Some thoughts on operating a business in a pandemic:

HDEP International

The first lesson we learned when Covid 19 hit was the limitation of disaster recovery plans. 

Disaster recovery plans are based on limitation of the disaster to a specific geography, and a time frame for recovery from the disaster.  Disaster recovery plans for most businesses do not anticipate a worldwide lockdown without end.  When considering this type of scenario while preparing our disaster recovery plan, we wrote, simply, “pray”.

When the worldwide Covid19 lockdowns began in March 2020, our eyes looked skyward momentarily, but we knew that giving up was not a choice.  We had to do whatever we knew how to do. 

And so, we learned our second lesson – the people we had hired and trained surprised us with their resourcefulness, their energy, their ability to look the disaster in the face without blinking, their dedication to their work and to their customers, their selflessness.  There were few complaints and many inventive ideas.  There was a desire to do whatever was necessary to keep the work flowing because our staff knew that the customers were counting on HDEP to continue to produce.

So – in the middle of a lockdown – critical members of our staff decided to take two week turns staying at the facility – putting their lives on hold – husbands, wives, children, homes all left to fend for themselves.  The supervisors and colleagues of those who stayed at the facility delivered food prepared at their own homes, essential goods accompanying the food –  each taking turns to make sure that the ones staying at the office had a modicum of comfort.

The third lesson came soon thereafter …

Communicating with our customers has been a hallmark of our company from its inception.  Our daily communications reflect the daily issues that arise – unusual documents, out of the ordinary conditions which don’t meet established handling protocols, adjustments to work volumes and delivery schedules, changes in connectivity credentials – the normal stuff of business communications.  It took a different level of intestinal fortitude to pick up the phone and tell our customers what was happening at the start of the lockdown, what we were doing and that we did not know when we could be back into production. 

Our customers depend on us for daily deliveries of their title plant indices as well as overnight completion of title reports.  Gaps in title plant indices could lead to liabilities and many customers have certification date policies.  It wasn’t easy to make those calls, knowing the stress they would cause to our customers who had relied on us, trusted us to make their operations work smoothly.

And, so – we learned our third lesson – we had underestimated the kindness of our customers. 

Our customers accepted our calls, encouraged us, and asked us how they could help.   They told us that they had known us to be honest and careful with their work, find creative ways to complete difficult tasks and that they were confident that we would figure it out.  Our customers seemed to have more trust and confidence in our abilities than we did!

These three lessons motivated us to focus on the task at hand, and set aside our dismay.  There was no time for dismay; no room to question our abilities.

We knew that we would do whatever was necessary without regard to cost – and ensure that we produced the same quality of work that we had become known for over the years.

And then we learned the fourth lesson – the speed with which our organization adapted to the new world. 

Within two weeks, we had work from home processes in place, staff training and monitoring systems in place and the work began to flow.  It was slow going at first and lots of people had to put in lots of overtime, but we got it done. 

Within a few weeks it became apparent the US real estate and title market coming was going into overdrive.  One of our customers commented: “This is the strangest time ever – everybody’s wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitizer, standing far away from each other and buying a house.”.  Our workload skyrocketed, we needed to hire and train additional staff and ensure that their work continued to meet the standards that our customers had hired us to produce.  This took some doing, but our managers and staff did that too.

The ISO security certification auditors came around for their annual inspection to review our security procedures which now included work from home, and we passed those with flying colors – the IT staff had put security procedures in place that satisfied the ISO body and were approved.

As the United States comes closer to the end of the pandemic, we offer our thoughts to the countries which are still suffering so much – the Indian health care and logistics system has broken down with shortages of doctors, nurses, hospital beds, medical oxygen, drugs.  Other countries too – Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, so many in Africa and elsewhere – still in various stages of lockdown.  If our experience is any guide, they will figure it out, the people working at every level of those countries’ Covid response will come up with solutions none of us could have imagined.

Virendra Nath

HDEP International

May 24, 2021

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