Coping with COVID-19: Carousel Industries of North America Inc.

EXETER Jeff Gardner, CEO of Carousel Industries of North America Inc., an IT consulting, and management company specializing in cloud solutions, data, networking, security, IT outsourcing, and managed services, said his company has withstood the COVID-19 crisis and found opportunities. Gardner said Carousel has remained “fixated on maintaining the health and well-being of our employees, customers and partners” throughout the pandemic.

“The key to our success has been a long-standing focus on business resilience as a strategic program, which has allowed Carousel to be prepared to quickly adapt, respond and recover from unexpected business disruptions,” said Gardner. “Many times, we hear that innovation comes in the wake of devastation. During these hard times, there is an opportunity to transform our organizations to become a more resilient, efficient, and competitive businesses. At Carousel, we took advantage of this opportunity.”

Gardner said Carousel focused on ways to “build secure automated workflows to quickly increase our automation capabilities, to rapidly solve business problems stemming from the new normal of a remote workforce. Through this, we were able to innovate Accounts Payable processes to gain operational efficiencies through automation and elimination of manual tasks. We also leveraged process automation to create chatbot driven surveys within Microsoft Teams, to ensure the health and safety of our employees, while also meeting our COVID-19 contact tracing/tracking responsibilities. These initiatives were so successful, we now have clients and partners inquiring about how they too can integrate process automation into their business.”

A frontline worker story that resonated with Gardner during the pandemic “is our work with the Department of Emergency & Customer Communications at the City of Alexandria Virginia. This project has been nominated for an innovation award with the Public Technology Institute. There was terrific collaboration between Robert Bloom, DECC Public Safety Systems Administrator, Tony Dunsworth, Database Administrator II, from the City’s Information Technology Services department and Walter Clark, Carousel Industries’ Senior Convergence Specialist, as well as AT&T and First Responder Network Authority. These individuals and organizations worked around the clock after the COVID-19 outbreak to plan, build, test and launch a new nationwide network, which provided a dedicated, secure, and reliable connection for public safety for everyday operations or emergency communications. As part of the project, a new next-generation 9-1-1 phone system was implemented. Wi-Fi hotspots were created, and smartphones powered by the FirstNet have enabled 9-1-1 dispatchers to take calls and handle Computer Aided Dispatch operations from their homes and remote locations to help support social distancing practices while still providing reliable communications services.”

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“I have been absolutely touched and inspired by the way in which Carousel’s front-line workers have been supporting our many state and local government customers at hospitals, utilities, and other organizations to keep them and so many more up and running,” said Garner. “I have a tremendous level of gratitude and appreciation for these heroes, that is really what they are, heroes. These dedicated employees have families to care for and well-being to ensure. Yet they continued to work tirelessly and selflessly. We have equipped them with Personal Protective Equipment but at the end of the day, they made a selfless decision and came through big time for our customers and our company. I am tremendously proud and humbled by their efforts.”

PBN is asking local business owners and leaders five questions in a survey designed to understand how the new coronavirus has affected them and their businesses and what they have learned from the unprecedented challenges. Here are Gardner’s responses:

How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis?

All things considered, as an organization, Carousel has withstood the COVID-19 crisis with remarkable resiliency and professionalism. I am very proud of our entire organization for making a quick and relatively easy shift to a predominantly remote work model and in so doing, we have continued to service all of our clients seamlessly. Personally, I do miss the daily interactions with Carousel’s employees, and I am excited about our staged and gradual return to the office currently underway. Much planning and consideration has gone into preparing our offices for the safe return of our employees, abiding by both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines.

Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?

Yes, I have found a few. Without question we are in uncharted waters on a global scale with respect to health and safety of our citizens and no one saw this coming. From a business standpoint, I have been pretty amazed and impressed with the manner in which Carousel executives and employees have rallied together, offering some new and innovative solutions. This might be a cliché, but necessity is the mother of invention and COVID-19 saw our team conceptualize some great new ideas around business resiliency. We have also seen our employees go to amazing lengths for our customers, many on the front lines at hospitals, utilities, and other highly critical institutions to ensure they did not skip a beat. I am incredibly proud of the sacrifices these frontline workers have made to ensure our customer’s needs are met and exceeded.

How are you maintaining your company culture?

Obviously, communication during times of stress and strife are critical. We have prioritized regular, company-wide updates via teleconferencing, written communications, along with frequent departmental meetings to provide updates but also to reinforce our core company values. Our HR team has done a terrific job in ensuring that everyone – and I mean everyone – continues to be supported in these areas and others and to help them maintain and protect the work-life balance that we have worked hard to establish in pre-pandemic times. We’ve also encouraged and supported team “happy hours”, “coffee meet ups”, etc. to keep teams connected on a personal level- these are the calls where we can ask how the family is doing, if the new puppy is behaving, check in on everyone’s well-being, and keep things light and fun.

Did your business continuity plan work or were there surprises?

Given that one of our core services in the data center area is disaster recovery and business continuity, we’ve “eaten our own dog food” during the past three decades to literally and figuratively weather a number of storms. I am happy to report that not only did our business continuity plan work, each of our clients’ plans have worked as well. Of course, that required a significant investment in our team’s time – late nights, early mornings, weekends, etc. It was all hands-on deck. The surprises were positive and pleasant ones. Carousel has been able to share best practices and tips with clients and serve as a resource to one another. Finally, we have undoubtedly learned a thing or two about preparation for future unforeseen events, disasters, etc. and will apply this new thinking moving forward.

Do you have advice for other local companies?

Try to remain positive and think long-term vs. short term. The business environment will return to some level of normalcy, but it is going to take some time. Rhode Island, while not among the hardest hit in terms of COVID-19 cases based on population, has taken a significant punch economically. Layoffs have been pervasive. So, I would close by saying, companies should look to help one another wherever possible and those that need some assistance, should not feel shy or uncomfortable about seeking it from their brethren in the business community.

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer and researcher. He can be reached at shuman@pbn.com.

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