By Angela (Ceresnie) Prince, former Climb CEO
For all of us, the past year has been filled with uncertainty about what the future may look like. From being unsure about our health and the health of our families, to the rising unknown of the long term effects that COVID-19 will have as a whole, we’ve all been taking it day by day.
One of the reasons that I — and the entire Climb team — have been able to continue to operate with clarity during this uncertain time is our unwavering commitment to our mission, values, and customers. I’d urge other startups and companies to take a similar look at their core priorities and (most importantly) to listen to your customers’ needs.
Here’s how Climb’s values and mission have helped guide us through the past year.
Value: succeed together
Decision: Do we trust our team to adapt to a new remote reality—or force people to come to the office and implement strict work from home rules and check-ins?
Climb’s foremost concern is for the well-being of its team members. Without our dedicated team remaining healthy and feeling safe, we would be unable to serve our customers and run our business effectively. This is true for most (if not all) companies.
All Climb employees have been working from home.
- Climb has an unlimited sick and PTO policy, so employee wages will not be negatively impacted.
- Climb has established a stipend for employees to procure tools needed to enable productive work from home, including computer accessories and workspace items.
Because of our decisive action not only to encourage work from home but also to provide the necessary assistance to ensure people can do so effectively, we both created a clear environment for people to continue to operate without ambiguity and we furthered the necessary social distancing directive that has been encouraged by policy makers and business leaders.
put the learner first & own the solution
Decision: Do we add fees to protect our bottom line, or do we offer flexible payment benefits to our customers who need them most?
In times like these, given the uncertainty of the future, it’s easy to make reactive decisions in order to save every last penny. Although that might feel like the logical choice, we know it’s more important to maintain our commitment to those individuals who allow Climb to exist and thrive.
We worked with our capital partners and school partners to provide flexibility and reassurance to our learners, and we’re proud to have partners who are equally committed to our mission.
- Learners who had not yet started class or received funded loans had the ability to make a number of adjustments — from adjusting program start dates, to changing loan amounts, to canceling loan agreements as needed.
- Learners who already had loans with Climb were able to pause payments for 60 days without accruing interest. This benefit was thanks to our committed partners Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group and other financing partners. Additionally, we built a suite of career success resources for our learners to leverage as they search for their next careers.
Value: build a better system
Decision: Do we pause all spending used to support our school partners and wait out the uncertainty?
At first glance, it might feel prudent to completely pause spending and cut all expenses possible. While we did take a look at our growth plans and reduce resources in some places, we also looked thoughtfully and strategically at where spending should continue.
Given the state of the economy, and the unemployment rates that were expected to soar, we decided that providing attention and access for career-training education is needed now more than ever. Many people are facing unemployment, and they will need hard skills in order to improve job prospects.
To help our school partners maintain and continue to train learners for valuable career paths, we’re providing supporting services.
- Current partners have the ability to make course and student application updates as their strategies for addressing the current crisis change. Schools can get the answers and updates they need through live chat without having to email or call a Climb team member, leading to minimal resource drain on the school’s staff.
- Current partners have access to a wide array of custom financial product offerings to meet their needs and the needs of their students — including 0%-interest products and products that allow students to fully defer all payments until after graduation.
- A number of Climb scholarships have been made available for some of our partners.
During this period of economic and job disruption, enrolling in one of our partner schools can offer learners an opportunity to gain training and skills that will help them emerge more employable. We believe supporting our partners and continuing to promote these life-changing programs can have a positive impact on the economy — and help job seekers gain new skills.
Value: iterate and experiment
Decision: Do we stubbornly stay the course no matter what, or do we continue to listen to feedback from our customers to inform our plans and responses?
Staying the course is useful, but not at the expense of leveraging feedback to improve.
We’re proud of the plan we’ve developed and the benefits we’ve created for our learners and school partners — but we know that there is always room for improvement and iteration. Over the last year, we’ve continuously solicited (and will continue to solicit) feedback from our learners and school partners to understand how we can help them through the uncertainty ahead.
We know that we’ll be faced with more decisions down the road.
No matter what we run into in the months and years to come, we’ll stay true to our mission. We’ll ensure that learners have access to career-advancing education and valuable skills for today’s — and tomorrow’s — workforce.