Today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, millions, perhaps billions, of people are trying to work from home. Some current adapters have been forced out of their offices by the specter of COVID-19, struggle with time – and family – management, and hope to return to the comfortable routine of office life asap. But others adjust easily, as if they have been working remotely all along. They’re the ones that Tech Up.
What makes the telling difference? It is likely too early to draw conclusions. However, there is one young, growing business that, with a versatile approach, a “whatever it takes for the customer” attitude and a savvy, insightful technology decision, is able to make their “remote opportunity” thrive.
“Honestly? We didn’t really intend to be virtual,” says Brian Johnson, Founder and CEO of ProServ Logistics. Headquartered n Eden Prairie, MN, they recently drew positive attention from the local press http://www.startribune.com/long-game-starting-to-pay-off-for-logistics-startup-proserv/565358672/
“We were glad to do what they wanted,” says David Buhl, co-founder and COO, “But not all the best people wanted to work in Eden Prairie. They wanted to work but didn’t want to commute.”
“So, I guess we went virtual,” laughs Johnson, whose love for life and logistics shows in his upbeat demeanor and continual optimism. “Maybe reluctantly, at first. Before we were comfortable with it. Certainly, before we really knew what it could do for us.”
“And what it can do for our customers,” Buhl adds.
ProServ is not all virtual, not all remote.
“I like coming into the office,” says Perry Torgenson, Manager, Business Development. “I’m a people person, and that’s what ‘having a job’ always meant to me.”
“Until this Coronavirus,” he adds, over the phone. “Now, a lot of offices are just risky.”
But, some of their key personnel have been remote from the beginning. Diane Johnson (no relation to Brian), VP Operations and an industry leader for more than twenty years, was “officed out.”
“I just reached a point in my life where I wanted to be closer to my family,” she explains. “I love logistics, supply chain, the constant challenges, helping people, preventing problems. But I can do that from home…or my cabin,” she adds, like a true Minnesotan. “And my commitment to my customers and ProServ? I’ll reach out to you before you need me, but I’m always available.”
Eric Jex, VP Operations, is an intense, “make things happen” dynamo who climbed every hill his “out of college” career choice presented him with.
“But I’d chased that rabbit long enough,” he says, smiling to help you understand. “I just wanted to have more meaningful relationships with family, friends, co-workers and customers. Brian and I had worked together earlier, and, when I heard what he had started, I was intrigued.”
Jex, initially the most remote employee, went from “intrigued” to “all in” when Brian Johnson and Buhl said he could “come aboard” without being on site. “The lifestyle I want is miles away from Eden Prairie,” he says. “When they said they were cool with me being remote, it was the easiest – and best – decision I ever made.”
Remoteness Becomes a Strength
ProServ had an office, where most of their employees showed up daily, intent on serving each customer, and committed to growing their business. But, two of their key personnel – Johnson and Jex – were miles away. Then came Melissa, a customer advocate whose name and talent was well-known.
“We had identified her as a rising star,” says Jex, who had recruited Melissa earlier in their careers. “When we had the chance to get her on our team, we wanted to find a way.”
“I live in Kalamazoo,” Melissa says with a laugh. “When I interviewed, I told them, ‘Give me a chance and I will help you build your business…but I’ve got to do it from Kalamazoo.”
Then, there were three who were remote; vital team members, core to Pro Serv’s success. “At first, it was easy to communicate the important stuff,” Johnson says. “We were small, and we didn’t always have a lot that we needed to work together on.”
But, the business grew, and success presented challenges.
“As a service provider, you need your team to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate,” Johnson realized.
“And technology is my area of expertise,” Buhl states. “And this looked like an opportunity. We’d been looking at what was out there, kicking some tires, so to speak. We knew it was time to upgrade our technology.”
“We’d heard about EKA Solutions,” Johnson recalls. “And had worked with some of their people earlier in our careers. So, we put them to the test. This is our livelihood; we can’t gamble.”
“We agreed to be a BETA tester,” says Buhl. “And, first of this year, we went live.”
“And you know how all of our people are able to work remotely this week?” Johnson asks. “Because we’ve been doing it. Working remotely, communicating with each other, helping our customers and carriers use our technology.”
“EKA is a distributive platform,” Buhl elaborates. “Its security protocols are second to none, but it allows our people – and trusted partners – single sign-on access – and, it’s role-based.”
“So, was it hard to tell everyone to not come to the office because of the pandemic?” Johnson asks. “Yes, because we’re all used to what we’re all used to. But, did I worry about our business? Or about taking care of our customers? No, because we’ve got the best people, and the EKA platform does everything we need it to. And they’re building new features in all the time.”
“Every two weeks EKA does another release,” Buhl says. “I tell them they need to keep pace with ProServ. Our team is working remotely, but we’re going places.”
“That we are,” Johnson says with a laugh. “We may be remote now, but we’re all still in sync!”
It’s Time To Tech Up
The world is changing rapidly – and more so in the last four weeks. While many factors are out of our control, that makes it more imperative to learn from the success of ProServ Logistics who decided to embrace technological progress in business.
They decided to Tech Up.
This is no longer a choice. Companies rigidly holding to the old ways of doing business in an analog mindset aren’t prepared for the myriad of challenges about to arrive in an increasingly digital world.
No one can predict everything that’s coming – but we can say with confidence that refusing to embrace cloud-based technologies and platforms means you won’t be ready for the future.