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COPING WITH COVID: SeamonWhiteside

Architecture
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Coping with COVID

SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
Contact Andy Owens, aowens@scbiznews.com, with any questions or ideas.


Five years ago, SeamonWhiteside went fully virtual, allowing its 120 employees to more easily work from home and collaborate across its five offices.

The engineering firm’s largest office, with about 75 employees, is in Mount Pleasant.

For the past few years, SeamonWhiteside has invested in software that makes facilitates collaboration among its five offices. With the coronavirus pandemic, that software has smoothed the transition to remote work. (Photo/Provided)“That was a big step for us,” said Gary Collins, managing principal of SeamonWhiteside. “And that was a plan for the future — not obviously for a pandemic, but to be connected through multiple offices.”

Over the past few weeks, Collins said the company’s foresight has paid off, allowing SeamonWhiteside to smoothly transition to remote work for the foreseeable future.

Some of that foresight, Collins said, came from the experience that founders Kenny Seamon and Stuart Whiteside had during the Great Recession.

“The last three or four years, we did a strategic plan,” he said. “And some of the strategic plan went toward business planning for the uncertain. ... So a lot has come through some strategic planning and some historical experience.”

Collins said, for example, that it wasn’t an easy decision last year to spend money to upgrade the company’s server, but with everyone working remotely now, it’s proved to be a wise investment.

“Engineers and architects, we’re not always the most cutting-edge or likely to take risks,” he said. “But it’s done with a lot of thought and preparation. And I think we are definitely seeing some benefits of that.”

Collins said the company hasn’t seen a big change in its volume of work — some hospitality clients have put a pause on their projects, he said, but for now, work has kept coming.

“From a volume standpoint, we’ve actually got some new contracts, but ... it is so fluid,” he said.

Collins said SeamonWhiteside is monitoring the workloads of different teams to make sure the company’s resources are being deployed in the best way possible.

“So if one team’s projects maybe are running slower and ... they have some people that can help other teams, we have done a really good job and have really been sort of, I would like to say, hypervigilant,” he said, adding that the company is “very granular on, ‘OK, who has a task that needs help on?’ to make sure that we are allocating everybody’s time and everybody feels busy and has work to do.”

Collins said the company has also tried to maintain open communication with staff, providing a consistent message to try to keep people positive.

“I know it’s not easy to paint a positive picture, but I think we have maintained very positive, with our staff and with our outlooks to date ... and the technology and the investment we have made has allowed us to do that,” he said.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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