The past two weeks saw an unprecedented, rapid change to all of society as the COVID-19 virus swept across the globe. We’re all instantly grappling with unexpected threats to our health, economy, and social well being. This menace has even arrived in my own home, and I’m seeing first hand how frightening the fight against it can be. Together we realize that we’re just at the beginning of what will be a long battle.
In challenging moments like this one, while we are sheltering in our homes and keeping a distance from loved ones and colleagues, it’s so important to maintain close communication with our community. As CEO of PhotoShelter, my community includes the 80,000 independent photographers and 1,200 creative brands and organizations who rely on our tools, our 100-person PhotoShelter team and their families, plus our cherished partners and vendors too. So, I want to take an opportunity to reflect on the past two weeks and examine what the road ahead looks like for us.
My heart is with the healthcare, law enforcement, sanitation, delivery and food service workers who continue to labor on our behalf, tirelessly, to help prevent the spread of this virus and maintain order. Meanwhile, businesses (including ours) are morphing operations instantly to adjust, to protect employees and continue serving clients, and where possible, lend a hand in the battle. By now, we’ve all seen hundreds of (highly necessary and helpful) emails detailing how the companies we work with are behaving from a tactical perspective. I know for me, my family, and the services we rely on, these updates have provided a genuine sense of calm.
At PhotoShelter, we were fortunate to have a highly dedicated and forward-thinking group of team members spot the growing threat and apply early planning to keep us a few small steps ahead of the pandemic. We established an internal playbook weeks ago, spelling out key steps we’d take should the situation escalate, to safeguard our team and ensure business continuity. In three days we tested each PhotoShelter department switching to fully remote operations. Even then, we figured it would take weeks before we needed to put our plan into action.
As COVID-19 spread rapidly in the New York area, we accelerated our tactical plan significantly. As of Monday 3/16 we had made the remote switch as seamlessly as possible, temporarily saying goodbye to the beautiful new Manhattan headquarters that we proudly opened in August 2019. This team exhibited resilience and tenacity in making the change to a very different work paradigm. Beyond the necessary logistics and communications changes, PhotoShelter’s team truly seized on the “how” of transitioning our culture with a spirit and compassion for each other and our customers. This flawless transformation has made me exceptionally proud.
For our customers and the PhotoShelter services they rely on, I believe our team’s transition of physical location was a non-issue. In fact, I’d be surprised if anyone realized that we made the shift at all. For over 15 years, we’ve delivered reliability and performance regardless of where our customers may be on the globe — this is the benefit of our highly redundant cloud platform that we built from scratch and still manage today. As this crisis changes the location where our customers’ work is getting done, our centralized platform remains capable of delivering on our promise to help creative people thrive, from anywhere. Today we’re literally “sheltering” over 2 billion visual assets for our clients — that’s 16 Petabytes of data — enabling remote work to get done seamlessly for visual projects.
The above feels like an extreme luxury. I don’t take this for granted for a second. Talking about maximum business continuity makes me feel a bit awkward when so many of the customers we support are struggling due to canceled events and a slowing economic climate, and while our role in the world is far from the immediate front lines where the ill are receiving urgent care from true heroes. Nonetheless, our clients are relying on us to deliver normalcy now. This commitment includes helping our pro photographer community with thought leadership and innovative ways to cope with a changing business climate. And this extends to the organizations we serve across state and local government, schools and universities, travel brands, pro sports teams, hospitals and consumer foodservice brands. Our community is rapidly altering the ways they stay connected and do work. They are documenting this unexpected crisis as it becomes an unwelcome part of every one of our stories. Like our community, we are scrappy and creative, we are adapting, and we’ll be a steady partner to help in every way we can.
I’m filled with pride knowing our tools support so many of the photojournalists who use PhotoShelter as they stand in harm’s way at the epicenter of the fight to ensure they capture and share the visual story of this moment. Similarly, I see organizations using Libris right now to make their visual content from this moment available to their highly remote audiences and stakeholders. This includes local leaders on the “front lines” like Governor Cuomo and his team at the New York State Executive Chamber as they guide us through this crisis with clear and consistent communications. And the sports teams and leagues we work with who are finding new ways to keep fans’ minds on the games and athletes we love while we can no longer see them live.
We have leaned heavily on our PhotoShelter Values to direct our team’s response to COVID-19. I’ve decided to share these values here, publicly, for the first time. They define our commitment to our broad community and influence how we behave in good times and tough times alike. Companies often struggle to translate their values from a poster on the wall to genuine operational reality. Yet, as we rally to meet this new challenge, it’s been a powerful moment for me to see our values in action.
I look forward to staying in close contact with you.