Three Bay area companies agree, the COVID-19 crisis has led to innovation and connection

Sharing glimmers: Tampa Bay Business and Wealth talks to local business leaders, and influencers, on their silver linings during the uncertainty of this global pandemic.

If you have a silver lining to share, please contact Bridgette Bello at

Avani Desai, president at Schellman and Company, a professional services firm based in Tampa, says, “we’re basically a bunch of accountants focused on technology so creativity is not necessarily our superpower but, with more time in the day, we’re generating ideas constantly.” It could be brainstorming new processes for efficiency or the employees who keep journals at their bedside to jot down fresh ideas each morning, but Desai credits the way her team uses “isolation to create innovation.”

Eric Bailey, one of the founding partners and principal financial advisor at CapTrust Advisors, finds the same spirit of innovation as his company adjusts to remote working.

“The deeper we go into this, the more the working from home environment will be accepted. As a company, we’ve tried remote strategies on and off in the past but, we never really found something that worked super-well where we could demonstrate we didn’t lose productivity. When you’re forced into a situation like this, people find creative ways to be productive. Employees are now as productive, or even more so. I see it as a lasting benefit and it’s not something we could have gotten to through trial and error, we just had to be launched into it.”

Creativity comes in relationship building too believes Chris Moyer, founder, president and CEO of SME Solutions Group.

“We do business intelligence and data analytics, so we help companies consolidate all their disparate data sources and make data-driven decisions. Many of our employees were already working remotely, so we’ve gotten more creative with the way we engage our team,” says Moyer. “We put together a COVID task force to make sure the whole company is aware of what’s going on, not only with the state or government communications but also what’s going with our customers, with our employees. We’re doing remote sessions of team building events that go out a couple of times a week under the guideline: stay safe, stay productive and stay positive.”

Moyer also points out how company connections were put to the test early on in the crisis: “The demand for our support and services has increased with clients like Tampa General Hospital, Raymond James Financial and Port Tampa Bay requesting our data analytics. On March 2, SME Solutions Group acquired a company based out of Jacksonville named Aculytics. While the timing, in hindsight, could not have been worse with country and state shutdowns the integration and collaboration have been very positive.”

Moyer praises the company’s strong connections and welcoming culture: “It made the integration and massive change that came in mid-March with COVID, as smooth as possible.”

Bailey asserts that the new reliance on technology, for video-conferencing during quarterly meetings, brings many benefits without losing client connections.

“Travel takes up time, expense … and less travel is more sustainable for the planet. It’s also so much more productive to be on my computer because, during the meeting, I can pull documents immediately and share them with screen-sharing. It’s something I can’t do if I am sitting across from them at a meeting because I wouldn’t have that technology on my laptop. The whole concept of virtual meetings being inferior to personal meetings is shifting.”

Desai agrees the situation has helped with company connectedness.

“Our team has daily stand up calls every morning and we’ve mandated using video on every call. We’ve seen a level of cohesiveness that we haven’t seen before. And I didn’t think that would happen. I thought we’d feel separated, that not being able to meet the client together would cause a sense of loneliness. But our employees are telling us they are enjoying this virtual face to face on a daily basis.”

As Desai concludes: “we’ve become a lot more empathetic with this shared experience. I’m on Zoom calls and kids will come in the background or you hear dogs barking. With this new reality, we realize this is how life is. It’s humanizing. We’ve been able to humanize work, to recognize that family is always a part of our lives.” It’s also “calmed life down,” Desai believes, to intersect work and family so closely: “We’re all giving 110 percent at work, yet I’ve been able to be a better daughter, a better wife, a better mother.”

Bailey agrees: “We go on long walks every night. It’s amazing to see the families out and about. It feels like we’re going back fifty years, to how an evening might have been before we loaded up our schedules with business meetings and happy hours and dinners and travel.”



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