Businesses in Blue Ash have taken extraordinarily creative steps to overcome the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this Blue Ash Economic Development Business Spotlight Series, find out what these businesses have accomplished, why Blue Ash is the place for entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive, and why business owners still see a bright future ahead.
Q & A with Alexander Yastrebenetsky, CEO of InfoTrust
4340 Glendale Milford Rd #200
Blue Ash, OH 45242
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about InfoTrust and why you located in Blue Ash?
InfoTrust is an end-to-end digital analytics consulting company, customer data governance, and technology company with a broad range of Google partner certifications. We work with many of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods, retail, and media brands. So far this year, InfoTrust has been named the Best Small/Medium-Sized Employer in Ohio by Crain’s Cleveland Business for 3rd year in the row and one of Inc.’s Best Workplaces of 2020. This comes on the heels of being listed among Fortune’s 50 Best Small Workplaces and the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Best Places to Work in 2019.
Blue Ash appealed to our team for a number of reasons. The city provides “the best of both worlds” in terms of accessibility and amenities; while just over 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, Blue Ash retains a “small town” feel with great local parks, restaurants, and affordable housing options. There is also a strong camaraderie among the businesses that call Blue Ash home—something that is extremely valuable to our company leaders, especially, and is quite frankly not something you see in every community. We are also very excited about the vision for the Summit Park and future Live, Work, Play experience for our employees.
Q: How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your business?
Working in the technology space, we were fortunate to not be as hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as other industries (such as tourism, restaurants, etc.). We did not lose a single client, but had many clients request changes in payment terms or put projects on hold. Overall, our revenue was down 15% between January and March 2020. So far, we were able to somewhat recover and our revenue has been flat April through June of this year. There was also a significant slowdown in new business that we’re just beginning to see turn around.
Q: What did you do? What adjustments did you have to make?
From an operational perspective, we transitioned to an all-remote workforce in March. This was a smooth transition overall given that a majority of our consulting work is done via video conference calls. Our in-person marketing events were cancelled or changed to a virtual offering, as were our annual/semi-annual on-site client visits. These changes naturally affect a company’s culture one way or another. For us, it was imperative that we turned a rather challenging situation into a positive. Our company purpose is to “build the best place to work while making our success someone else’s miracle.” To fulfill that purpose even when things were so uncertain, we tried to find ways to help our community directly related to the pandemic. We landed on a pair of company-wide campaigns. The first was a crowdfunding campaign to produce masks for those on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. The second was a small business support initiative, in which our consultants provided free, open office hours where people could(virtually, of course) ask digital marketing and analytics questions. Next, we tackled the elephant in the room: furloughs and layoffs. It’s no secret that many companies in our area have cut staff, either temporarily or permanently. While we weren’t losing clients, as I said before, our new business acquisition had pretty much hit a standstill. To give our team—and their families—peace of mind, we announced our “No-Layoff Pledge” through July 1 (since extended to Oct. 1). This means no layoffs and no furloughs to any of our team members over that period. (With hopes that, come Oct. 1, such a pledge won’t even be necessary.)
One way we have been able to back this pledge up is through a PPP loan. Madeira-based CBank was instrumental in helping us secure the loan, and they really went above and beyond for us. While some companies have opted to use part of their PPP loan for expenditures beyond payroll (rent, for example), we’re committed to using the entire amount to directly support our team.
Q: What’s next for your company? What do you think the future holds?
What a question. Right now, no one really knows what the future holds for our country, community, or our company with regards to this pandemic. We do know, however, that we’re going to take an offensive approach to our sales and marketing strategy this quarter (versus a defensive or reactive approach). That means looking for additional revenue streams, growing our existing accounts, and finding yet-unexplored ways to reach potential customers. We’re not just riding this storm out—it’s full steam ahead.
One of our concerns is supporting the team as schools and daycares partially and fully reopen. This has been a very stressful time for everybody, especially families with younger children. No one knows what happens when 56 million kids go back to school in the fall. We are educating ourselves on what the best organizations in the world do right now to support working parents, and we are going to put a lot of effort into both operational support and mental health support of our team.
While we likely won’t be returning to our physical office in Blue Ash until 2021 unless something changes drastically for the positive, we do intend to keep growing our team. There is an incredible pool of talent looking for work right now, and I hope people in Blue Ash, Greater Cincinnati, and beyond continue to see InfoTrust as a great place to continue their careers.
Q: What advice would you give to other business owners facing COVID-19 challenges?
When we launched our No-Layoff Pledge, we asked and encouraged so many companies to join us. Many did, but I also had many tough conversations with business leaders whose companies simply weren’t in a place to make such a pledge. My advice, honestly, is to simply do as much as you can for your employees and the communities in which they live and work. We have an awesome team as it is, but following our No-Layoff Pledge, Superheroes Wear Masks, and Small Business Office Hours campaigns, our team was (and still is) energized. Pursuing these promises and initiatives—which can honestly be scary at times for small business owners—puts your team in your corner. That’s powerful.
Another recommendation is to learn how to ask difficult questions and hold difficult conversations. These are unprecedented times. Nobody has a playbook for how to deal with the crisis. It’s important to involve the team in brainstorming different solutions.
At the same time, cash flow is now more critical than ever. Forbes magazine recently published my blog post on different strategies for managing your cash flow during a recession. My call to action to business owners is simple. Take layoffs/furloughs off the table as an option and find every possible way to run as fast as you can to protect your team. Right now, it is not about you as the business owner. It is about your organization learning how to take hits but keep moving forward. Our community needs our jobs and our spending. We need to do whatever we can to keep it going. This too shall pass. How do you want to remember this time when you look back and tell your children or grandchildren about the pandemic of 2020? Smooth waters don't make good sailors. This is our opportunity to do the best work, possibly the most important work, of our professional careers. Every job matters right now. No defeat. No surrender. See you on the other side.
Has your company had to create new products or services to meet your customers’ needs due to COVID-19? Email Economic Development Director Neil Hensley and your company could be featured in a future Blue Ash Business Spotlight.