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Coronavirus pandemic prompts businesses to pivot, not wait to rebound: Top Workplaces 2020 – cleveland.com


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Northeast Ohio companies aren’t necessarily attempting to bounce straight back after the coronavirus punched a hole in the economy. Rather than try to return to normal, they’re shifting to find new opportunities and new ways of doing business.

“We’ve a little bit of a shift,” Akron-based Environmental Design Group marketing director Tammi Nagucki said. “…The things that people think are important have changed.”

The business community faced a slew of problems when the pandemic shut down stores and offices. In a May report from McKinsey & Company, 49% of small and medium-sized business owners surveyed said their business feels less secure because of the virus, and 53 percent said their income was negatively impacted.

The highest recurring concern was loss of customers or that customers would not return after the pandemic.

For the 2020 Top Workplaces list, cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer have compiled a record 175 Northeast Ohio employers, based on employee surveys. And we’ve focused on their responses and adaptations to the coronavirus pandemic.

In most cases, the traditional communication methods with customers and clients were severed, especially for brick-and-mortar storefronts. Stores like Arhaus Furniture, headquartered in Boston Heights, still had demand, but didn’t have the same options for customer service.

“We’re hearing from a lot of our customers that after spending a lot more time in their homes, they now more than ever want to make their house into a home, to make it the perfect sanctuary for their families,” co-founder John Reed wrote in an email.

So Arhaus ramped up their virtual design services so that customers would be find shopping more accessible. Designers, who otherwise would work closely with shoppers in-person, hosted video walkthroughs of client spaces, mailed cloth samples and hosted private shopping appointments.

Much of what Arhaus has made available will stick around even as stores begin to reopen, Reed said.

These types of permanent changes are boosting business for some consulting companies. For example, they’re being hired to build permanent solutions for sharing data for companies that want to keep employees remote.

Blue Chip Consulting in Seven Hills saw some companies pause temporarily to take stock of needs during the pandemic. But now, those companies are leaning in. Being able to adapt to those needs has allowed business to grow in some areas.

“(Some companies used) collaboration tools but did not have the time to establish the governance and security pieces that could establish that as a long-term solution,” said Kate Willse, Blue Chip’s marketing and communications director.

For civil engineering firm Environmental Design Group, the virus also brought a pause in activity. Many of the firm’s clients are municipalities, and when the pandemic hit, cities no longer had the budget for some projects.

Even as some construction projects lag, federal government funding has sparked some interest. The firm is now pivoting so it can assist its clients with projects the government will assist with.

“The way we (used to) approach clients was a wide-cast net,” Nagucki said. “Now it’s much more based on empathy. Some of our clients aren’t ready to start, and others see this as an opportunity. We talk to clients where they are.”

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