Positivity in the Pandemic
From the dining room office-table of David A. Herrera President, CAM Property Services
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
by: David A Herrera, President at CAM Property Services

Section: Member News

After Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Safer-At-Home Order was announced, I worried through the whole weekend about how best to address my employees that Monday on the impact COVID-19 would have on our personal and professional lives.  I decided to be transparent and truthful. If the situation worsened over the coming weeks, then I wanted my team to know (and see) I would exhaust every option before having to make the most difficult decisions as an employer in my 29-year career.  I knew these decisions would not only affect them but their families as well.
On March 19, 2020, Italy and Spain were two weeks ahead of the United States in the COVID-19 crisis and the news was grim. 
Fear gripped employees who were concerned about their personal and families’ health and jobs.  Would they be laid off, furloughed, or would their salary be cut back?  With restaurants and so many non-essential businesses closing, the impact on ours, despite being ‘essential’, was unknown.
Business issues included a 20% drop in contract revenue in the first couple of weeks after the Safer-At-Home Orders were announced; cash flow compounded matters as our clients’ Accounts Payable departments were adjusting to working from home and their tenants were either slow to pay or not paying rents, which meant our invoices were not being paid.  ‘Cash is king’ ring a bell?
My immediate goal was to give our team a sense of safety and purpose:
  • Pivoted our strategy to fit our ‘essential business’ status during the crisis: 1) Be our clients ‘eyes and ears’ by being ‘of service’ in the field while they observe the Safe-At-Home Orders, and 2) Reallocated excess capacity to create and market Enhanced Sanitation Programs to serve essential businesses to combat COVID-19.
  • Restructured our company into cross-trained teams to create redundancy in case team members (or their family members) were stricken with coronavirus and they would be out for an extended time and assigned most functional departments to work from home to practice social distancing.
  • Set up Zoom meetings twice daily. Stand-up meetings have produced community, collaborative learning, and sharing of best practices across five offices, transparency, and accountability to keep up with the fluid crisis.
  • Worked with our suppliers and other partners to procure hard-to-find essentials: PPE (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer), toilet paper, fogging equipment, and EPA-approved virucide.
  • Used visual aids to drive our themes home. For example, rowing a boat as a team is difficult, but once the team comes together, great things can be accomplished.
  • Invited guest speakers to join our daily Zoom wrap up calls to learn about them and their business, which furthered our collaborative learning.
  • Conducted anonymous MailChimp surveys of our team to gauge the effectiveness of our COVID-19 Work Plan to manage our communications plan.
  • Virtual Wellness Program.  We partnered with a yoga studio to provide our team with tools to navigate the COVID-19 crisis while working from home and work.  Our weekly program includes a presentation on health and wellness, meditation session, and two (2) private yoga sessions. We have invited clients to join us and the sessions are recorded and sent to attendees so they can practice on their own if they cannot attend live.
Once our team and company was safe, the conversation changed. We began to look to the future and think about opportunities for our company to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world, which also means living and working with enhanced sanitation protocols for the next year or more until a vaccine is developed.  I formed a COVID-19 Task Force to focus on developing best practices to develop sanitation and disinfecting programs to proactively help businesses create safe places for their customers and employees to reopen and return to work on a sustainable basis.
Our team is preparing for new roles and innovating for new ways to earn a living within our industry.  The coronavirus may eliminate networking events and conferences, client lunch-and-learns, and other fun, ‘socially proximate’ events our industry historically thrived on.  New ways of marketing and selling services and products need to be pursued out of an abundance of caution and consideration for others’ safety and health because “things are not going back to how they were” anytime soon. 

If you’re not on a scalable video communication platform, then subscribe to one at once, mount a great camera at a flattering height on top of your monitor and be sure you have a strong Wi-Fi connection from home and work.  Then practice your presentation skills and have fun.  Video chat is an efficient and effective way to meet new prospects and stay in touch with valued clients, friends and family as we all get through this crisis together.  Remember: Always look straight into the camera!  Stay healthy and strong.