Make It Work... from Home
by Cris Cortez, Director of Operations, ingredientsonline.com
2020 has passed but the ramifications of the tumultuous year, riddled with political uncertainty and pocked by an economy-altering pandemic, will likely be felt for years to come. I recall the day our local government officially recognized the threat posed by COVID-19 and announced the possibility of a country-wide shut down. I immediately called an emergency meeting to discuss the eventualities which are now the new normal. Would we be able to continue operating? How would this impact our sales? Would we be able to equip our employees with the tools needed to telecommute? From that point on, I was zoned in on “operation: work from home.”
As a technology-driven company, sure, we had dabbled in remote working, but never at the scale of the entire workforce. We had to think quickly and execute flawlessly. Fortunately, we had some basics already covered. Since we had implemented a cloud-based ERP in 2018, there were almost zero alterations to our day-to-day processes. Our databases were accessible through a browser or mobile device as easily as one would access Netflix. Our CRM tools were also baked into the ERP, making it so we did not have to reinvent the wheel for our sales and customer service teams. Either by dumb luck or the brilliant foresight of our executive officers, the migration to a cloud-based ERP emancipated us from our home base servers and paved the way for a completely digital operation.
The next step was to decide how we would conduct meetings going forward. My weekly calendars were generally a tapestry of meetings, training sessions, and more meetings – each as essential as the next. Enter the era of Zoom… Or Skype, or Microsoft Teams, or Hangouts. The market is saturated with options to digitally meet with colleagues…in their pajamas. While there is no perfect substitute for face-to-face conferences, I was elated to discover that we did not have to compromise collaboration, which is an essential facet of our day-to-day.
With a cloud-based ERP and digital conferencing in place, we were ready to take off. Our employees were sent home in waves and we had to trust that they would be as dedicated at home as they were in the office – despite our initial hesitations and concerns. But a good manager would be remiss to rely on blind trust alone. As a supplement to the cloud-based ERP and digital conferencing, tools for online chatting, such as google hangouts or the widely utilized #slack application, simulated the ease of dropping by a colleague’s cubical for a quick discussion or checking in with managers and team members. Chatting is also a fantastic way to stay connected with your departments in general. There is nothing like waking up to a barrage of “good mornings” in the form of digital pings.
Whether or not the pandemic eases up in the next months or years, online operations are here to stay. According to a survey from zenbusiness.com, “remote working is set to increase by 16% among small to medium-sized businesses. 65% of businesses with over 50 employees have remote working in place currently, and of this group, 70% intend to keep work from home in place in some form once this pandemic is over.” Additionally, a Stanford study of 16,000 individuals showed a 13% increase in productivity following the transition to working from home. The tide has certainly turned toward a digital age, and with ingredientsonline.com being an e-commerce platform, the opportunity to ride that wave is one good takeaway from an otherwise chaotic year.
Cris Cortez is the Director of Operations for ingredientsonline.com. Focusing on operational enhancements to drive business growth, Cris has been leading the company’s key initiatives for over two years. He has maintained a career that is deeply rooted in operations – with a background in e-commerce marketing, sales, and customer service operations. Through previous experiences at Houzz.com and Blisshomeanddesign.com, Cris brings a digital, online perspective to everything he undertakes at ingredientsonline.com. He is passionate and prepared to drive IO further into the digital world and is dedicated to bringing a familiar online experience to ingredients buyers worldwide.