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Letter to the Editor: 3 new business realities birthed from pandemic

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Dear editor,

Never in a million years did I think we would go from managing the biggest capacity we had ever had to shutting the company down over the course of about two weeks, but that is what my wife and I were forced to do at Paragon 360 in mid-March.

Like so many other businesses, 2020 was on track to be the best year in our company’s 20-year history. As an audio, video and lighting integrator, we were designing and installing systems for businesses and churches around the country. And then COVID-19 interrupted the flow of business, and everything came to a screeching halt. Projects were delayed and the phones went eerily silent.

Our executive leadership team was involved in war room meetings for several days in mid-March and was forced to make some very difficult decisions without having the benefit of solid data. Like so many other businesses, we were flying with zero visibility, no instruments and losing altitude quickly. Three months later, I am happy to say that we have weathered the storm and are coming out the other side a little leaner and a lot wiser. We are part of very few in our industry still working. We saw a surge from people needing to embrace technology coming out of this and clients looking to get work done while facilities are closed. We have actually been hiring again and have added multiple freelance workers from our industry to the team to get projects completed. We have seen several delayed projects come back in the queue, and the phones are ringing once again. But there is no denying the fact that we are operating in a different world.

As I consider business after COVID-19, I see three significant realities affecting how we do business going forward.

First, the world is shifting to digital. Instant communication allows businesses to connect with their clients, churches to engage with their congregants and teachers to interact with their students. We are not only making this transition within our company; we are helping our clients build the digital infrastructure necessary to stay connected with their audience. Contactless payments, online giving, even digital currency will affect how commerce is conducted in the future.

The second reality I see is that companies must embrace innovation. As the Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In the post-COVID world, businesses must find new ways to reach out and engage with their customers. Reaching them is one thing but engaging with them is another. We will need fresh and new ideas to compete going forward. The way consumers purchase goods has changed drastically in the last several months. Groceries are delivered, food is picked up curbside, everything from homes to cars are purchased online, even doctor’s visits are done by video. Failure to make this pivot could be fatal to companies that do not innovate.

Transitioning to flexible workspace is the third reality I see going forward. Not everyone needs an office. One of the most eye-opening things to come out of this pandemic is how effective workforces can be when working from home or on the road. The reality is, remote work does work. This will have a significant impact on the need for commercial space going forward as businesses shift to flexible workspaces. Video conferencing will be a vital component of any office. Creating engaging work environments that are conducive for creativity, communication and collaboration will likely be the trend going forward.

COVID-19 was a disrupter of epic proportions. It was not the first and will likely not be the last disrupter of our lifetime. When the winds change, those who adjust their sails (or shall I say sales?) will not only survive the storm but also come out stronger and wiser on the other side. Rest assured, throughout our family of companies, change is underway.

–Donnie Brawner, owner and CEO, 
Paragon 360

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