May 12, 2020

CMO predicts a healthier work-life balance post-COVID

by Renegade

When CMO Ed Rusch joined Command Alkon in 2017, they were already the leading technology platform for heavy construction suppliers. He saw this as a massive opportunity for the business—it was time for an upgrade to the way things were done, and he was fully prepared to transform the brand in provocative ways. Ultimately, Rusch and company launched their new purpose statement, “Together we build amazing.” (You can hear the full story behind the brand transformation in our recent interview.)

This mindset, one of collaboration, positivity, and optimism, is one that Rusch has embraced during the COVID crisis. In early March, Command Alkon had to send their exclusively in-office workforce remote, and while this may sound daunting to some, it’s not so for Rusch. From his RV #WFH office, he talks about why this is an opportunity to connect to employees and reflect on what it means to have a healthy work/life balance.

How has your supply chain experience influenced your COVID response?

I’ve been focused in the supply chain world for 15 years now, so I’ve learned what high performing supply chains do and used those same principles to be successful from a marketing perspective. Now, more than ever, it’s important that supply chains are rapidly adaptable, can respond to new information quickly, and can give everyone trustworthy information to work from simultaneously. Don’t you want those same capabilities within your marketing function? To be able to learn from new information and adapt quickly? How do you get the correct information into the hands of all the people within the marketing function so they can all act in unison together, whether we’re all in the same office or working out of campers and apartments and libraries hundreds of miles away? That’s really what I’m learning—marrying marketing and my supply chain knowledge together.

Did you face any challenges when shifting to a remote workforce?

My marketing team used Slack and had been using Zoom for inter-office meetings, so it was great that we were at least that far along since we had to rapidly scale from 12 offices to 500 individual users. How could we scale across the organization? How would we make sure data and information remained secure? It was hugely exciting to see the collaboration that happened on how to rapidly deploy these best practices throughout the organization and the system. So far, we’re doing really well, without too many challenges or disruptions to the business.

Are you surprised with how quickly everyone adjusted to working from home?

Everyone is really starting to see the need to be resilient and adaptable, to be able to make smarter decisions faster as news breaks. “Expect the unexpected” is cliché, but it’s only becoming more and more true. One of the things that was fortuitous for us as an organization was the pace of our industry. In the particular space of construction that we’re in, things have a shelf life—concrete can only be pliable in the drum of a truck for up to 90 minutes once it’s left the plant, asphalt needs to be cadenced out as the roadway gets resurfaced. There’s a mindset within the industry that ended up being really beneficial concerning pacing, staging, and being able to pivot on the fly.

How do you communicate with your team?

I’ve implemented a daily virtual standup for my team. We’re getting together and touching point at the beginning and the end of the day, asking fundamental questions to make sure everyone is on track and address any issues. The standups aren’t necessarily 30 or 60 minutes; if it’s six minutes across my nine people and everyone’s good, then everyone’s good, so it’s not particularly onerous if you’re thinking about it in those terms. But I will say, to combat the isolation, you do have to reach out to one another, whether it’s me to my folks or them amongst themselves, and to be really intentional about doing that.

What are some of the advantages of going fully remote?

I love those co-creation collaborative sessions that you have face-to-face with people, the ideation that takes place at a whiteboard in a room with coffee and snacks. We’re not going to be able to have those for the foreseeable future, but it does help us build up the different muscles within our business repertoire to not be solely reliant on those types of environments to be successful. In some ways it’s telling, not only within our organization but at a macro business level: Do we really need these millions of square feet of office space? Do we really need to sit in traffic for hours a week to come to the traditional office?

How do you think this period will affect work-life balance in the future? 

We’ve gone from one side of the equation where everyone’s in the office, and now the pendulum has gone all the way to everyone untethered and working remotely. The reality is that the healthy balance is somewhere in the middle. Do I think we should go all the way back to every day, 8-5 office environments after this is done? No. Should we have more intentional get-togethers with the team so that people aren’t isolated, keep those whiteboard collaborative opportunities going? Definitely. Should managers and other leaders embrace extended work times, flexible schedules, and people working from different locations? Absolutely. I’m really encouraged because I think, at the end of this, most everybody will be in a better spot in regard to a healthy work configuration.