Video transcript: Lessons in resilience: A small business story of reopening and thriving during COVID-19

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[MUSIC PLAYING] I think running any business comes with a special sort of responsibility. You know that people, your employees, your clients, their families, everyone you affect, they're all depending on you to make-- to meet these challenges that come your way. When you're a small business, it comes forward to you in a very concrete and personal way.

So we're a small company, less than 100 employees, located in Bloomfield, New Jersey. We've been around for a few years. We've had the good fortune of expanding our business extremely rapidly. So a lot of the things we should have done, we didn't do, and the pandemic really did make us go down that road to improve some of our corporate infrastructure.

We serve different sorts of health care providers-- from hospitals, to large physician practices, home health agencies, nursing homes, FQHC clinics. We run the gamut of different providers, and they certainly all have very different needs during this pandemic. The one thing they all agreed, though was for Sierra to keep working and keep our productivity going full force so that we didn't impact their revenue.

In March, we were fully staffed. We went to half staff and half remote when New Jersey went on lockdown. In April, we ended up doing a full shutdown when New York really got hit pretty badly. And so April 18 to May 23, we were fully, fully remote. That was very challenging.

And then May 23, we transitioned back to half in half off. We slowly brought them back in. Many of the employees wanted to come back in because they were not able to keep up on productivity and worried about doing a good job, and they could not get it done at home.

In June, we were nearly fully staffed. And then I'm happy to say, in July, we've leased about 5,000 more square feet of space in our building for our new clients as well as our ability to space people more distantly in the cubicles so really excited about that.

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There were factors that predispositioned us to success. Most new offices have an open-floor plan, which I love, but we never decided to do that. We have old-fashioned cubicles. We have security at every door. We have cameras. And there's no access to our floor. It's protected. We didn't have to deal with any issues with public access or anybody, even the mailman, coming into our floor.

During this pandemic, strangely, we have been working on a couple of clients that came through in end of March and April. This gave us a lot of reassurance that we knew revenue was coming in at some point. So a lot of the money outlay, we knew, would be made up at that point.

Agility of being a small company-- I like to always say we're sort of a yacht. We can turn very quickly. So not only do we make decisions quickly, we make them. We can change them. So if we make a wrong decision, we quickly change it, and we certainly did a lot of that in March, April, and May where we thought we were going to go forward in one direction, and it just didn't work, and we had to change that direction.

We did have a couple of things that worked well. I would have to say, it seems obvious, but communicate, communicate, communicate. And that we did through partner emails to all of our employees so that everyone got the same email from us, to working with our executives that filtered down to our management about what our plan was, messages that we really wanted them to receive. We also said we acknowledge that you're scared. We acknowledge you have a lot of fear.

And we repeatedly said, if you have to stay home, and you have to quit this job, to take care of your family because you have this fear, then that's something you need to do. And we were not going to hold it against anyone, whatsoever, but that we couldn't promise when this pandemic ended, which, at that point, it seemed like it might, what we could do for them at that point.

There's a fear that continues. So we talked about the fear in the beginning that was a really scary fear. And now, there's just an underlying fear that raises tensions. The negative financial impact-- whether Sierra will be negatively impacted at some point, where they will have to be laid off. There's still a bit of a fear for that.

And decreased productivity-- working at home, we're not at our best when our whole staff is working from home. We're at our best when we're all here together, and they're working in their teams and collaborating. We required masks for everybody walking around. And I will say the biggest challenge, I don't know how many people are fully back to the office, is normalizing the mask. Normalizing the mask wearing, it took a whole team of us, the executives.

We're faced with this unprecedented challenge of this pandemic. And we literally know every person who's counting on us, every patient at our clients, every employee, we know all their families. It's very family-type environment here at Sierra. But thankfully, I'm not alone, and we're not alone. I stand on the shoulders of geniuses.

So while I may be the narrator of the story to you today, it's really our entire executive team, our management team, our mid-level management that really rose to the challenge as well as our employees. And they're the ones that really I'm talking about today. But our success really was a result of the industry that we serve. We're in the health care industry, some good and bad decisions, and teamwork grit, and a little bit of ingenuity.

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