With Governor DeWine’s extension of our stay at home order to at least May 1st, and the recognition that the peak in virus cases in Ohio may not come until the middle of May, we find ourselves in a sort of Twilight Zone of personal and business limbo for at least the next 30 to 60 days. But instead of focusing on the bad news and the worry; about what we can't control, the next 30 to 60 days will provide an interesting opportunity for us all to reshape our organizations, not just for the balance of this year but for many years to come.
As an example, here is what Affiliated’s is working on to advance our business, strengthen our infrastructure and team, secure our organization, and plan for the future.
Secure Remote Working
When the original order hit, we were already working remotely. We were also finishing a third-party network security risk assessment; we feel it is important to have our security, policies, and procedures independently verified to ensure we are operating at the highest levels of best practices. Reviewing the reports and addressing our management plan to ensure any identified recommendations for improvements are implemented during this time period, are a primary focus for our team - so we are secured and protected against threats and exposures and meet best practices expectations.
Affiliated is using our Microsoft Teams platform as our primary “meeting” vehicle. We conduct virtual meetings with our customers and prospects to discuss their needs and opportunities. We are also asking our account managers to send out weekly updates to our agreement customers, updating them on activities, and providing resources that can help them also navigate through these challenging times a little easier. We are hearing positive feedback on our contacts and outreach; the resources we are sharing are being used and I have been told more than a couple of times about information we have shared that has been passed along to our customer’s users as they navigate their work from home activities. We are also rolling out our Phase II Work From Home program, to help our customers ensure their users and systems are protected, secure, productive, and prepared to meet their goals for their future – regardless of their working locations.
We are also using this time to accelerate our training and certifications that each staff member is required to accomplish annually. In our business it is imperative that our teams continue their training and education each year to improve their skills and complete the training that our vendors expect us to gain to keep our organization certifications; we will be firming those plans and assigning training for both the technical and the balance of our teams to accomplish during this interim time and into the future. These allow us to have the right resources, skilled and knowledgeable, ready to assist our clients when they need us.
Keeping The Team Engaged and Healthy
We have also Utilized Microsoft Teams internally as a primary vehicle for internal communications. Each Department meets for regular team huddles using the video team meeting so that everyone can see each other and interact. We use the various chat functions to communicate within our departments (sharing questions, files, etc.) or as an organization larger company chat throughout the day. The presence button (under your picture – red, yellow, green, or white) ties into your outlook calendar, showing if you are available and it makes it easier for a quick availability verification. The daily huddle and video communication allow us to savor the connection, see each other, and also as managers/leaders, give us an opportunity to see how our teams are doing and get a better feel for how our employees are handling the remote isolation. I have shared the idea of the daily huddle with a number of customer leaders and they have expressed interest in starting to try it internally as well.
Procedures and Processes
We have started the process of reviewing our policies and procedures in order to make adjustments to reflect the changes in our business operations (moving to ACH payments for AP, adjusting PTO policies, etc.) and are updating our internal systems to address driving more efficient ways to do business – some to take cost out of our operations, some to make it easier for our customers to do business with us, and some to make it easier for our employees.
Strengthening our IT Infrastructure
In addition to helping our staff address the phase II of their remote environments, our internal roadmap had planned for a number of infrastructure upgrades for the business in 2020; many of those, including a hybrid private cloud upgrade, are now being accelerated so that they will be taken care of during this time when we have some capacity in our project teams. This will ensure our systems are at the ready when your business needs are back at full strength and our focus can be on you and your needs.
Marketing & Sales
We are using the extra capacity to adjust our plans so that we can also pivot our activities from mainly a direct focus to include more of a digital approach. We are updating all of our marketing databases to ensure we have accurate information. The marketing and sales teams are working together and using a variety of tools to validate/scrub and update our information, so we have a better, more accurate focus for our marketing efforts. We have also continued to provide awareness marketing and information as we have seen an increase in inquiries from organizations who have asked for information about how to set up work from home approaches, teleconferencing, security, or been overwhelmed or need extra assistance to help with their IT support needs.
As leaders, we obviously have been spending a fair amount of time looking at how this major disruption to our business and the economy will affect our company today and also our business plans going forward. We have shifted to a weekly focus of goals over the past four to five weeks and will probably continue that for the next four to five weeks; however, we also have to start looking at revised planning for the next quarter and the balance of the year.
In talking to some of our customers, our advisors, and many of our peers, effects of the economic changes range from moderate to severe, and in some cases, people still aren't even prepared to consider what the future is going to look like.
We feel fortunate to have access to a number of very good advisors from our CPA firm, to our bank, to financial and industry consultants that have shared frameworks and ideas on plans and activities that need to be done to prepare to move forward. These insights have allowed us to build a Plan A – for a quick recovery, a Plan B – for a ‘U’ shaped recovery, and a Plan C – for a worst-case alternative to attempt to be prepared for a variety of alternatives and to be ready to keep supporting our customers and growing our business.
Finally, while this is a very tumultuous time for all of us, it gives us as an opportunity and a chance to think about and plan for how we can take advantage of that opportunity to move ourselves and our businesses forward. We look forward to being a part of that journey with you.
If we can help you in any way, please give us a call. We welcome the conversation.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. To your success.