What the Pandemic Has Taught Us (So Far)

Posted Jun 26, 2020 & filed under Agency News, Work, Culture

When we first started collecting experiences for this post a few weeks ago, it seemed like Idaho was cautiously heading out of the woods. We thought, “Maybe we can share what we learned during quarantine?” It has been such a rollercoaster experience and we’ve each reacted in our own unique ways — there have been moments of joy, despair, creativity, hope, camaraderie. There have been new opportunities and grief over what we have lost.

Now, as COVID-19 cases rise in Ada County, we realize that “what we learned during quarantine” might not be just a reflection of the past, but a description of a longterm situation. We’re continuing to discover new things about our resolve, our resourcefulness, our clients, and our ability to work in crazy conditions. 

This is what the pandemic has taught us so far. We’re sure there is more to come. Stay safe out there, friends. 

Art Director Shailey Sievers

Shailey Sievers

First off, I would like to start by saying I’m incredibly grateful that I had a job (thank you for solid business practices, Paul!) over the course of the quarantine. 

Fortunately, design can be done from anywhere. I realize my quarantine differs largely from the people who were affected financially. Thanks to my job security, I was able to enjoy the little things about quarantine: 

  • Early morning walks around the North End before getting my day started, listening to podcasts or calling my family

  • Getting to hang out with my kitty Lou all day

  • Free two-day design conference online

  • Live concerts online (specifically Music on the Mountains by Willy Braun of Reckless Kelly)

  • Getting my fiance to join me in online workouts 

  • BEER DELIVERY!

  • An amplified focus on supporting local

  • Occasionally working in my back yard in the sunshine

  • Zoom and FaceTime calls with friends and family

 

I also got to do a few things I don’t normally have time to do: 

  • Camped in the backyard

  • Embroidered some cacti

  • Played battleship and a ton of darts

  • Did a puzzle here and there

  • Started learning Spanish again

  • Read a bunch

Designer Aaron Kvarfordt

Aaron Kvarfordt

I think the most memorable part for me about quarantine was how collaborative and supportive people were for those heavily affected by the pandemic. 

Fortunately for us, the type of work we do can be done remotely. Since everyone was staying at home quarantined it opened up the opportunity for online learning and collaboration. Out of the generosity of industry experts in the creative fields, free online classes/workshops were held for anyone to join and there was a community-driven design conference called CanceledCon that featured a wide variety of topics from fellow creatives. 

Overall, being quarantined was time well spent to self reflect and learn a thing or two about how we creatives can help contribute to others.

 

Senior Art Director Thomas Walsh

Thomas Walsh

My wife and I are now full-time employees, teachers, and parents. Our big challenge during quarantine was: How many different ways can we fill time and make sure our kids aren’t freaking out? We did our best by becoming rock painting, rock stacking, fort building, science making, storm playing, earthquake experiencing, Lego building, tea party-having, beer can stacking, roller skating, chalk painting, food making, story reading, crocodile fort building, garden planting, haircut giving, animal discovering, backyard camping, picnic taking, boardgame making, crazy hair having, and Zoom call participating multitasking experts. 

We experienced a lot of really cool things during quarantine, but one of my favorite memories will be creating a drive-by birthday for our son Asher. His friends drove by the house in decorated cars and honked and sang happy birthday. We had a virtual birthday party on Zoom, and all the old tech-challenged people tried to watch Asher open gifts … but everyone wound up talking over each other. It was great. We all sang happy birthday and watched him blow out his candles. 

My wife, Jentry, graduated with a master’s degree. I made her a cap out of duct tape and we have a virtual graduation ceremony.

The thing that tops it all off was the chance to explore the outdoors. We covered every inch of Boise. 

 

Head Honcho Paul Carew

Paul Carew

I think of myself as an optimist. But early March was the height of helplessness and anxiety, as it was for most business owners. 

My immediate concern was — and is —  the health and wellness our employees and their families. How do I keep us safe? How can I protect my team? What immediate changes can I make to ensure everyone’s jobs remain in place? How will we survive this loss of clients and revenue? All scary things to consider during a situation with little warning and no preparation.

We distanced. We went virtual. We hunkered down. And we worked as a team. It was a quick shift to embrace the work-from-home world. Our team didn't skip a beat and we are fortunate to be in an industry where creativity doesn't happen in an office and collaboration is possible virtually. I'm proud of our team for making the switch and continuing to be positive and helpful to each other. Between Zoom, Basecamp, and Slack, we are in sync and working better than ever as a group.

As the phone started ringing with clients delivering the news that projects were on hold — or worse, cancelled completely it was concerning to say the least. I knew the most important things were transparency, communication, flexibility, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, and a can-do attitude.

It's a scary time to be a single owner of a business. But in the early days of the pandemic, my gut told me to hold tight and not go down the path of salary cuts or layoffs. I told my team that if the ship started sinking, we would go down together. And if we could ride it out, we would ride it out as a group.

We had some wild things happen during the pandemic.

 
  • Many of our restaurant and hospitality clients that had never thought about e-commerce needed to react quickly to offer to-go orders to keep their businesses afloat. We helped many to pivot and react — and in one case built an e-commerce site in 24 hours over a weekend. 

  • Our tourism clients had quite the rollercoaster ride (especially those in Idaho). We had to figure out what to do with budgets. Should we hold or spend? Advertise or not?

  • Our food and beverage clients exploded with huge headaches such as production, hiring, and ways to keep up with demand. In one case, we helped a B2B food producer pivot with packaging design and websites that would help them sell directly to consumers.

  • Many of our corporate clients needed help navigating communications with customers and their own clients, including policies and procedures, email marketing, and website updates.

  • We had a number of key clients step up with new projects and push long-term projects to the front burner to keep us busy. I can't even tell you how it felt to have clients who went out of their way to share work. We are beyond grateful for your help — you know who you are!

  • In a strange twist of fate, we had been overpaying Adobe for years and received a large refund during this time. We could not have asked for better timing.

 

We’ve put our heads down and continue to work hard for our clients. We’re pushing through. As I watched other agencies cut salaries and employees, I never second-guessed my decisions and trusted my gut to hold tight. We continue to be in high demand with current clients who are taking this time to start new projects and the new business pipeline is more full than ever. We’ve found that many entrepreneurs are surviving by rethinking their business models and reacting to the new normal. And many people are rethinking their careers and even starting new businesses. Those who embrace change and are quick to react to the current state of the planet will succeed.

Over the past few months, perspective has become much more important — keeping my agency running is a small concern in comparison to our world and country. I can’t find the words to express my gratitude to our clients and partners. I have never felt more creative than now and am overwhelmed with excitement

I remain an optimist because, just when things get really dark, people give me new reasons to hope. In the early days of the pandemic, a client called me and asked, “How are you?” 

I immediately started talking about our clients and the changes we were embracing. She said, “But how are YOU?” 

This was such an amazing and emotional moment because I — like millions of business owners around the country — hadn’t had time to think about myself. I was so busy working my tail off with new business and keeping projects moving that I hadn’t even considered it. I was in full panic mode and my focus was laser sharp. 

Her question was a jolt and a gift because it forced me to take some time to think about my well being. What a kind gesture to call me out of the blue on a random Tuesday to check in. I will remember that conversation for the rest of my life.