Today marked some nerdy nonprofit pride for me.
Flashback to the last time it snowed this much in Seattle: December 2008. Seattle Works was confronted by a much bigger chill than the so-called snowpocalypse. It was the start of the so-called great recession.
It was clear the economy was heading south, but it was hard to know what it would really mean for our organization. We weren’t panicked, but we were seriously concerned and seriously focused on how to get ahead of what might be a new economic reality.
I’m proud that what came next was INNOVATION. It started in a staff meeting about cutting costs when Jan asked “do we REALLY need this office?” and it snowballed from there. We made a dramatic shift in our workplace set-up in short order thanks to a smart staff, a smart board and wonderful partners.
Good-bye office where everyone had their own cube, hello “flexible workspace”. We went from a standard office to one shared room, and from desktop computers and in-office server, to laptop computers and a cloud-based computing system. Point B donated a consultant to help us figure out how to transition everything from adopting Microsoft Sharepoint to switching to a remote-friendly phone system. Clark Nuber donated the laptops they were upgrading from. And the board and staff all pitched in with a willngess to embrace change in an uncertain and somewhat scary time.
Flash forward to 2010 and today’s snow. Times are by no means easy for Seattle Works, but we finished 2009 in the black and are on pace to do so again this year. AND not only did our rapid technology and workplace reconfiguration save money, it created a set-up where anyone on our team can work from anyplace at anytime. Which means snow days = no problem.
It’s a longer and more complicated story than that. But the short version is our small-but-mighty organization adopted a technology set-up that promotes flexibility and saves money. We moved fast when we needed to, and we had loyal friends who helped us do it. It was challenging but necessary at the time, and with two years of hindsight is oh-so-clear we made a really good decision.