Embrace Change During COVID-19 Crisis
Mike Sottak is no stranger to change. After growing tech roots in Silicon Valley, he and his wife/business partner Toni Sottak decided to escape the high-stress tech-economy of the valley by moving to the Caribbean. Leveraging their network in the tech space, they launched Wired Island International, a public relations and marketing agency focused on helping B2B technology companies communicate their value propositions, increase their visibility, and build relationships with their stakeholders.
In the move, they inadvertently stumbled across the advantages, opportunities, and challenges of working remotely. After proving the remote work lifestyle was doable and being featured in a book on the topic long before it became trendy, they moved their company and family to France. "In France, we worked for two years with the government on a campaign around making France more attractive to technology companies, entrepreneurs, investors, and start-up companies. It was part of a larger effort to diversify the economy and to create more jobs locally. Earlier we had an engagement with the government of Scotland to do the same thing. We understand the value of positioning, branding, and communicating about a region to technology-minded people," Mike said.
Looking to move on from Europe, Mike and Toni selected Charleston as their next destination after discovering the Charleston Digital Corridor's impact on the local tech industry. Other perks such as the weather, ocean, and overall Charleston community sealed the deal. Mike appreciates the efforts to position Charleston as a tech hub. "What's being created in Charleston was a real selling point for us – we could have lived anywhere, but we chose here, not just for the obvious lifestyle reasons, but also because we saw something special. It's one of the reasons we moved Wired Island's office to the CDC's Flagship - Bridge."
From consistent advancements in the technology industry and shifts in PR and marketing, change is always part of his profession. For a person accustomed to change, Mike helps guide companies and employees through change. Through the COVID-19 crisis, Mike is cautiously optimistic. "It's just such a weird time. The world has never gone through something like this. We've had other pandemics and world wars, but I think what's different about this one is how technology is being used to disseminate information (both accurate and misleading) and how it's reshaping what the world will look like when we come out of this. It's an exciting and scary time, but I am a firm believer that from chaos comes opportunity. The tech sector is wonderful at identifying opportunities."
- "Take care of your best people. In technology companies, people are your most valuable assets. It sounds cliché, but it's true. When you think of successful companies with innovative products and business models, it's the people," advised Mike. "The flip side is that now is a good time to evaluate all your resources and re-tool your workforce to be leaner or more focused."
- Find resourceful ways of managing your people. Since space is an expensive commodity, it's a good time to evaluate the remote model and see if it's working for you. It may be worth having less, or more flexible, space. The Charleston Digital Corridor understands the current workforce trends and has several flexible office spaces and conference rooms available.
- Get ready to re-engage with your stakeholders, customers, prospects, investors, potential employees, and partners. When this crisis passes, as they all do, those with creative communication will rise above the inevitable flood of marketing noise. If you find yourself with more time available, use it to your advantage. "Usually, you're busy putting out fires and dealing with day to day stuff. Now, you can take a step back and be more strategic because a different world calls for new and bold strategies."
- While approximately 6% of the workforce already worked from home, many are working remotely for the first time. Although the new environment may be full of distractions, do not treat it like a vacation. Mike recommends to "make yourself valuable to your company. Assume that not everybody on your left and right is going to be there when this is over. Even if they're great people, the economics of this situation say that everybody is going to be impacted in some way."
- "The good news is, your company needs creativity, probably more than ever right now. They're going to need people that think that way." Do what you can to think outside the box and find new ways to help. The climate has changed, and you'll need to change too.
For the Unemployed
- For those affected by layoffs and furloughs, Mike advises to think about work flexibly. For many, the days of a regular, 9 to 5 office job are temporarily gone, and the crisis will drive a trend toward a more flexible workforce. Companies may not need employees in the standard full-time, salaried model, but will instead look to workforce solutions that impact their bottom line. Instead of one full-time position, you may end up working part-time for two companies. "Many companies are already thinking in terms of projects, campaigns, collaboratives, even a model like a rock tour/festival: you bring together a group of exact people for a specific initiative and they execute - and then disperse and move on.
- Remain open to different ways of making money, staying busy, and being employed. Likely, gig workers will be a growing trend in the tech industry. "Tech companies will probably become much more open to contract employees and explore that route. There is still work that needs to be done," says Mike Sottak.
The Charleston Digital Corridor has local tech companies, jobs, and talent listed on the CharlestonWorks platform. There are full-time, part-time, and contract positions available ranging from entry-level to executive positions.
Wired Island is a member of CharlestonPros. As a service to the Charleston tech community, Wired Island is offering local companies a free assessment and strategy session to discuss your communications needs during the COVID-19 crisis. Email Mike Sottak to help you decide how and when to best engage your stakeholders during these unprecedented times.