Axonify CEO Carol Leaman acknowledges that when her company signed the behemoth retailer Walmart as a client more than seven years ago, it was a pretty big deal.

At the time, the Waterloo-based maker of employee training software had only been in business for a year or so. Gaining a client with the scale, clout and brand recognition that Walmart carried – the deal was with Walmart’s U.S.-based parent, not its smaller Canadian branch – was a huge boost for Axonify’s early credibility.

“That’s an understatement,” Leaman recently told Communitech News.

“We were astounded that we were able to include them as an early customer. The results were so phenomenal that it became a huge piece for us in terms of selling to new customers. So I can’t emphasize enough how thrilled we were.

“They’ve been just a phenomenal customer. We’ve continued to develop products and expand our product suite based on their input and feedback.”

The relationship has proven to work both ways. Walmart has more than 100,000 employees in the U.S., and better training means better health and safety metrics – fewer forklift accidents in its warehouses, fewer back injuries, fewer employee sick days, less employee turnover, better warehouse efficiency – and millions in savings.

So, it’s perhaps not a surprise that last month, Walmart Canada signed aboard as an Axonify customer, too, part of a $3.5-billion investment in the retailer’s 5,000-person Canadian operation.

“So the Canadian folks, they started down this path of wanting to transform their business,” explains Leaman. “And they looked at what the U.S. was doing. So, a very similar use-case. Our product is vastly different than it was, say, seven or eight years ago, so Walmart Canada is getting the benefit of many new things that we’ve launched through the years.”

Axonify now has 180 employees and sells in 150 countries. Leaman says the company does more than CDN$30 million in subscription revenue per year. It raised US$27 million in 2016.

Leaman says its platform – which delivers training to frontline staff in a way that is engaging and generates vastly better user retention – is even more relevant and useful in the midst of the current pandemic work environment.

“COVID-19, if it has done one positive thing for the world, has highlighted how incredibly important frontline people are to all of us,” Leaman says. “And so training them, investing in them, keeping them safe, giving them opportunities to stay longer [at a workplace] to grow, learn, advance within the organization, these are all themes that have been really brought to the fore in the last four months.

“And we’re so thrilled that we are perfectly positioned to deliver that personalized, daily, highly-irresistible experience that is going to get these people to a place where they want to be with your organization, and deliver value to the customer.”

Leaman says that more than four months in, the sales and operational unknowns generated by the pandemic are shaking out and “I’m happy to say that we have been very nicely holding our own.”

Layoffs and salary cuts were avoided. The company’s strong culture ensured that when work-from-home began, there was little in the way of disruption.

“The good news about being a tech company is pretty much you pick up your laptop and you can work anywhere,” Leaman says. “We have an excellent culture, a very strong culture of transparency and communication. It’s just been so great to watch them come together, work super hard through this, supporting our customers. It’s just been amazing to see.”

Axonify has long been a supporter of Waterloo Region. In that spirit, it has partnered with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and provided a free e-learning training resource called Chamber Business Ready that offers guidance on hand hygiene, how to protect you and your family from viruses, mental health resources, and tips for working from home. As users work their way through the tutorials, they gain points that can be transformed into prizes.

“Axonify has always been a strong supporter of the community,” said Leaman. “Doing our part is our way of helping ensure Waterloo Region remains the vibrant, healthy community that it is. The only way we beat COVID-19 is by doing so together.”