For years we’ve heard that businesses are moving in the direction of technology, yet that may have never been truer than today. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the challenges it presents to businesses, technology can provide invaluable tools. For this episode of “Conversations with Cohen,” I’ve brought in Chris Smith, CEO of Cloud9 Smart a design and installation technology solutions company – to offer some of his expert insight into the role technology can play during the pandemic and beyond.
About Chris & Cloud9 Smart
Chris has been in the technology space for nearly 20 years now working for the likes of Advanced Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, and McIntosh Labs. In 2016 he got picked up by Cloud9 Smart to be their new CEO and he’s done a terrific job. As mentioned before, Cloud9 Smart is a design and installation technology solutions company. They can help with both home and office solutions which plays out perfectly for this conversation. Cloud9 Smart takes a very customized approach to their clients; they always begin by asking how their specific business functions with things such as operations and meetings. Based off that information, they’ll provide some insight on specific solutions that can work for their client, and design and install them accordingly.
Tech’s Role in Office Re-Entry
I’ve put a significant focus on the re-entry process throughout my podcasts and blog posts, and for good reason: folks will need a real plan for this process. As an expert in technology solutions, I wanted to hear Chris’ take on what businesses can do to better assist them in their return to the office. Chris pointed out that there are really two types of clients in the office re-entry process – those who are moving back into their space and those looking for a new one. Obviously, there is more flexibility with a client looking for a new space as things have yet to be installed and a layout doesn’t need to be reconfigured. However, Chris and his team are there for both types of clients and are always searching for the optimal technological solution.
Conference rooms and meetings are a big topic of conversation for the office post-Covid-19. While folks can often stay isolated at their desks, collaborating at a meeting can be tough to do. Some of those solutions are as simple as decreasing the capacities for conference rooms so social distancing is doable. However, once you’ve decreased that capacity by half or a third, one begins to question if it’s even efficient. That’s where Cloud9 Smart’s technology solutions can come in. One option is creating several of these meeting rooms and linking them together via virtual rooms (meaning Zoom, GoToMeeting, and the like). That way many folks can still get the sense of being in an in-person meeting without violating social distancing measures. The other option is nixing the in-person part altogether and doing those meetings virtually.
So, how do you choose one of these platforms, whether it’s for at-home work or back in the office? Many companies have the full Microsoft Office suite in which case they already have access to Microsoft Teams. Others may need help deciding which platform to use for their business. The real work, however, comes on the integration side. Many businesses need this technology for an array of functions, from one-on-one’s to large webinars. Sometimes a client will need Chris’ team to install some hardware to make the platform more intelligible, better noise reduction, or whatever the case may be.
Productivity in a Virtual Space:
Maintaining the health and safety of your employees always needs to be top of mind. However, businesses also need to ensure productivity in the workday. Chris feels the first step of ensuring both of these needs is by trusting your employees to work remotely – that trust is vital to a strong company culture. Additionally, one must also understand the practical limitations of working remotely. For example, technicians are often required to be working with their hands-on physical things in the office. That trust and understanding of the practicality of working remotely is really step one when it comes to ensuring productivity.
While there is a problem for many who aren’t used to working from home, Chris thinks companies have still been pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of operations. As such, he feels working remotely will continue for some folks in the post-Covid-19 world. So, how does he recommend staying productive? First off, you’ve got to have a real schedule – similar to what you’d have if you were still in the office. Maintaining that regimen is fundamental to ensuring productivity. Doing the dishes in the middle of the day may hurt your focus and finding a quiet dedicated spot in your home to turn into an office is really important. Working off a ping pong table with a barbie doll house in the background may not be the best thing. Cloud9 Smart actually taught a course to their industry called “decentralizing your workforce.” The idea was teaching folks about the lifestyle choices to ensure rhythm and consistency in your workday.
From a technology perspective, Chris feels it’s vital for everyone to have the right resources. A fuzzy camera picture or poor sound quality can really diminish the productivity of meetings. However, different folks have different needs. Lower end cameras around $100-$200 can get the job done for some, while others require something on the higher end. Having those cameras can enhance video presentations and visuals exponentially. On the audio side, consideration comes into play regarding sound quality, looks, and comfort. Some folks are OK with a simple headset while others find that doesn’t look good. Cloud9 Smart can offer all the different available solutions for folks to use.
Wisdom for the First-Time Tenant
The move into an office space is often complicated, but all the more so for a first-time tenant or employee who is in charge of the office leasing process. I wanted to get Chris’ thoughts on what he’d advise a first-time tenant to think about in this process. From Chris’ perspective as a technology solutions advisor, he feels it’s critical for tenants to be thinking about infrastructure. That extends from things like voice and data concerns to wireless networks and phone systems.
The voice and data circuit are the idea of how you get information in and out of your building. Chris pointed out the delays in this process when building out the infrastructure and how those can range anywhere from 60-120 days. So, it’s critical that a tenant is thinking about that infrastructure from the onset of the process in order for everything to go smoothly. Things like a phone system are also really important to most businesses. Even if you don’t necessarily use it so much, virtually every business has a dedicated phone system. Do you want that phone to work outside the office or do you only need it inside? How is it wired? At desks for example, Chris always recommends running two wires to the desk rather than one in case you run into an issue. That way, either the phone and computer are connected separately ensuring one is still working, or you have a backup to immediately plug into. It’s a nominal cost during installation that can provide tremendous savings down the line. These questions are all vital to a first-time tenant.
Yet, many folks may think that everything runs wirelessly these days. While it is a goal to minimize the amount of wires sticking out of surfaces in the office, having physical wires built into the infrastructure of the space is absolutely vital to the wireless system working in the middle of the office. To have this all done right, those technology experts need to be on the ground really early to ensure all the installations are going correctly during the initial stages of something like a buildout.
Overall, Chris puts a real emphasis on ensuring those tenants understand just how important the personal approach is. When a client uses Cloud9 Smart for their space, Chris and his team provide a wholly customized approach to tailor all that infrastructure and software directly for the client’s needs. But their job doesn’t stop there. Cloud9 Smart doesn’t only help their clients with designing and installing technology solutions, their job runs the length of the entire lease. So long as the client is using the technology that they’ve helped out with, Cloud9 Smart considers it their top priority to ensure continued efficiency and success. They’ve really got a lot to offer.
A Little Something Extra…
All my readers and listeners know that no “Conversation with Gregg” is complete without some food talk. Currently, Chris is holed up in Colorado, so I asked him what he really can’t wait to get back and try when he returns to New York. His answer?
Turns out Chris’ girlfriend is one hell of a cook and has Chris completely covered. So, I gave Chris the opportunity to give his girlfriend’s cooking business a plug. They’re called Culinistas, and what they do is meet with families to work out a custom menu, taking into consideration dietary restrictions, heads out to the grocery store for the week to buy all the ingredients, comes into the home, and cooks (and later cleans up) all the food for the week. According to Chris it’s a bargain and a half but if you’d prefer meal delivery without someone cooking in your home, Chris recommends Neuman’s Kitchen which he also swears by.