At Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), our mission remains engaging business owners at every stage with the tools, education and community necessary to learn and grow to new levels of leadership, in business and beyond. As businesses begin to implement new ways of working in the new landscape, we asked three EO members—from three industries and three countries—to share how they are moving forward.
1. Carlos Melendez, Wovenware, EO Puerto Rico
Carlos Melendez is the co-founder and COO of Wovenware, a nearshore software services firm focused on chatbots and AI. As a member of EO Puerto, he’s also seen the company through the 2017 hurricane Maria. His organization has continued to work remotely.
Like businesses everywhere, Wovenware has had to drastically change the way we live, work and interact during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, being based in Puerto Rico, we’ve learned a lesson or two from Hurricane Maria about how to adapt to volatile situations that are out of our control.
Unlike the last crisis when we were working hard to keep our workforce in the office, the pandemic has forced us to ensure they stay home. As a nearshore engineering services and AI firm, we were able to quickly implement a remote-work model and all of our employees have been able to seamlessly continue to serve customers, collaborate and carry the Wovenware corporate culture to their home offices.
Planning for a Return to the Office
But as we all know, video chats can never replace real live interaction and collaboration among teams. Once it’s safe to do so, many of our employees are looking forward to getting back to the office, because it means a return to some semblance of normalcy and predictability.
Here at Wovenware, we’ve already begun to build a roadmap, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and protocols for when we return to the office (which as of this writing is scheduled for 1 June in Puerto Rico).
Below are a few of these steps:
- We’re establishing SOPs for all employees and visitors entering our corporate office, including taking temperatures of employees every few hours, requiring protective masks to be on all the time inside the office, disinfecting surfaces regularly and having a hand disinfecting station next to the front door outside of the office.
- The SOPs and rules will be displayed on a poster outside the office.
We’ll give each employee a branded reusable protective mask, personal hand sanitizer and their own alcohol-based disinfectant so they are able to clean the surface of his or her workstation.
- In order to ensure social distancing, we are moving workstations out so that they are all six feet apart from each other.
- We’re limiting use of common areas, such as the lunchroom, as well as all group gatherings until it is safe to do so.
- We’re considering staggered shifts of workers, so that there are less employees in the office at a given time.
- We’re reinforcing the importance of staying home if you are not feeling well or if someone you have come into contact with has tested positive.
Communication and Compassion
Perhaps what is most important is ensuring the well-being—both physically and emotionally—of our most valued resource, our employees. We’re committed to being flexible to accommodate family issues such as children remaining out of school, the need to care for elderly family members and other ongoing challenges resulting from COVID-19.
The most important skill at a time like this is open communication between employers and employees. The return to the office will be the first step toward the new normal, and perhaps we’ll arrive at it a little wiser, stronger and more empathetic.
2. Matteo Ghedini, Brera Serviced Apartments, EO Italy
Matteo Ghedini is the CEO of Brera Serviced Apartments. He is also a member of the EO Italy chapter. While the hospitality industry was hit early and significantly, his company has seen less impact than most hotels.
Cancellations and the full stop of business hit our industry in the early stages COVID-19 and the projected forecast figures are estimating that the return of business is going to be very late. However, my company specializes in the serviced apartment industry and is focused on B-to-B which lessened the negative impact compared to hotels. We were still forced to consider cutting costs starting with the highest factor—labor.
Caring for Employees
We truly believe that open and honest communication is the key to not losing your team in this very challenging time. We made a clear commitment to not let go any team member, as we don’t want them to face this crisis alone. We all made sacrifices in order not to leave any one employee alone.
The response of the team has been stunning. We have goosebumps every other day at each manifestation of loyalty and support. We were lucky enough that we were able to keep our properties open and we are already seeing a slight increase in business.
Maintaining Customer Focus
We decided right from the very first stage of the virus to change to a home-office model wherever possible. Our technical set-up allowed an easy and smooth change of process. Digital processes also guarantee social distance for our guests. We implemented a full “Contactless Customer Journey.”
Keyless entry was never as important as now, video introduction of our hosts and virtual support in the apartments instead of a physical reception was implemented quickly. We are diving much deeper into the possibilities right now because we believe that this will be a major advantage in the market. But it is a major challenge at the same time for our corporate culture because personalization and a strong connection to our guests is our biggest strength and the key value I grew this company up with.
Of course, cleaning and disinfection measures have been ramped up dramatically.
We also opened up our properties to anyone deeply affected by the crisis—including medical staff, or medical patients in quarantine. We are catering to these segments with low prices (barely covering our costs), hoping to support them in this hard time.
3. Eric Hoffer, Hoffer Pest Solutions, EO South Florida
Eric Hoffer owns Hoffer Pest Solutions, a leading pest control and lawn care company in Florida. He is also a member of the EO South Florida chapter. “Our company has been around since my dad started it 45 years ago. After a few decades of owning it, I can certainly say that COVID-19 is something we’ve never seen before,” says Hoffer. Though Hoffer did not have to close because pest control was deemed an essential service, his company has had to adapt to the changing times.
We first had to consider how to keep our technicians safe on the job, as well as protect our customers.
We provide PPE for our technicians, including masks and gloves, to make them feel more comfortable. This protection also gives peace of mind to our customers. We understand perception is reality, and we needed to convey that our company cares about the health and well-being of all involved.
Contact-free appointments have become a necessary adaptation for many service industries. Hoffer Pest Solutions offers exterior treatment options so people in the home do not need to interact our technicians.
Working from home rather than in the office is certainly a unique challenge for the service industry. We have implemented call scripts for our customer service representatives so they are able to answer the phone at home and follow scripts that answer the most common questions.
Updating Marketing Messaging
We have also changed the way we do digital marketing by running paid ads on Nextdoor, Facebook and Google Display to communicate that our business provides exterior-only pest control services.
When we show up on Google’s search engine, our website’s title message now shares that we are open and safely providing services. We are also updating our Google My Business posts to share up-to-date COVID-19 information to current and potential customers about how we at Hoffer are updating our service techniques to ensure client and employee safety.
Our goal with digital marketing changes is to express that we understand the concerns with COVID-19, but we also know people still have pest issues that need to be resolved. We’re open and we’re willing to safely help.
Check out the EO Together platform for support and resources related to managing your business through the pandemic.