Coping with COVID-19: Local Leaders Share Their Insights
NEW ORLEANS – We asked more than 500 local business leaders how they are dealing with the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of their responses. We’ll share more soon.
How are you coping with the crisis?
Ellie Rand of Ellie Rand Public Relations: “Keeping working. As a boutique PR firm, a large percentage of our clients are festivals and other event-related projects that have been postponed with dates still to be announced. For the clients who are not in the hospitality/tourism/event categories, we are either pivoting to messages that are meaningful now or taking a wait-and-see approach. We have also taken on a handful of pro-bono clients that are providing needed services right now such as the New Orleans Grief Center and the restaurant resource open4bizla.com.”
Quentin Messer Jr., New Orleans Business Alliance: “We’re doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Fortunately, we have the ability to work remotely. The Business Alliance launched the Gig Economy Workers Relief Fund to help New Orleanians who are dependent on the festival season for a large portion of their income.”
Guy Williams, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Bank: “We have extended our hours. We’re now working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments are available during those same hours and live customer service is available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. We are deferring payments for loan customers.”
Did your business continuity plan work or were there surprises?
MarkAlain Derry, Access Health Louisiana: “I am an infectious diseases physician and am on the front line of evaluating, testing and treating hundreds of patients. This past weekend I was the medical director for the testing site at Armstrong Park and we tested 450 people. I guess I am most surprised that I am doing this in the US as opposed to other resource-poor countries where I am used to working on outbreaks like this.”
Liz Williams, The Southern Food & Beverage Museum: “We are trying to be nimble and adapt to the times with more virtual activities, attempts to keep our identity relevant during these times and take advantage of the assets that we have to offer. The hardest part is not knowing how long the city and the country will be operating under these conditions.”
Crystal Nugent, Your CBD Store: “Yes. We put standards promptly in place to check the temperatures of our staff members every morning to ensure no fever. And it goes without saying we are cleaning regularly and after every customer just to be on the safe side. We immediately started offering a no-contact pickup, free shipping and even free delivery to keep business going. … To be honest this is going to be extremely detrimental to our small businesses. It will test the abilities of companies to make it work by any means necessary.”
Have you found any silver linings during these difficult times?
Quentin Messer Jr.: “The silver linings are threefold: It becomes very easy to identify the stars on your team. This crisis enables you to make bold decisions. And it makes you appreciate the simple gestures like ‘thank you’ and ‘please.'”
Jeffrey Doussan, Jr., Keller Williams Realty New Orleans: “Tech adoption on our Keller Cloud platform has been expedited. We are connecting with our clients. Seeing everyone help each other has been humbling. Lastly, our leadership team has pulled together quickly and continues to lead with compassion and creativity.”
MarkAlain Derry: “Not yet … but I am hopeful that we will be a more unified society after this passes.”
How are you maintaining your company culture?
Liz Williams: “We are trying to keep in touch with each other through conferencing. Instead of bringing brownies to a meeting, we can now just watch each other eat brownies.”
Jeffrey Doussan, Jr.: “Big live video conferences. They get out of hand sometimes but its fun. We continue to celebrate achievements, and we continue to cut up best we can as we continue to live our core values.”
Do you have advice for other companies?
Guy Williams: “This won’t last. Prepare for the recovery and don’t make bad permanent decisions based upon a temporary situation.”
Liz Williams: “We all need to remember how resilient New Orleans has been through many trials. We do know how to make lemonade out of lemons, and we can also make lemon meringue pie, lemon curd and lemon marmalade. We are versatile and creative people. Just use that trait to push through.”
Quentin Messer Jr.: “Give honor and space to heightened sensitivities and try to ensure that folks are focused on their families and mental health first above all else.”