Top Self-Storage Company Enables Thousands of Employees to Work from Home through COVID-19

My Post (17).pngReady for a positive business story in the era of COVID-19? One of the world’s top self-storage companies has found a way to maintain operations across its thousands of facilities—and keep its large staff employed—through this pandemic.

The company’s strategy: Leverage their cloud-based, work-from-anywhere communications solution to enable everyone in the organization to collaborate, communicate, and serve customers from home.

A Different Type of Disaster Leads to Cloud Communications

The organization actually switched to RingCentral’s all-in-one cloud-communications solution long before the coronavirus outbreak. Senior management decided to move off its legacy phone system, and do so as quickly as possible, when a series of rolling outages took down phone service to many of its locations over the course of a week and a half.

In researching their telephony options, several factors led the IT team to the unified communications solution from RingCentral—including the company’s reputation for platform stability, RingCentral’s ability to implement solutions rapidly for new customers, the wide range of integrated communication features available, and the solution’s future capabilities.

Of course, as it was rolling out RingCentral’s cloud-communications solution to all of its locations and employees, the company had no idea that one of those “future capabilities” would be its ability to respond to a worldwide viral pandemic by transitioning immediately to a 100% remote staff.

A Rollout So Quick and Smooth it Shocked the Company

With contracts signed, the IT team prepared itself and the rest of the organization for what it assumed would be a slow and frustrating migration to their new communications solution—but it turns out the transition period was neither slow nor frustrating. – Read more

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How to Manage a Public Meeting Remotely

My Post (16).pngAs stewards of public funds, government leaders must operate transparently. Sharing information publicly and creating opportunities for citizen oversight and feedback have long been recognized as prerequisites of quality service. In times of crisis and uncertainty, open communication is even more vital as citizens look to public sector leaders to provide information and necessary support.

States Provide Flexibility and Clarify Rules for Public Meetings

Recognizing the conflict between social distancing guidelines from public health officials and traditional open meeting laws, Governors around the country have issued executive orders to provide additional flexibility and clarify remote meeting rules.

  • In California, Governor Gavin Newsom suspended specific provisions of the state’s open meetings laws and allowed local government agencies to hold meetings telephonically or electronically without public access to the meeting site.
  • In Wisconsin, the Department of Justice prepared an advisory explaining that teleconference and videoconference may be an appropriate way to comply with the law’s requirement to hold meetings that are reasonably accessible to the public.
  • In our home state of Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb issued an Executive Order requiring public agencies and governing bodies to conduct essential meetings only. In addition, he allowed them to be conducted electronically by phone or video conference.

While states have relaxed legal requirements around quorum and physical location requirements, don’t forget that government bodies are still obligated to provide public notice of meetings and a way for the public to participate remotely. Here are several examples of various states’ emergency open meeting rules: ArizonaCaliforniaConnecticutNew YorkIndianaNebraskaNorth Dakota; TexasWashington, and Wisconsin.

Two Ways to Manage a Public Meeting Remotely

Technology like OnBoard makes it possible for a public board to conduct necessary government operations in a remote environment without sacrificing transparency and still keeping the public informed. In fact, 2500+ meetings were held using OnBoard in March alone. – Read more

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How a Coffee Shop Continues Serving Customers From Home

My PostAmy and Ben Wright recently temporarily shut down their five coffee shops in Wilmington, North Carolina, laying off over 120 employees, and moving their entire business online, all in one week. For the Wrights, it was a painful decision, especially because many of their employees who have intellectual developmental disabilities had difficulty understanding that the layoffs were not their fault. But despite all the changes, they are staying connected to customers and their mission, while keeping their eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Four years ago, the Wrights founded Bitty & Beau’s Coffee with a unique staffing mission: “a human rights movement disguised as a coffee shop.” They are advocates of the value, inclusion, and acceptance of people with intellectual developmental disabilities, including their two children, whom the coffee shop is named for. In 2017, Amy was honored with CNN’s Hero of the Year award. The business expanded quickly, opening its fifth location in Annapolis, Maryland earlier this year. But that was before COVID-19.

“I think the whole world is going through this time of figuring it out,” Ben Wright told me on today’s ‘Leading Through Change’ live show. “It’s what we do on a daily basis. When we started the coffee shop, we just had to figure it out. With this COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is just having to figure it out.”

He went on to say that Salesforce tools have enabled them to respond and pivot from being a “within-six-feet-of-one-another retail business” to primarily online.

Here are three tips they offered to fellow business owners on how to chart uncertain territory and keep moving forward:

Tip 1: Be true to your purpose

In order to adapt to the changing demands, you need to support your team and meet them on a personal level. “I look through the eyes of being a mother when I have conversations with my employees,” said Amy Wright. “I think about them as family members and treat them as such. It really does make a big difference.” As such, the Wrights are continuing to make accommodations for employees with disabilities and without disabilities, knowing this approach will bring out the best in employees, as it always has.

Tip 2: Communicate often

You don’t need all the answers to communicate with your employees or customers. Start by communicating with honesty and the appreciation that we are all in this together.

“Everybody is in the same boat, just trying to figure this out,” said Ben Wright. “[You’re] not always going to have the right answer or even a good answer. Let people know what you’re trying to do.” – Read more

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