Q: What is EBI doing to ensure a smooth process from a pre-COVID-19 world to its current state?
A: We’ve spent a great deal of time focusing on how to keep our employees safe physically, emotionally, and financially. In our strategic planning, we often repeat the mantra, “if we take care of our employees, they will take care of our clients.” A large part of that effort has been focused on attempting to use local resources to service local clients to minimize employee travel. We feel we’ve been able to do this in a manner that keeps employees safe and still allows us to maintain high levels of service to our clients.
Additionally, EBI is building out an employee COVID-19 resources page where we can store all information regarding policies, FAQs, and procedures, providing our teams with easy access to new processes during the pandemic. We want to act fast, support employees, and in turn, keep business moving as seamlessly as possible.
Q: What technology was already in place before COVID-19?
A: Luckily, because EBI has historically had a progressive, flexible work culture, 100% of our employees already had laptops, and 75% of them were already utilizing a work-from-home model. Additionally, the network infrastructure, cloud-based business applications, and cyber security program necessary to support a “work from anywhere model” was already in place, and we have been using Zoom and similar collaboration tools for years, so going from 75% work-from-home to 98% work-from-home required virtually no changes to our operating model. Also, we found that having written and tested Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans gave us confidence in our preparedness, but also pointed out how we could extend the plans even further.
EBI also offers a broad base of client services, offering us great diversification of business opportunities, so we were not as susceptible to a scenario where a large percentage of our revenue was at risk due to a slowdown in the economy.
Additionally, the majority of EBI’s executive leadership team worked through the recessions of 2001 and 2008, building company resilience, and sees the current environment as an opportunity to invest further in the company, our employees, and in technology to raise productivity. The leadership team is not only working around the clock to ensure employee support, but also to keep spirits high and remind both employees and clients that we will all get through this hardship together.
Q: How are we supporting clients during this time?
A: We’ve leveraged our experience with Zoom and remote collaboration tools to implement various strategies for supporting due diligence property assessments using streaming video, sometimes using the client site contact onsite, and sometimes having the EBI assessor onsite. These new strategies are aimed to minimize travel and maximize opportunities for social distancing for our assessors, client contacts, and even property tenants, all while keeping projects on schedule. We’re also finding ways to creatively use GoPro and similar devices and drones to capture high definition video during property assessments, which can be viewed by the client from the comfort and safety of a home office.
EBI has also provided environmental health and safety services on short notice to our clients implementing new emergency healthcare facilities and spaces in response to COVID-19.
Q: How will this change the future of how we do business?
A: Now that we have started to perform virtual assessments of properties using collaboration technologies and streaming video, we suspect that in certain scenarios, some of these expanded uses of technology may become permanent innovations once this pandemic is behind us. Also, we’re finding that virtual assessments provide for more flexible scheduling and faster delivery.
Cross-training opportunities allow flexibility across EBI’s different teams, maximizing our physical reach while minimizing costs and the time constraints of travel. For example, members of EBI’s telecommunications services team can work seamlessly with our traditional real estate due diligence team by conducting virtual site assessments using GoPros or Zoom meetings in areas of the country that due diligence assessors may be unable to get to in a timely manner.
Additionally, the new needs brought on by the pandemic have led us to streamline new client-serving technologies. We will soon be launching EBI Direct, a new B2B exchange where clients can seamlessly submit purchase orders electronically through services integration. While this process will be extremely helpful during the pandemic itself, improving our online ordering capabilities will improve client experience over the long run, and allow EBI to provide an even better experience to our clients.