Teamwork: The Calm after the Storm

To the tune of howling wind, the night sky lit up in orange and green. Over the toppling tree lines, the neon splashes of color appeared like misplaced fireworks amidst tumultuous droplets of rain.

Pop, pop – another transformer blown…And another.

With exploding transformers and knocked down power lines, 8.5 million people lost power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Homes were not heated. Gas stations could not pump gas. Schools were closed; hospitals evacuated. Businesses proved inoperable, literally kept in the dark. In fact, early estimates predict $20 billion in lost business between structural damages, power outages and interrupted business practices. Second to Katrina, Sandy will be the most costly storm in the history of the United States.

Governor Christie announced that once power was restored, New Jersey would rebuild. For some local business owners, like Collette Liantonio, that wasn’t soon enough.

At the helm of one of the most successful direct response television (DRTV) production companies, Liantonio is nothing, but resilient. Molding her business practice after theater production companies, all hands are on deck at Concepts TV. In this team environment, colleagues often wear many hats as they work together and think outside the box to problem solve. Commitments were made; deadlines set. Clients were counting on them. They would not disappoint.

After first establishing the safety of her team, Liantonio offered her home (partially-powered by a natural gas generator) as shelter to her extended Concepts family. Even spouses, children and nannies were welcomed for warmth (whether in the form of heat or hot water) that so many were severely lacking.

With the frightening gas shortage, Liantonio only asked a few of her local employees to meet at the office to assess damage and brainstorm next steps. Structurally, the office was sound, but power was out indefinitely. Thus, the company’s editing suites were inoperable; their phone lines were inactive and their server was down. Documents and company emails were consequently inaccessible.

Once status was established, clients were contacted using backup hardcopy contact sheets. Work was then delegated to the rest of the staff via text messaging. In the absence of technology, makeshift home offices simply relied on pen and paper for creative. Meanwhile, administrators feverishly focused on logistics. Generators were ushered in to power edit suites. Cell phone hot spots were created for WiFi. Battery-powered laptops were set up. And the company’s conference room was temporarily transformed into a roundtable working station, similar to that of a newsroom.

In one week’s time, the Concepts staff was back in the office with plan Bs in hand. Clients were again contacted – this time with revised schedules of production. Office hours were readjusted. Shoots were rescheduled out of state. Editing schedules were rejigged; deadlines were not.

Every project stayed the course to the delight of clients across the country. Upon hearing her on-air date would not change, one client in Texas genuinely gushed, “Oh my God! We’re keeping the same deadline? We talked about it in-house and thought for sure we would be pushed back and we were okay with that given the circumstances. Oh, I’m so excited!”

Liantonio credits her diligent staff, stating she’s truly impressed with their ingenuity, tireless work ethic and unfaltering teamwork. Although, she is quick to point out that the sense of camaraderie also extends to her clients. Many were gracious and understanding; eager to momentarily forget about dollars and cents and focus on the bare basics of human kindness. In particular, one Wisconsin-based client remarked, “We’re with you for the long haul. If you need anything, let us know.”

Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

The Concepts TV entity (staff, clients, vendors et al) is an exceptional example of just that.

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Author:NJ Tech Council

The New Jersey Tech Council helps companies grow and supports the tech, innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in the state and region.

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