
“We’re all these employees, stuck at home, with our families,” said Luke Voiles, vp, business leader, QuickBooks Capital at Intuit at Tearsheet’s inaugural Resilience Conference held in July. “We’re trying to make work work and trying to save these small businesses at the same time.”
Small businesses were suffering and QuickBooks Capital quickly tightened the spigot on its own underwriting business to focus on helping its customers access government assistance. When the magnitude of the crisis became clearer, Intuit’s ethos helped align employees from around the company to lean in and start helping customers around the Payroll Protection Program.
To build a PPP application, the firm needed data from its API, so the Turbo Tax team was tasked with wrangling that. The QuickBooks Online team worked to stand up a front-end experience and legal and compliance needed to move quickly. Time was of the essence.
Intuit assembled a 500 member cross-functional team from across the organization. The group included 100 customer service reps for the 10% of PPP applications that couldn’t be automated.
“What happened was the core mission of Intuit was just magnified dramatically, like with a massive magnifying glass with the acuteness of COVID to say, hey, let’s just all lean in as a company to go do what we can do to save these businesses. The core culture allowed us to move mountains to make this happen,” he said.
Utimately, Intuit deployed a billion dollars to 31,000 small business customers, helping almost 200,000 employees continue to get paid.
But it almost didn’t happen. When the CARES Act was passed to provide emergency assitance to SMBs, banks and the Small Business Adminstration were slated to participate. Fintech wasn’t. Intuit worked with Congress and administration officials to make a case for technology companies to participate. It worked.
It was the first few days in April when a handful of fintech firms including Intuit were approved. 11 days later, on April 14, Intuit opened its PPP application to the public.
“There’s now 30,000 stories of businesses and 200,000 stories of employees that got a paycheck and kept going — that’s why we’re doing this,” said Voiles. “In the thick of it, like the first two months, there was no time for anything else. Our resilience flows through to all of the wives and husbands and the children as well.”
When Scott Cook founded Intuit in 1983, he would have employees approach customers in office supply stores and ask if they could watch them install the QuickBooks CD. What transpired was a culture that still conducts follow-me-homes to learn closely from their customers. This focus on the customer’s needs and challenges plays an integral role in the firm’s mission.
Intuit continues to hire during the pandemic. The company addressed the challenge to impart its mission on new talent by setting up a weekly coffee chat, where it randomized small teams with a leader into different ZOOM rooms. Employees got to know each other and talk about whatever was going on.
“You have to figure out ways to bring people together on an ongoing basis to make it feel like you’re part of the team,” he said.
And now, as some QuickBooks customers are starting to emerge, Intuit is starting to ramp QuickBooks Capital again, though the credit box remains tightened. Business is starting to return and the company is thinking about what the world looks like on the other side of the crisis.
“How do we keep that momentum going and continue to help these customers come out the other side, right? asked Voiles.