NAVIGATING COVID-19

By: Jen Levisen, Communications Director, Mortarr

We reached out to Mortarr subscribers to see how they were navigating the complexities of our current COVID-19 environment. Praise for IT departments, Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams, and takeout orders abound.

Hanson Chen,
Marketing Manager, Meteor Lighting

Q: How is your team managing the transition to remote status?

A: As of right now, we remain open with no effect on shipping or manufacturing. Mainly in part because we are classified as an essential manufacturer and our lights are installed in a number of facilities that is part of our national lighting infrastructure. It’s crucial that we are able to support places like public transportation systems and hospitals if they ever come across any issues. My team and basically everyone that does not operate machinery is staying home and continuing to support the lighting industry any way we can.

Q: How are you staying connected with your clients and professional partners?

A: We’re doing everything through video conference calls and online presentations. It’s important that everyone feels a sense of normalcy whilst being in the comfort of your own home. But webinars get boring, so we went that extra mile by shooting a high-quality pre-recorded video where our clients really get to see our product demonstrations.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

A: I would say that the production team faces the biggest challenge. Firstly, working under the social distancing guidelines but maintaining the same output efficiency, and secondly, not knowing if production for a certain project might have to stop because of job site closures. For the marketing team, the challenge is how to get your voice heard, now that all trade shows are off the table and the digital world is the level playing field.

Q: What has been the silver lining for your firm during all of this?

A: COVID-19 is single handedly the most influential factor of pushing our firm to go digital. Which means an increasing focus, importance and respect placed in creating content, social media and all things digital. Maintaining an online presence is not just crucial now, but I feel is something that can really have a lasting impact in the lighting industry.

Q: What is your approach to new business during this time? How are you getting your messages out?

A: We are launching what we call Lightflix, Light – Netflix, get it? A video resource tool for our reps and specifiers to. You simply schedule a 30-minute slot and watch our HD pre-recorded video that covers all our key products as well as a live Q&A section with our experienced Regionals.

Q: Looking ahead, what adjustments do you think your firm might make, either temporarily or permanently, because of this experience?

A: From a marketing standpoint, we are going to permanently focus more on digital marketing communication channels, our main platforms are Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Mortarr.

Q: How has your firm, or employees, supported your communities during this time?

A: The first thing we did was to protect our own. We promised no layoffs or furloughs in this time of crisis. Next, we reached out and supported the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank by making monetary donations.

Meteor Lighting is at the forefront of producing high ceiling architectural LED lighting fixtures with advanced dimming technologies applicable for all types of commercial projects.

The California based company, offers a family of innovative LED product lines

that deliver in performance, sustainability, and design.

Lisa Thiel, Director of Marketing and

Corporate Development, Stahl

 

Q: How has Stahl managed the transition to remote status?

 

A: This is not business-as-usual. Generally, we’re following guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Governor for both our office and field teams.

 

Due to ongoing developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve updated our Company Policy in accordance with the State of Minnesota’s “stay-at-home” order. All of our Minnesota office personnel are working remotely until the order is lifted. At this time, no “stay-at-home” order has been enacted in the State of Iowa. Our Iowa personnel are still being encouraged to work wherever they feel safe.

 

Construction hasn’t been shut down, so field personnel can go to their jobsites, and we’ve added sanitizing and amended daily huddle procedures. Our team is tracking all of our projects status’ weekly to ensure our risk management strategies and overall business management approach is aligned with what we’re seeing in the field. We’re continuously monitoring all project materials and working with subcontractors and manufacturers to ensure delivery dates and labor availability. 

 

Q: How are teams staying connected with each other, clients, and pro partners?

 

A: To further teams’ communication, we’re utilizing a shared Company-wide Issues and COVID-19 Impact tracking log. A second tab is a similar tracking log focused on the COVID-19 impacts we’re seeing on projects. If anyone sees any impact (material availability, workforce onsite, our team’s production, inspection issues, etc.) it’s noted in this document. We’re looking for trends across projects and ensuring we’re all working with the best, most recent information. Our goal is to get a complete picture of how issues arise and how we resolve them as an organization.

 

We’ve also ramped up the use of Microsoft Teams with our colleagues working remotely and have found it to be a great way to stay connected and ensure everyone on a “team” stays informed.

 

Q: How has your firm, or employees, supported your communities during this time?

 

A: As we move through this turbulent time, our focus must remain on the health and safety of our region. The economic stability of our local businesses is paramount in our ability to rebound following this crisis. We believe we play an important role in our communities, both in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting sensitive populations, and in providing jobs to our team and our subcontractor partners. We’re committed to addressing the impact this will have on our marketplace and being a communicative, engaged support to our clients and partners.

 

Stahl provides professional consulting, development, general contracting,

construction management, design/build, and IPD construction services.

They are headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., and have an office in Urbandale, Iowa.

Greta Norris, Project Designer,

DJR Architecture

 

Q: How is your team managing the transition to remote status?

 

A: Our team, and especially our tech team, has made an extraordinary effort to provide remote access for everyone under very short notice. We only had remote access for a few people until a few weeks ago. DJR’s leadership has had the foresight to stay one step ahead of this pandemic and has communicated their decisions really well across the company.

 

Q: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

 

A: The biggest challenge for our office is staying in constant communication and coordinating design ideas remotely. We’re mapping out and thinking of concepts a little differently now to ensure they translate correctly. We don’t have the luxury of walking over to someone’s office or desk now.

 

Q: What has been the silver lining for your firm during all of this?

 

A: So far, I’d say it’s that work continues. Work hasn’t slowed for current clients, and we’ve brought on new clients during this time as well. We’ve hired two people in the last month.

 

Also, our entire office is remote-ready now.

 

Minneapolis, Minn.-based DJR Architecture provides architectural services from the pre-development phase through the planning design, bidding, and construction phases.

Dean Gwin, President, COO,

Gate Precast Company

 

Q: How is your team managing the transition to remote status?

 

A: It took a heroic effort from our company’s IT staff to quickly execute a system that gave engineers and drafters the ability to work in Autodesk BIM 360 productively as well as users from our nine plants who are working outside of the office. 

 

Q: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

 

A: Evaluating federal, state, and local mandates concerning construction and what businesses are considered essential. It has also been challenging for those who are working at the plant to transition into working under social distancing criteria and balancing production with several jobs being put on hold.

 

Q: What has been the silver lining for your firm during all of this?

 

A: Watching the way in which all of our team has come together and made changes so we can keep everyone as safe as possible and continue to provide product for the essential projects we have in our backlog.

 

Q: What is your approach to new business during this time? How are you getting your messages out? 

 

A: We are letting our customers know through phone calls, emails and social media that we are open for business and can continue to produce custom precast products offsite ensuring on time delivery when they are ready for us.

 

Gate Precast Company is one of the largest and most diversified precast concrete producers

in the United States, with eight manufacturing facilities, and is known for its

design-assist collaboration with design teams.

Tony Szak, US & Canada National Sales Manager,

Speedymason

 

Q: How is your team managing the transition to remote status?

 

A: We’re classified as an essential manufacturer, so our team is still actively working in our manufacturing area. There we’ve implemented a number of processes to keep employees safe, including disinfecting wipes at each machine and ensuring that employees stay an appropriate distance away from each other. Our facility is large enough that we’re able to maintain distances of 20 to 30 feet apart. We’ve also increased the number of hand sanitizer and wipes in the breakroom and throughout the building. We’ve also locked down all entrances, and only employees are allowed in at their particular shift times.

 

On the sales side, all of our work is now online, so we’ve been doing more Zoom meetings and online presentations.

 

Q: What has been the silver lining for your firm during all of this?

 

A: We’ve really been able to step back and take a look at our operations. Because I am not on the road, I have been able to update our video library and how-to videos. We’ve also all been doing a little more take-out as of late – helping out the local restaurants.

 

Q: How are you getting your messages out? 

 

A: Outside of email, we’ve turned to our social meeting platforms to keep a consistent flow of communication. Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are the platforms we’re using most.

 

Speedymason, is a Sparta, Wisc.-based manufacturer of composite thin brick and stone lath panels.

How is your firm navigating COVID-19? Mortarr’s Communications Director, Jen Levisen, would like to hear from you. Email her at jen.levisen@mortarr.com.

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