Finding opportunity amid the pandemic

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived here in mid-March, business has been anything but normal. For many firms, the amount of change and upheaval was, and still is, unprecedented.

Dwaiter, the small, local company where I work, is one of those firms. We specialize in website and app design and development. Like so many others, we had to pivot almost overnight from our office setting to an entirely virtual operation. We feared that this could not work. But as we gained experience in the work-from-home world, we realized that this fear was overblown. In fact, we started to see three large opportunities for Dwaiter emerging as a result of the pandemic. 

Andrew LaManna

The first two opportunities are linked and, with my background in project management, I recognized their potential immediately. Those opportunities are time management and elimination of waste.

With meetings all done virtually now, we’ve found that we are better prepared for them and, as a result, the meetings are just as productive as when we conducted them in-person—sometimes even more so. In many instances, we have been able to accomplish our objectives in less time than was allocated for the meeting. This has allowed us to get back to “hands on keyboard” work quicker and deliver the client product more rapidly. More efficient time management also has allowed us to check in with our clients more often; indeed, many of them were in the same boat and optimizing their time. 

The concept of eliminating waste has roots in the Six Sigma methodology. In the business world, we all know of tasks, procedures or legacy operations that over time have accumulated waste. Often, this waste is ignored or left to be addressed at some later date. The “new normal” environment brought new urgency to the task of identifying inefficiencies and fixing them. We consolidated our process for identifying and tracking new-business prospects. We scrutinized the external software we use under license to see if we truly need all of it. We’ve also reviewed our legacy client work, and in some cases proposed moving them a new platform for both a cost and functionality gain. We most likely would not have done that as quickly in the “old world” thinking. Lastly, we also looked at our own financial processing and are working to eliminate any aged receivables by creating a structured process to address those in a timely fashion. 

The third opportunity that we identified during the pandemic lockdown is actually opportunity itself. Dwaiter is a homegrown, Rochester-based company. We spun out of the Rochester Institute of Technology incubator years ago. We have mainly focused on Rochester clients and our meetings with them nearly always had been in-person. When the pandemic hit, that became impossible. Instead, we needed to interact with clients using Google Meeting and/or Zoom. 

Once we became fully comfortable with that, and we determined that communication and productivity did not suffer, we started to talk about expanding our business development efforts beyond Rochester. Now, we believe we can market our services to prospective clients across the U.S. and even internationally. Distance and location are less of an obstacle than ever before.

As a digital business, Dwaiter is particularly well-positioned to work remotely and take advantage of the growth of virtual business-to-business interaction. But we believe this is an opportunity many Rochester firms can seize. With a skilled labor force and a generally lower cost of doing business, our region could have a competitive edge in this new environment shaped by the coronavirus.

There are a lot of great businesses—big and small—and smart minds in Rochester. If we focus on the opportunities amid the COVID-19 upheaval, and we efficiently use our time and resources, there could be a whole new world of business waiting for all of us. 

Andrew LaManna is director of operations at Rochester-based Dumbwaiter Design LLC, which does business as Dwaiter. (Disclosure: Beacon executive editor Paul Ericson is a partner in Dwaiter.) All coronavirus articles are collected here.

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