Local Leaders on COVID-19: Pivot, Pray and Plan for the Recovery
NEW ORLEANS – We asked more than 500 local business leaders how they are dealing with the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the second batch of their responses. We’ll share more soon.
How are you coping with the COVID-19 crisis?
Bob Arceneaux of Orleans Coffee: Praying
Chris Reade of Lookfar, Carrollton Enterprise Services & Club Discovery: On the startup advising side of our business we have been very busy advising and helping our startups take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the damage. Most of them have not been through a disaster as business owners so our expertise is needed greatly there. On the enterprise IT side of our business, nothing is affected. If anything, we are growing and adding maybe 5-10% more work due to increased need. The co-working space has been very affected. We are abating all memberships/rent for April and expect to do so for May as well. It is important to us that we stand by our members now when times are tough because they will stand by us and continue as members when the recovery begins.
David Strauss at Strauss Massey Dinneen LLC: We are, I think, in a good spot at the moment, but unknowns await. We tweaked our continuity plan as this was developing and did dry runs on our remote work abilities so when we went fully remote everything worked. We let our clients know, before going to a virtual firm, that it was inevitable and that we were prepared. We had regular firm-wide meetings as this developed and encouraged input from everyone. … We are hopeful that our robust existing workload will carry us through the court closures and business closures so that we come out of it ready to take on what I expect to be new legal opportunities and a flurry of catch-up work on rescheduled matters.
Tammy O’Shea at Fidelity Bank: We are providing our customers with 90-day loan deferment, 60-day credit card deferment, waived late fees, no negative credit reporting and increased mobile deposit limits.
Mann Deynoodt of Deynoodt Marketing Inc.: Fortunately, having a diversified balance of traditional advertising clients and some non-traditional B2B clients has helped cushion the blow to businesses being shut down over the virus. Many businesses that advertise have stopped advertising, so media and TV buys as well as some digital buys are volatile.
Did your business continuity plan work or were there surprises?
Chris Reade: Our plans worked very well for two reasons. One, we do this sort of thing for a living (disaster response/recovery) so we have a lot of practice and advise on it with clients regularly. Two, we learned after Katrina to not be wedded to a physical space of any sort so we have always treated our offices as such and so when they’re not available we are able to operate efficiently.
Bob Arceneaux: We’ve never planned for anything like this, so yeah … surprise!
David Strauss: Yes, it worked (so far) but we realized we had not planned for a few logistical things that required some quick solutions. Also, understandably, some of our employees are anxious about the virus, their families and our current new way of life and this required more than just typical employer guidance. I will say having gone through something similar after Hurricane Katrina, myself and my partners feel well prepared emotionally and from the business side, and suspect others who have no experience with this are struggling.
Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?
Chris Reade: Never let a disaster go to waste is the classic line on the subject and we are reaching out to clients and have gotten positive responses on their needs and how we can help them survive and thrive in this environment. You don’t know who your friends are until the chips are down and we are very deliberate in being good friends to our clients – that buys us loyalty later that sometimes makes the difference between winning and losing.
Mann Deynoodt: Absolutely. This will be only temporary and my thought is that the economy and businesses are going to explode after they come back on. I would not be surprised to see an all-out rush to advertise for local, regional and national businesses in a way that we have not seen before.
David Strauss: We are exploring and implementing the use of technology to perform our work in new ways which will help us long term. Broadly, I hope this highlights how most of America survives check to check and that some kind of adjustments need to be made in our economic model and business practices to move us in the direction of providing more opportunity for the average person.
How are you maintaining your company culture?
Bob Arceneaux: By trying to be upbeat and positive about every order that comes in and taking time to talk to our customers letting them know that we’re here for them.
David Strauss: We have a firm-wide virtual meeting every Monday morning, which I keep open and upbeat. We have a lawyers-only virtual meeting each morning Tuesday through Friday. I keep my communications in the same tone I did before this event and I try to keep our team focused on the back-end of this. I offer support and made clear we will be flexible with individual needs as they arise.
Robert Wolfe of Robert Wolfe Construction & Real Estate: We are handling our people and clients with continued honesty and integrity. Keeping everyone informed – clients, subcontractors and teammates. We will not give our team false hope but we are ensuring them that we will look into everything to see about keeping our core group together to serve our clients for years to come. We are also reaching out to team members and helping them when the need arises.
Do you have advice for other companies?
Tammy O’Shea: Businesses that can stand and help need to do it. We are all in this together.
Robert Wolfe: I think you need to evaluate everything you are doing and be willing to change anything that doesn’t make sense from a cost standpoint in this new reality. Have a perspective that ‘this too shall pass’ and continue to look for opportunities and be willing to pivot to a new activity or service if need be. No one knows what things will look like on the other side of this but we will get through it.