As coronavirus emptied office buildings, a team of Zurich facilities leaders were collaborating on how to help the janitorial staff, cafeteria workers, an onsite dry cleaner and other suppliers suddenly without the Zurich employees they counted on as customers.
The COVID-19 shutdown would be a blow to vendors and suppliers, some of them small businesses and others with many hourly wage workers whose earnings depended on buildings brimming with life.
John Todesco, Head of Zurich North America Sourcing and Procurement, had begun discussing ways to cushion the blow with Paul Noffke, Head of Zurich North America Business Services, and Bruce Lerner, Zurich North America Head of Corporate Real Estate and Workplace Services.
“These suppliers are very important to our operations, and because these people are face to face with our employees, they build relationships with them at work,” Todesco said. “Our dry cleaner at our headquarters is a sole proprietor. Because we had to shut down the building, her source of income is gone.”
Todesco, Lerner and Noffke looked at suppliers across Zurich’s North American buildings who would be impacted most by a shutdown. Then they went to Mark Knipfer, Chief Operations & Technology Officer for Zurich North America, to propose arrangements to help replace some of the revenue that would be missed.
“We talked to Mark and said, ‘This is what we’re thinking of doing,’ ” Noffke said. “It was a very easy ‘Yes.’”
They acted quickly on three-month arrangements such as providing for the janitorial staff’s normal wages and covering the dry cleaner’s net revenue. Emails of gratitude poured in just as quickly.
- “Thank you, John and the rest of your team, for your help and the extreme generosity of Zurich,” wrote Jung Sook Kim, who owns Twin Towers Dry Cleaners in Zurich’s suburban Chicago headquarters. “I am thankful that I get to provide my service to such a wonderful group of people.”
- “Since joining the Ricoh team that services the Zurich account, I have seen time and time again that we are not just a ‘vendor,’” wrote Kimberly Watermann, Senior National Operations Manager for Ricoh USA, which provides business services including reception and shipping in many Zurich offices and has continued to provide essential services during office closures.
- “I truly appreciate Zurich’s approach to this global pandemic and compassion you not only have for your employees, but your partners too,” wrote Christopher Grano, Global Account Director for JLL, which provides transaction, project and facility management services for Zurich.
- “As you can imagine, we are currently working with a lot of clients on these matters,” wrote Dave Kimball, Senior Vice President of Sodexo Corporate Services in North America, which has provided food and facilities services in the Schaumburg headquarters and in the Anoka, Minnesota, building. “It is nice to see Zurich taking a leadership position.”
- “Securitas strongly values our longstanding relationship with Zurich and we appreciate and accept the offer you have proposed,” wrote Joe Hula, National Account Manager for Securitas Security Services USA, which provides security staff.
Todesco, Lerner and Noffke had a head start on resilience planning for suppliers because, in early March, a building Zurich’s New York team shares with other tenants was closed briefly due to a case of coronavirus in another tenant’s part of the building. Two Zurich employees who help manage services for that building expressed concern to Todesco: Would the vendors’ workers be penalized their wages?
“It’s just kind of in our DNA at Zurich to care,” Todesco said.
Kimberly Watermann from Ricoh said she’d share that with Ricoh team members.
“…Zurich appreciates their work, cares for their wellbeing, and now during these unprecedented times wants to ease worry and anxiety over potential lost wages,” she wrote in her email. “As we know, many are not as fortunate, and this truly makes a difference. Thank you for your support and thank you for your business.”