Barbara Lax

CEO and founder of Little Green House, an innovative childcare group that supports the new generation of parents to combine career and family, and to provide solid roots for tomorrow’s citizens. She studied civil engineering and holds a master’s degree in numerical methods in engineering. Before launching her own business, she worked for a leading global manufacturer of construction and energy technology. She is widely recognized for her entrepreneurial success and received the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year award in 2017.

Watch an extract from the interview

How did you communicate with parents during the crisis?

The teams had regular calls with families, to share what we knew, what we didn’t know, and to check in on how families were doing. It’s very difficult to work from home with little ones – we’re talking kids aged zero to six. A lot of parents told us that although they enjoyed the chance to connect more with their children, it wasn’t easy to manage. They wanted to be good parents, but also good employees. People were juggling the stress of being stuck home, working from home, looking after kids. That also puts a strain on relationships.

In Zurich we remained open for anyone that needed us. I believe that was a very good solution – it meant that people who needed childcare for the sake of their mental health had access to it, not just key workers as in some other cantons.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

As someone who’s not always super structured and organized, I wasn’t expecting myself to always have perfect solutions during this crisis. You have to adapt on a daily basis, so it’s helpful to not be a perfectionist. I’d say one big lesson learned was that as long as you communicate well and are very transparent, it’s fine to improvise and make changes.

What are you doing to prepare for a potential second wave?

Numbers are going up and we’re already seeing stricter measures coming in. I think there will be different types of measures taken as we move on and know more about the coronavirus and our own behavior. At Little Green House, we’re committed to following the official guidelines. We’re lucky in this sector that we’re key to society, so have benefited from extra government support. We keep risks as low as possible by avoiding unnecessary events.

More generally, I think it’s very important to observe the rules, and to trust that the people behind them are thinking and doing the right thing to the best of their knowledge. There needs to be a certain degree of tolerance as well – we all share a responsibility to behave like adults and influence those aspects that are under our control.

We all share a responsibility to behave like adults and influence those aspects that are under our control.
Barbara Lax
CEO and founder of Little Green House

How has the crisis accelerated the transformation of your sector and your business model?

The new normal demands much more flexibility and agility. We need to be able to react very fast to all kinds of requirements from one day to the next. I think the last few months have been very good training and I really want to keep up this agility.

At Little Green House, we’ve seen a drop in our fill rates. I don’t think families are back to their normal rhythms yet, with parents still working partly from home. Looking ahead, we need to think about the size and location of our daycare centers. Where will people work and live, will they move to the countryside? How does this impact our offering and our way of working? Will parents want to book childcare days ad hoc? These questions were already there in the background but the crisis has been an accelerator. We are forced to think more disruptively and not just go with the flow – that’s a good thing.

We are forced to think more disruptively and not just go with the flow – that’s a good thing.
Barbara Lax
CEO and founder of Little Green House

Would you agree that every crisis is an opportunity?

I think there have been a lot of positive developments from this crisis for me professionally and personally. I like doing meetings from home, commuting less. People have become more aware of what they consume. We have lots of fantastic new little shops and farmers’ markets. I’m passionate about the future, innovative ideas and I’m happy to see this being accelerated.

At the same time, we need to be aware of the problems these changes can create, the divide that can arise in society, the potential increase in the income gap. We should use the crisis as an opportunity to tackle those problems with a lot of hope and optimism.

Any last thoughts?

For me, it’s definitely helped to keep up optimism and hope that we will find a very positive new normal and to focus on that rather than trying to find everything that could have been done better.

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