Even In The Midst Of A Pandemic, GL Seaman & Company’s Operations Team Delivers Extraordinary Service

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Even In The Midst Of A Pandemic, GL Seaman & Company’s Operations Team Delivers Extraordinary Service

Even In The Midst Of A Pandemic, GL Seaman & Company’s Operations Team Delivers Extraordinary Service

Shelter in place. Avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. Wear a mask. Socially distance. Quarantine at home after exposure. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s life, creating inconvenience and anxiety — if not worse.

Yet, for the GL Seaman & Company installation team, not even 2020 and its unprecedented challenges could keep them from meeting their deadlines. The story of how they overcame these obstacles is still ongoing, but it’s one we can’t wait any longer to share. And, to hear Todd Schlaegel, our VP of Operations, tell it, it’s a story that has as many heroes as it does lessons to impart.

Unknown Unknowns

Asked what he most remembers about March 2020, Todd replies, “Uncertainty. We just didn’t know what we were dealing with. No one here had ever lived through a pandemic before. Our customers and partners hadn’t either.” As the month dragged on, however, that uncertainty didn’t go away. It multiplied.

“Our installers were still reporting to job sites, but they didn’t know what they were walking into — or taking home to their families,” recalls Todd. Moreover, safety protocols were still largely a work in progress. Todd explains that, although his team started performing daily temperature checks ASAP, they could easily find themselves out in the field with a construction crew that was following a different set of procedures, or taking far fewer precautions.

Even the introduction of COVID-19 testing complicated matters. “Having to wait 10, 12 days for results — that was a major source of stress for our people,” Todd points out. “They wanted to be be here, to stay busy. We’d given them options from the very start. We told them no one had to continue putting themselves at risk if they didn’t want to. But every single team member stayed on.”

Nevertheless, emotions ran particularly high through the spring of 2020. According to Todd, “Everybody still had to get over their own fears. They had to work through their emotions, and that takes a lot of mental toughness.”

In Todd’s case, it also took learning how to manage changes to his own role. “My job became more serving as a support system and sounding board,” he says. “The new conversations I was having with our people weren’t always easy. But they were essential to putting the right processes in place to protect our employees.”

Cleaning Up Operations

Many of those processes depended on the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). But finding enough hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes, masks, and thermometers to keep a crew of 30 safe created a whole other set of challenges. “When we learned that everyone needed to wear a mask, we were all online trying to buy up all the inventory we could,” Todd recounts. “At the same time, we’re mindful of the fact that there’s a shortage of N95 masks and that nurses are reusing their PPE.” 

GL Seaman’s installers even had to wear full hazmat uniforms to complete their work for a large public hospital in Dallas County. Todd describes the scene: “Our people had to walk through the ER to get to and from the job site. They couldn’t ignore the virus or pretend they weren’t at risk of exposure. And, once they did get to the job site, they had to figure out how to do work that requires a lot of manual dexterity while wearing these bulky uniforms. It was physically and mentally fatiguing.”

Supply chain issues weren’t limited to PPE procurement. The pandemic also forced several of GL Seaman’s manufacturing partners offline. This significantly impacted one job in particular — according to Todd, maybe the most demanding project his team took on in 2020. “We couldn't even get the parts we needed to complete installation,” Todd says. “Eventually, our partner got state approval to classify their people as essential workers. Only then did we start to see that logjam break.”

Long Days

Unfortunately, delays became the norm rather than the exception as 2020 wore on. Todd sums the situation up this way: “COVID made everything take longer.”

For example, most job sites capped freight elevator capacity at two people. “Imagine a job site where’s there one freight elevator serving a five-story building and you have to get 20 guys up to the fifth floor,” Todd explains, “Suddenly, what used to be a 5-minute commute turns into one lasting more than half an hour. That’s time you’re not getting back.”

To stay on schedule, Todd and his team began loading trucks the night before their next delivery. They also did as much assembly as they could at GL Seaman’s Dallas warehouse. Still, putting in a 12- to 13-hour work day became business as usual.

Teaming Up

Typically, if a crew were to fall behind schedule, Todd and his Project Managers could rely on a relatively easy fix: take installers off one job and have them temporarily join the crew in need of an extra hand. But, in the midst of a pandemic, the risks of that approach far outweighed the rewards.

Todd breaks it down: “We just quit mixing. What if one of the employees we moved from one job site to another got sick? We’d have to quarantine both crews. We’d have to do double the contract tracing. We’d probably have to shut down the job site entirely.”

Todd acknowledges that, although ending this practice was necessary from a health and safety perspective, doing so hurt his team’s morale. “It was hard for our people to accept,” he notes. “They’re just so used to pitching in and helping each other out. No longer being at liberty to do that tested their mental toughness as much as anything else.”

So how did GL Seaman’s installation crew maintain a strong sense of team through it all? According to Todd, by remaining open-minded, getting creative — and staying the course.

“The leadership our Operations Team demonstrated in the field is what led us through this,” he asserts. “They brought great problem-solving skills to the table. If they saw an opportunity for improvement, they brought it to our attention. At the same time, they took it all in stride: the CDC protocols, the masks that cause your safety glasses to fog up, having to walk eight flights of stairs to use the restroom because of occupancy limits on your floor. They could have made excuses, but they didn’t. They just kept doing what they’ve done in the 13 years I’ve been here: putting in day after day of hard work and making sure our clients can move into their new spaces on time. That’s their normal. They never needed a new one.”

Ashley Lowrance, President of GL Seaman & Company – Dallas, concurs. “I’m proud to declare that this team of servant-hearted professionals is what sets us apart from other dealers in the marketplace,” she says “They have been our frontline heroes during the COVID-19 crisis, enabling us to meet every deadline without compromise. Their commitment and perseverance deserve to be celebrated.”

Thank you to every member of the Operations Team for your hard work, dedication, courage, and commitment to excellence. Not only are you essential to our company’s success — you are truly extraordinary.

Peter Aggrey

Josue Arias

Andrew Ballinger

Levi Becerril

Thadeo Carreon

Pedro Castelan

Tom Cross

Sarik Ek

Gary Eubanks

Tomas Garcia

Gregorio Guereca

Pedro Guevara

Mattie Hagemeier

Bryce Horton

Luther Johnson

Chad Kennington

Ray Lett

Francisco Lopez

Clemente Macedo

Gilbert Martinez

Tom Moore

Carl Morris

Chhoung Mou

Greg Patterson

Victor Perez

Angel Quezada

Jose Ramos

Robert Riggs

Adrian Rojas

Todd Schlaegel

Bryan Shuford

Alex Stott

Dave Thomas

Ivan Trevino

Juan Trevino

Mario Vela

Mike Wise

Manuel Zamora

Gerardo Zamudio