By: Liz Sheff, COO | Stream Realty Partners
Managing through a global pandemic in our current business climate is unprecedented. Creating a level of certainty that allows people to work through the crisis successfully will be the genesis of many conversations to come. As awareness of COVID-19 grew and with the epidemic’s rapid global spread, my team and I had to rapidly prepare all of our company’s business functions and property management teams to stay ahead of unique challenges that they were sure to face. We would need to adjust quickly and ask our people to tap into their reserves of some serious grit. Although we’re still moving through this and learning something new every day, here are some of the early actions we took to generate a much-needed degree of certainty.
“Real leaders show up and become visible during hard times. They are confident, calm, hopeful, open, honest and clear.”-Author Unknown
Preparation is Everything
Outlining, in advance, what rapid response would look and feel like for our teams and clients was critical. Prior to the stay at home orders, I was in communications with people in the medical field and across the industry that made me rethink what could happen as COVID-19 spread. Playing out several scenarios was part of the process that allowed me and my team to be mentally and operationally prepared for the worst as we hoped for the best. But, as anticipated, the shift to crisis management mode came almost overnight and we had to mobilize teams with advance plans in place that prioritized energies and focus, but with built-in adaptability to shift those priorities, if, when and where needed.
Three critical areas of our early implementation plans included: (1) testing all systems across the company to ensure all aspects of the company could perform at 100% capacity in a remote working scenario, while keeping essential personnel for managed properties on-site, often in a modified capacity with safety precautions in place; (2) continuously refining protocols for cleaning, distancing and tenant notifications tailored to the specific needs or requirements of the client and asset; and (3) delivering proactive service and communication.
The idiom “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes” is a reminder to practice empathy, but we use it as a guiding principle. We put ourselves in our client’s shoes before every action taken—providing early and critical information that allows them to make the most informed decisions. We are keeping our clients hyper-current on every aspect of the buildings they own, paying close attention to the status of its tenants and delivering daily and/or weekly critical updates to mitigate exposure and provide a head start on solution development as situations arise.
As much as we communicate through email and phone, physically putting our eyes on our managed real estate is a necessity. Our committed front lines provide much needed continuity and safety—answering tenant inquiries, managing mitigation plans when there’s an exposure, accommodating maintenance or cleaning requests and communicating openly and honestly to everyone involved at a managed property. Their ability to create a sense of order and normalcy have helped to ease the anxiety at our managed assets.
“Stream has been extremely well -organized in your communication and brought great ideas to the table.”-New York-based Institutional Client
Managing the current COVID-19 situation requires an entirely different level of white glove service. The environment is changing daily and it’s been critical that leadership and property management teams in every market are operationally in sync—equally prepared with clear contingency plans in place, to provide seamless service delivery for owners and tenants.
Whether shifting staffing or responsibilities, we emphasize focus on defined critical priorities, which may differ from those in a normal workday. And, despite the chaos that may surround our teams, we ask them to strive to maintain a calm demeanor and focus on what else can be done for our clients and tenants.
When we had to take active measures to support the efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, we didn’t question whether it was good for business. People are our business and protecting them was simply the right thing to do.
We’ve experienced a real sense of gratitude, both within Stream and from our clients, that our early move to remote work was best—and safest—for all involved, and that early planning made this transition seamless.
If there is ever a question about what steps to take next, doing what’s right for your employees, clients and communities, should always lead the answer.
“We appreciate your leadership in protecting our assets and tenants. The health and safety of our tenants and vendors is paramount—thank you for your focus on that.”-National Institutional Client
The Road Ahead
Although we can’t anticipate every individual hurdle that this crisis will generate, we can control our response. Creating an environment of purposeful and deliberate calm to solve for anything that comes our way, will go a very long way in our current and future relationships.
If there is a silver lining in this, companies have the unique opportunity to put core values to the test in every situation. For us it’s being smart in how we respond to high stress situations, being honest about the severity of any given situation and always doing the right thing, being nice and coming at each situation with empathy and being passionate about providing the highest level of service in every situation.
Our mission was to create a level of certainty in a time of unprecedented uncertainty for our people, our clients and everyone we came into contact with. Although we continue to learn and always strive to do better, I think we are definitely on the right track.
About the Author
Liz Sheff is the Chief Operating Officer of Stream Realty Partners
Liz K. Sheff is a Partner and Chief Operating Officer for Stream Realty Partners. Liz joined the firm in 2010 with over 20+ years of property management experience and is currently responsible for providing oversight, management and direction to the firm’s property management, accounting, corporate operations, engineering and construction management services nationally.