In the midst of headlines about layoffs and shutdowns, L.A. business leaders seem to be ramping up. Many are working remotely but embracing technology to stay connected with employees and clients via video meetings or the still-important personal phone call. A shared entrepreneurial spirit has them turning a crisis into a learning experience. These Type-A personalities are also rediscovering there’s more to life than work and are more than willing to share their tips for using at-home time as opportunity for introspection and self-improvement in anticipation of the next chapter.
Allred Maroko & Goldberg
Allred’s civil rights firm has become known for handling women’s rights cases and other cases involving minorities and disenfranchised groups. The team is working remotely but the firm remains fully operational. Allred said she is still dedicated to making sure the virus crisis does not overshadow the need to stay focused on sexual harassment, sexual assault and child abuse “maybe even more because someone may be (quarantined) with an abuser.”
ZOOM BOOM: “The mediators’ offices are closed through most places in the nation (so) we are doing many mediations through Zoom. I was very skeptical at the beginning, but I am now a true believer.”
WEBINAR TIME: The firm is launching a series that it hopes will continue after the crisis. “We are doing a webinar on employment issues as a result of Covid-19. We will have a number of our attorneys participating through Zoom. We will promote that in English and Spanish. We are looking at social distancing but (ahead) to increased communication.”
INSPIRED BY RBG: In a health crisis Allred gains strength from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87. “(Despite the) many health challenges she’s had in the past, she keeps on keeping on.”
Founder, President and CEO
Greif & Co.
Greif said his investment banking firm has long had a business continuity plan in place for remote work in case of an earthquake, so it was easy to adapt to the new “surreal environment.” Greif and wife, Renée, were vacationing in New Zealand when Americans were advised to come home. Since then, they have split their time between homes in the Hollywood Hills and coastal Cambria.
NEW “CSO”: “I have always been chief executive officer, nurturing our people, but on top of that (title), I have added Chief Spirit Officer.”
GET OUT: “(Sheltering at home) doesn’t mean you can’t go for a walk. Runyon Canyon is closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t walk Mulholland Drive. And Cambria is where the pines meet the sea. I saw a deer on my morning walk.”
LUNCH DATES: “My wife and I have been married for 34 years. We met in law school. We used to say we were married for life, but not for lunch. Well, guess what? The most surprising, revelatory thing is we are not driving each other bonkers.”
NOT FOREVER: Greif is looking forward to reconvening his team in downtown’s U.S. Bank Tower. “In an office I can step out, walk down to an office and brainstorm with someone. I think it’s better for teamwork, for camaraderie to be together.”
Co-founder and CEO
Exploding Kittens Inc.
Remote work is tough when you have an unusual job — testing and inventing new table games. The process has brought new challenges and a demand for new employees. It also led Lee to reinvent the company’s namesake card game, Exploding Kittens, as Quarantined Kittens for play via video chat.
HIRING SPREE: “We are hiring like crazy. It’s the weirdest time to be onboarding people. We have all kinds of really interesting (new) production issues.”
VIRTUAL TABLE: “We have invested a lot in video chat technology, virtual workspaces. (We create) party games to be played while you laugh, drink, eat, that have become incredibly complicated to test. We’ve been doing very, very strange things. We invested in virtual tables. We can all have avatars, but it’s not nearly as good as face to face. I have started spending a lot of time programming bots on my computer to play my games against me.”
PIVOT POINT: The company learned fast to seek alternative manufacturers around the world when the virus hit first in China. “(Manufacturing in) China disappeared overnight. That was the first really big alarm bell. We had a single point of failure. We had no other options. We will never have a single point of failure again.”
UNCREATIVE SPACE: “We are forced to be creative all day long. I noticed that when I do that for too long, my brain goes a little bit crazy. It goes to mush. I order these wooden model kits. The beautiful thing about them is, there’s a right answer.”
Santa Monica Pier Corp.
Singh’s job involves coordinating tenants, renters, artists, community groups and events for the nonprofit Santa Monica Pier Corp. For Singh, two big things happened in less than two months. First, the pier was shut down. And then, just after returning to work from maternity leave, Singh found herself back home, working remotely. She takes comfort in listening to Hawaiian music, in lieu of a canceled vacation, and relaxing with 4-month-old son Raaga Singh Chopra in a favorite swing chair.
THINKING AHEAD: “This is not going to be an on-and-off button. We are trying to figure out, what does a mass gathering mean at this point? What do events mean at this point? How do we make sure we have an open space for people when they are going to need it the most, quite frankly?”
CLEAR MESSAGE: “This word is such a buzzword, but transparency is key. When you think you are protecting (staff) from the truth, you’re not. All you’re doing is making them guess, and people can guess some wild stuff.”
WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Pier tenant Pacific Park continues to light the iconic Ferris wheel in honor of coronavirus first responders. “We know that we really are a symbolic center, not just for California but for the country and probably the world. When the Ferris wheel starts working again, that’s going to be a pretty big moment.”