FROM OUR PRESIDENT Navigating COVID times: Wins, Losses, Lessons Learned

By Greg Jackson, CEO Columbine Label Company

The past six months of 2020 have been kind of a blur. Everyone has been facing unprecedented challenges, concerns, decisions (and even new opportunities) on a professional and personal level that often change on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.

But I feel like we have reached a point where we can take a collective breath and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re heading – an assessment of wins, losses, lessons learned, if you will.

• Agility – Businesses have adapted nimbly to serve their markets in new ways. For example, we have many customers in the craft beer industry. With taprooms closed, brewers have retrenched operations to canning their brew and selling it curbside. Others are shifting their can size from 12-ounce to 32-ounce crowlers. Makers of hand-craft food products who relied on sales at farmer’s markets and other in-person channels have revved up their online presence. (Go here for some great tips on how to make your product stand out online.)

The small, entrepreneurial businesses that we serve are used to bumps in the road on their journey to success. The past few months have just been a little bumpier than usual, but they bring their same determination and grit to overcome the new challenges. That’s always a win in my book.

Seamless service – 60 percent of our business is the food and beverage industry and, like printing, they have been designated as essential services. That means we have to continue delivering quality, on-time labels as seamlessly as pre-pandemic days. Fortunately, due to the nature of printing, we already had ample social distancing throughout most of our print shop so we didn’t miss a beat there. Our sales reps and office staff began working remotely but rotate through the office during the week making sure orders are placed into production. And courier services continue to run deliveries daily. I am proud to say we are able to continue meeting our standard three-day lead time. (See our on-time and early shipment rating here.)

• Technology – A big part of the seamless service “win” is technology. Just before the pandemic restrictions took place, we had implemented new workflow software that streamlines the pre-press process and catches potential issues early in the stream. This has been instrumental in helping us meet lead times; and other cloud-based office software has enabled us to remote work easily and successfully.

• Increased productivity and flexibility – A number of our employees live an hour or more from our site. Remote work freed them up from time-consuming commutes. We have also been able to work around the schedules of employees whose children are in school or day care. Another huge win.

LOSSES

I’ll come back to this in a minute.

LESSONS LEARNED

Our process is working – With major shifts in processing print jobs and interfacing with customers during the pandemic shutdown, our quality control process has been put to the test. The last few months have confirmed that our processes are solid. Always a refreshing lesson. In fact, our quality index since 2009 is currently at 99.14 percent.

Better work-life balance – We’ve always tried to create better work-life balance at Columbine Label. Like many companies, this situation forced us to flatten that learning curve quickly.  Sure, there are plenty of distractions at home, but there are distractions in the office too. Without a daily commute and the other challenges of in-office work, everyone working remotely is able to get their work done and is happier for it.

If the pandemic ended tomorrow, we would not go back to “business as usual” with work schedules in the front office. When that day comes, we will strike a happy medium that allows employees to continue enjoying more work-life balance.

BACK TO THE LOSSES

The devastation in the wake of the COVID-19 cannot be understated. In this country alone, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and millions of jobs eliminated, wages cut or hours reduced. However, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope on both the health care and economic fronts that can help stem the losses felt in households, businesses, and entire communities around the world.

Closer to home (and by that, I mean in the Columbine Label world), losses are thankfully minimal. We have been able to maintain our workforce, safety protocols are firmly in place and adhered to, and business remains strong and steady.

The one thing I do notice, however, is that a remote work environment doesn’t lend itself to the camaraderie and spontaneity we usually have in the office when we’re all together.  It’s a small loss in comparison to the greater losses experienced during this time. But I have a feeling it is a universal loss felt in many companies today. I always say the less planning and more spontaneity, the better. It breeds energy, ideas, and teamwork – the lifeblood of business.

But I know we’ll get back to those days. In the meantime, we look forward to continuing to serve our customers every day and helping them navigate these times of uncertainty.

Stay well, stay safe and stay positive.

Leave a comment