Every month Prairie Business asks several business professionals a question or two and they provide their industry insight.
The question for May is, “In what ways has the coronavirus made you rethink business strategies? What policies and programs have you adopted, or are considering to adopt, in order for your business to remain viable in light of current challenges?”
Chad Flanagan - Partner-in-Charge of the Fargo Office, Eide Bailly LLP, Fargo N.D.
We have put heavy emphasis on innovation for years. The recent COVID-19 situation requires us to continue to innovate our processes and challenges us to solve problems in a new way. Our decision to close our physical offices and serve clients remotely forces us to refine processes and improve project management. We expect to have new ideas for how we serve our clients once we’re through this.
Our firm has embraced a flexible work place and culture. We are confident we are well prepared to serve clients from anywhere. Our footprint at Eide Bailly covers 14 states and because our people often specialize in various industries and specialty services, there is a lot of teamwork and collaboration between geographic offices. This requires the use of collaborative tools like Teams, Zoom, and Skype. The current interruption may lead to an increase in the utilization of these tools that may benefit us in the long term.
Our ability to work from anywhere is something our workforce perceives as a benefit and it allows us to be more responsive to clients. We understand the importance of building relationships with clients, and that is best done in face-to-face meetings, but in the situations where that is not possible, we are confident we can serve our clients and work collaboratively as a team.
Sara Otte Coleman - Director of Tourism Division, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Bismarck, N.D.
COVID-19 has impacted almost every area of our operations at the North Dakota Department of Commerce. We have teamed up with other state agencies and community partners to collaborate and disseminate valuable resources for businesses and communities. We have also re-assigned staff throughout the department to best serve the state’s business needs.
The travel and tourism industry has been the first and most impacted industry. With travel restrictions, restaurants and public gathering spaces closed and hundreds of events and conferences canceled, the impact will be huge.
We are working with our tourism network throughout the state, hosting weekly calls, posting daily website updates and positioning North Dakota to be the destination of choice once it is safe to travel. We are continuing to counsel travelers and sending out materials. We are also reviewing our marketing and media plans weekly, adjusting creative messaging, channels and timing to assure that once the health threat is behind us, visitors will know that North Dakota’s wide-open spaces are the perfect place for a safe and affordable vacation. One of the new themes we introduced this year, “follow your curiosity, not the crowds,” should be even more impactful in light of this pandemic.
Kent Schimke - General Manager and CEO, DRN ReadiTech, Ellendale, N.D.
DRN ReadiTech is a telecommunications cooperative that takes great pride in how we take care of all our members and customers. The COVID-19 pandemic provides challenges relative to DRN ReadiTech business strategies but more in the way we are interacting with members/customers.
Our broadband and landline phone service has been deemed an essential service, so we are committed to keeping our 100% fiber network up and running. The strategy of helping all members/customers remains the same with a few added precautionary measures. Our leadership team has established a pandemic response plan and it evolves daily and relates to CDC recommendations.
We have closed all our offices to the public, all employees except for a few identified essential employees are working from home and solving any customer issues remotely, service and install technicians are home garaging and only dispatched to a location in emergency outage situations.
Typically, cooperatives are the “workhorses” of any given industry and DRN ReadiTech is no exception, our employees are built to adapt and overcome situations such as COVID-19 and they are all working through the challenges exceptionally.
DRN ReadiTech’s members have expressed their gratitude over the past few weeks daily for the work being done to keep the critical communications infrastructure up and working without a hitch or a glitch.
Steve Watson - Development Strategist, ISG, Sioux Falls, S.D.
We’re all experiencing disruptions to the typical way we’ve conducted business. Our approach to working with clients has remained unchanged–listen first, empathize, and provide innovative solutions.
However, how we engage our clients has evolved beyond the “usual suspects” like video conferencing. We’re taking tools that were primarily internal resources and are now training clients to use them to facilitate better collaboration with our project teams, knowing we’re all dealing with fluid schedules and limited to no in-person interaction. One example is Bluebeam Revu, a PDF markup and editing software that was specifically designed for the architecture/engineering industry, but can have broader applications.
Our firm recently conducted a Bluebeam training for our clients and partners. We believe this tool will not only help them be more productive in their own workplaces (as it has proven for ISG), but can also increase collaboration and realize new efficiencies when interacting with our firm remotely on specific projects.
It’s a win-win that was borne out of understanding the fact that we’re all in this together and the more we empathize and share, the more likely we will emerge from all of this stronger than before.