When things are going well, being the leader of a company can
feel like nothing but smooth sailing.
The economy is booming, business is rolling in and there are
no staff or budget cuts on the horizon. Sure, it’s still possible to make
mistakes, but a rising tide tends to lift all boats.
Since the coronavirus pandemic rocked the global economy,
however, the roles and responsibilities of business leaders have profoundly
changed. Prior to COVID-19, CEOs in Northern Nevada and beyond were focused on
driving revenue, gaining market share and fostering innovation.
Now, during a crisis few could have anticipated, those CEOs
must show their mettle, making rapid decisions as they attempt to chart a
steady course. All the while, employees will be looking to their leaders for
With that in mind, the NNBW spoke with CEOs of two Northern
Nevada companies that employ more than 500 people apiece to find out the best
ways to lead a company through a crisis.
For Scott Pruneau, CEO of ITS Logistics, communicating
clearly and effectively with staff — early and often — has been a top priority.
“I think you have to communicate a very consistent message
very regularly,” Pruneau said in a phone interview with the NNBW. “First and
foremost, their safety is our No. 1 concern. You have to have compassion and
genuine care for the safety of your staff.”
Dean Dow, CEO of the Regional Medical Services Authority
“Regardless what industry or profession you’re in, I think
the focus has go to be the health and safety of your employees, the people that
you work with and their families,” Dow told the NNBW. “Regardless of whether
we’re in health, manufacturing or we’re providing some service to the public, we
all have to stay focused, primarily on the health of everybody that we work
with and their families.”
Throughout the pandemic, Pruneau said he also communicates
the message that the company is an essential business and plays a key role in
“It’s important we remind ourselves that the work we do is
important,” he added.
For Dow, he reemphasizes that same message to REMSA
employees, who are on frontlines every day as the ground emergency and medical
services provider for Washoe County.
“They’ve given 100% through all of this through all of these
weeks,” he said. “They’ve never blinked, they’ve never wavered, they are fully
committed to the communities that we serve and fully committed to the
importance of what they do for the communities.”
Though Dow said communicating to all of REMSA’s members is,
“like trying to get the orchestra to play the music all at the same time,” he
noted they spend a “considerable amount of time” getting information out to all
of staff members every day.
He pointed to the CDC’s updates throughout the COVID-19
pandemic on proper PPE usage and the cleaning/sanitizing of ambulances as an
“Whether they are direct patient care providers, in our communication center or business office,” he said, “we’re putting out important news through email, group chats, even going all the way back to the basics of doing a newsletter and putting it in every ambulance as it gets ready to leave our main campus.”
During a crisis, one could argue no leadership role is more
important than being understanding of company employees’ circumstances and
distractions during a crisis, and finding ways to keep them engaged and
For ITS Logistics’ 100 employees now working from home,
Pruneau said they have stressed the importance of making their home office
environment as close to their work environment as possible. Employees were even
given the option of taking their office desk home.
“We probably went above and beyond to make sure that when
you plug in at home, the work experience and technology that you’re using is as
close to the office as possible,” he said.
Moreover, Pruneau said intentionally connecting with
individual employees and making sure the company’s teams are staying connected
is crucial. He noted that all of the teams across the company start and end
their day with a video chat.
‘FEAR WILL SPREAD
Above all, Pruneau said he’s recognized the importance —
more than any time in his career — of being an adaptable and decisive leader. After
all, the COVID-19 crisis in Nevada has changed by the day, sometimes by the
“Do you have to be experimental? 100%,” he said. “Do you
have to make some decisions without having all of the facts? Yes, you do. Do
you make mistakes? 100%, you do. But, you have to react quickly and in
accordance with your values.
“Indecisiveness and fear can spread like wildfire, and it’s
so critical to not only be agile but also be decisive.”
In the process, the ITS Logistics CEO said the company is
leaning on its value system to help guide its decision-making.
“And my job is to make sure we’re operating under that value
system,” he said. “If you’re consistent and clear with your messaging, and you
remind your people how much you care about them, and your actions follow your
words, then I think people are much more apt to stay aligned and focused
through the crisis.”