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This interview with Deme Berry, CEO of Berry Technology Solutions, looks at succeeding as a small business, and getting creative about engaging with clients, and staff, in a virtual world.

The Impact of COVID

In early March, we began discussing, planning and taking the necessary actions to protect the health and safety of employees and clients against the possible threat of COVID-19. We identified steps for emergency preparedness and business continuity.

One of the first critical steps included implementing a mandatory work from home policy. As a technology company, the process to quickly transition our 67 full-time employees and contractors to 100% remote wasn’t especially challenging. We implemented a telework policy a few years ago because we understood the demands of balancing work and family obligations. Before the pandemic, several of our employees worked from home at least one day per week. We made sure that all team members had the required equipment, technology and guidance to be successful working from home.

It was also critical for us to create guidelines and policies regarding COVID-19 protocols. We established communication strategies for our employees, as well as for our clients.

Remain Client Focused

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly unprecedented. Recognizing that things are remarkably different from the normal way of conducting business, we never lose sight of our commitment to our clients and delivering excellent client service.

We understand that our clients may be facing tremendous challenges, so we communicate. We establish collaborative working relationships with our clients and assure them that they can be confident in our proven capabilities to solve their challenges.

We have always been client focused, with many of our team members co-located at client sites. However, since clients and employees are now working remotely, we spend the time we might have normally devoted to a long commute, to increasing collaboration.

The Importance of the Team

The strength of any successful company begins with its people. Our team is very excited to work within Health IT on critical initiatives that impact public health. As we work to continue to meet clients’ requirements, we must also ensure we focus on maintaining a work/life balance.

That means ensuring everyone is aware of the level of commitment and expectations required to complete tasks and assignments, but that the team also has autonomy and flexibility. We ensure that each team uses virtual technology tools including Skype and Microsoft Teams and we hold our teams accountable, without micromanaging. We trust that everyone has the same vision.

Within our team we typically meet once a week as a group, then have multiple smaller team meetings a few times a week to keep us all connected and on track on our shared projects. These have all pivoted to Skype and Zoom. Due to social distancing guidelines, we haven’t been able schedule our quarterly team building activity so I am planning a virtual team luncheon soon and will have food delivered to everyone so we can take part in that together.

Advice to Industry

As a small business, we must understand that we cannot be successful without our teams. We must work to ensure their health and safety.

With certain items still hard to find, sending hand sanitizer, face masks and cleaning supplies to their homes shows that their well-being is our top priority. It also shows that we are doing our part to keep everyone safe and well so we can continue to focus on our mission.

It’s also important to review the internal infrastructure including HR policies, accounting systems and technology. Consider upgrading software and adding collaborations tools.

For those companies who have always maintained physical office space, now is the time to think longer term. We know we can continue business operations successfully working from home. Does that also mean we might need a smaller central physical footprint? It might be time to re-negotiate the office lease. Do you need more space to allow for social distancing guidelines or less space because everyone is remote – helping to reduce the carbon footprint and save on overhead costs? Are there assets that you considered purchasing pre-pandemic that perhaps aren’t needed now, or that you may be able to do without long-term if some or all of the office continues to work from home? As we head into the end of the Government fiscal year, it is a good time to take stock of our own business activities and budgets.

It is also important to understand the importance of developing and nurturing relationships. Don’t always view others as competitors but as potential partnership opportunities. Build a network of possible partners who can complement your skillset.

About Deme Berry

As the founder and CEO of Berry Technology Solutions, Deme Berry has more than 18 years of experience in the consulting and technology industry. Her primary focus is on how technology and innovation can help solve today’s business and health challenges. Deme has proven success in business development, strategic planning and leading program management teams supporting mission critical IT and Public Health projects. 

Her years of experience in the IT industry, combined with her entrepreneurial skills, enable her to skillfully blend IT solutions with business strategies that have led Berry Technology to achieve sales of over $36 Million. Deme was honored by the Atlanta Tribune as one of the Minority Business Owner of the Year in 2016.

About Berry Technology Solutions

Berry Technology Solutions has a proven record of success in providing innovative HIT solutions to commercial and public sector clients. Our dedicated team of IT and public health professionals design, implement and enhance IT systems that capture health data indicators that assist in the surveillance of and response to public health threats. Berry Technology Solutions is an Atlanta-based management consulting and professional services company.  The team was recently awarded a $4.5M contract modification to add Pandemic Preparedness to an existing contract through which Berry Technology has been providing development, operation and maintenance of the Vaccine Tracking System (VTRCKS) for CDC.

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