Gootee Construction: Creating Healthier Communities Out of the COVID-19 Pandemic

NEW ORLEANS – From Gootee Construction:

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world and the United States, it’s clear not many cities could have handled being identified as being an “epicenter,” such as New Orleans has been.  Still, it is an opportunity to show leadership and determination to the rest of the world. New Orleans is no stranger to adversity. We are resilient, and know how to bounce back.

In response to the disasters that have proceeded the COVID-19 pandemic, both natural and man-made, I think business, industry and government in our area have been better prepared to handle the effects the virus has had.  It provides us an unprecedented leadership opportunity in disaster recovery for the rest of our nation. Business continuity plans that were formed here after disasters such as hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill have had a profound effect in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. Another effect is simple human compassion in the face of potentially overwhelming adversity. Together, we’ll find those responses are what pulls New Orleans and the rest of the nation from disaster to recovery to create communities that are stronger and healthier than before.

Eerily Familiar Circumstances

As the spread of the COVID-19 virus systematically forced the shutdown of commerce and the country, it quickly became evident to us at Gootee Construction that we were actually fighting an event similar to entering disaster recovery mode. All the signs were there: a workforce that was willing and able to continue to work but unable to come together in centralized locations because of restrictions and other impediments to travel.  This was basically the situation after hurricane Katrina, although with considerably less water. At Gootee Construction, we were already prepared for this challenge with off-site capabilities such as VPN, remote desktops, off-site servers, video conferencing capabilities, and most importantly, our communication rhythms.

Communicate and then…. Communicate

“Communicate, Communicate, Communicate, and then…. Communicate” is engraved on the staffroom wall of one of our customers.  At Gootee Construction, we think of that quote often and it was our first thought as our team began working remotely during this pandemic.  It can’t be overstated enough, keeping communication open with all stake holders is paramount, especially in situations like this crisis.

The most effective communications solution we use to keep everyone informed and on message is to hold staggered daily huddles throughout the organization. Everyday teams at different levels of the organization, from the Executive team down to the job site level, review the important items that happened yesterday and announce their top priorities for the day. These communication rhythms have been critical for us moving important information throughout the company in both regular and irregular times like these.

Togetherness and Greater Sense of Community

What I find most inspiring is how the nation has come together for the greater cause during this crisis. Prior to COVID-19, our nation poured its heart into New Orleans as we recovered from the blows of hurricane Katrina and the later BP oil spill.  Being designated as an epicenter of the COVID-19 virus has once again cast the nation’s eyes upon New Orleans. As the country and the world look for answers, we now have the opportunity to show the way back to recovery for the rest of the nation. We’re seeing the togetherness and greater sense of community that is very prevalent in the people and companies here in New Orleans now begin to spread across the country in response to the disaster. People and industry are going outside of their norms to help with the disaster, the way New Orleanians have always helped each other out. Whether it be making masks, shields, sanitizer, offering free flights, expanding free services, expediting equipment, extending warranties, etc. the greater cause has quickly become about helping people cope and overcome, and not so much about money. As the rest of the nation is unfamiliar with how to cope with persistent disasters such as we experienced here, I sincerely hope the compassion shown during this disaster is included in their future recovery plans.

We Exist to Create Healthier Communities

Gootee Construction’s core purpose is “We Exist to Create Healthier Communities.” Our leadership team arrived at this company purpose after asking ourselves “what do we do?” and “why is what we do important?” Each time we asked ourselves, the answer was always the same- we are here for the communities we serve.

To us, our communities hold many areas of our lives, but in the face of COVID-19, “We Exist to Create Healthier Communities” has never rung more true.  Yes, Gootee Construction works primarily as a commercial mechanical contractor, and service and maintenance provider. We install plumbing, HVAC, and medical gas systems across the greater New Orleans region. But many of our most vital partners are healthcare facilities with active projects when the coronavirus pandemic began.

We live our core value daily at Gootee Construction, as shown in “The Case for Core Values” article from the March 2020 issue of Biz New Orleans. It makes good press, for sure, but it builds even stronger character and leadership. With the sudden onslaught of the coronavirus, everyone within our organization immediately pointed to our core purpose and core values and we knew what we had to do.  The COVID-19 pandemic has fused our purpose, our why, with a great sense of cause. I am very proud of our whole organization and how we as well as New Orleans, have stepped up as leaders during this crisis. It will pass and we will all be stronger for it and better prepared for the next one.

By Ben Gootee, President/CEO, Gootee Construction, Inc., New Orleans

Categories: Alerts, COVID-19