This interview is part of a series chatting with local business owners, artists, organizers and people in our community who are learning to adapt during COVID-19.
Jamie Troke – Ekort Realty
What does working from home/your workplace look like for you right now?
We’re open with condensed hours (10 am – 4:30 pm) and only by appointment to restrict the amount of walk-ins we usually get for listings and apartment inquiries. I am still here in the office every day but all of our agents are working from home.
We’re all staying connected digitally and sharing necessary file and communicating through email or video calling. Our property management team is also in the office, but with the doors closed and no apartment showings booked. They’re continuing to work and offer extra support to our tenants and superintendents.
How have you adapted your operations during the pandemic?
We started using digital platforms like DocuSign, more e-transfers, 3-D tours through Matterport, more social media posting for listings, and video calling a lot more. We also started doing weekly Zoom meetings with the Realtors® to keep everyone positive, connected and encouraged under the current circumstances.
Before this, it was hard to get everyone into the office for monthly meetings because of conflicting schedules; now we almost get everyone joining the Zoom meetings, which is definitely a positive. Each staff meeting includes a local guest speaker as well, each of whom receives a local e-gift card to say thank you for their time. (The last one we gifted was from L’Auberge de France through the Downtown District online marketplace.)
How have you been supported by the community?
We have felt very involved and supported during these times. We have joined in with Chamber of Commerce video meetings and these sessions have been helpful in providing beneficial resources for us. The Q&A section with Todd Smith this week was insightful. We have also been in touch with the Belleville Downtown District often too – also, please make sure to check out the new online marketplace to support our local businesses.
What is something good that has come from this difficult situation?
A lot actually, which is both surprising and exciting. We have experienced more regular communication from our staff and clients through consistent video calls and [various] technology. We have also benefitted from having time to learn and focus on new processes that I didn’t know were even possible. We have also been able to sit down and consider a fresh start with new branding [for our business].
Overall, it has been a learning curve. It seems busier; people are still reaching out about commercial deals, leases, financing, and new homes, just in a different way and with less competition.
What advice do you have for other businesses owners/organizations/artists/etc at this time?
Focus on the long term and big picture. Stay positive as much as you can throughout all of this. We, as a community and a world, have been in difficult situations before; you just have to look at history.
Also, embrace the change and adapt. Reach out for help; there are many resources and opportunities to learn and grow, especially with the development of technology we have seen in the last decade. Embrace the digital world and use of social media and technology even though it may seem daunting and strange.
This too shall pass. “The cheese has moved; follow it.”
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Like I said, things change and they have before. Things won’t be “back to normal” after all of this and that is okay. Be respectful, use the hand sanitizer, help yourself and others where you can, and be grateful for what you have right now so that we can plan for the future and flourish again.
Stay tuned as we share more local folks who are Makin’ It Work, and check out our weekly interviews (of the same name) on our IGTV channel every Friday.