First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Heath Starkey: Due to proper social distancing and taking recommended action early, my wife, 4 children, and I are safe and healthy. We are praying for those affected and are always looking for new ways to contribute and help those that need it.
My name is Heath Starkey, and I am the COO of Textworkers, LLC. This is how our company survived COVID-19 and how we thrived by looking to the past.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Textworkers
Heath Starkey: Textworkers was founded in 2008, a collaboration between a group of professional copywriters. Our inception was based on a dinner conversation among friends as we discussed doing business with a company and receiving poor customer service.
That’s when the conversation changed to 1950s gas stations. At that time, when a car pulled up, a team came running out with smiles. One would begin filling the car up, while another would start checking the tire pressure. Others would check and top off fluids while others would wash the windshield, all while having a great time and talking and joking with the driver.
That is when it hit us. We would bring back that kind of personal service while delivering a quality product. A content creation agency that offers one-on-one service to every client, premium content, and a bevy of options to create a truly customized solution that fits your company’s unique needs was formed.
I contributed my talents of copywriting to train writers and managing distribution and sales. However, my knack for problem-solving soon launched my position to Director of Content Development and Chief Operating Officer of Textworkers, LLC.
Since I took my position, Textworkers has grown year over year. However, due to the rise of COVID-19, we have faced challenges we never dreamed of.
How does Textworkers innovate?
Heath Starkey: We, as a collective team have found creative ways to break an increasingly common service out of the mold while keeping what our clients value most at the forefront.
Our innovative strategy has always been to take the best of a content writing service and combine it with related offerings to provide the broadest range of customization possible. We do this all while maintaining a staff of professional copywriters, seasoned editors, and a quality control team that together ensure a premium end product for the businesses and agencies that use our service.
We analyze the market and industry trends to keep our service fresh and at the forefront of meeting the emerging need.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Heath Starkey: When the global shutdowns began, we took a hard hit in the beginning. Fortunately, my team and I discussed possibilities and options just as news erupted of the virus and its potential. While we remained hopeful that the effects would not be as devastating as they were, we made contingency plans if the worst-case scenario became a reality.
I must admit it was very hard to read the market and the virus as the pandemic began spreading. I had a difficult time knowing when I should enact our safety protocols. But I made the decision. Our safety protocol was to support our entire staff, send everyone home, and begin the huge undertaking of becoming a remote company. Again, the pandemic was still in its infancy at this time.
It was a success in as far as the term can be used during a time like that. It was successful in the way that we immediately began uplinking to each other, intertwining our home office computers to our network. We began running drills on meetings, switching workflow during development cycles, and engaging in Zoom meetings several times a day to ensure as little delay as possible in sending communications that affects development and/or distribution channels.
We are now successfully operating remotely, and our output has actually increased.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Heath Starkey: The difficulty in making many of these decisions has been knowing when and when not to act. We have been fortunate in that enacting these decisions early on saved many jobs. Due to the cuts to overhead costs, we were able to keep cash flow and payroll in the positive even during a mass wave of contracts being paused.
This is because we are a B2B service. When the shutdowns occurred, many of our clients, both big and small, ceased a large portion of their marketing efforts because they were not serving customers.
However, we urged our clients to switch to an online-based service for the time being and ended up retrieving and salvaging hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of contracts. This early action and innovation essentially saved our company, as well as the companies of many of our clients.
We worked with customers across the board. For example, we taught our clients that owned restaurants how to switch to a delivery service, helping them with the transition and marketing materials, and increasing their online presence while being unable to serve customers in-house. They thrived with this model, in some cases, more than before they were forced to close.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is when the chips are down, my writers, team members and staff are good, good people who came together, remained reliable, and dedicated themselves to keeping our company alive by helping our clients in need. And by supporting the very people who depended on us when hope seems lost, they, in turn, ensured we continued to thrive during a sometimes dark and difficult journey.
Did you deal with stress and anxiety?
Heath Starkey: To be completely honest and open, I did suffer from anxiety and stress internally. I worried about my staff, my team. I knew their livelihoods depended on keeping their jobs and earning an income.
But that’s where I kept it. Internally. Not stifled but controlled.
I remained steady and kept the course. I trusted my team’s and my own judgement. I maintained the course and kept to the plan. I kept myself available, kept in communication with everyone, and made sure that no one was left to feel insecure about their future with us.
While I was honest with them in saying we have a difficult road ahead of us, I did remain collected and focused on what I had to do and remained aware of the fear those that depended on me to lead felt.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Heath Starkey: Our competitors are many and growing by the day. However, our competitors are moving toward automation and AI. While we do use these technologies internally to assist with processes and some distribution, we are the only company in our industry moving away from these technologies in customer service, client communications, and the majority of our interactions with our clients.
Our competitors are moving toward “self-service” models, where customers order blog posts from an ordering system, for example. They charge by the word and promise to deliver the same quality whether it is a blog about dog grooming or corporate tax law. This is devaluing talent and/or sacrificing quality.
This is the result of “complete” automation.
Those interested in working with us, however, simply contact us and let us know what they need, or they can request a free consultation. Here, we discuss goals, budget, and strategy and service options.
The cost is a consistent formula of Industry x complexity x duration = the cost of the content. In other words, your industry, the complexity of the order, and the time it will take to develop a premium piece determines the cost.
Again, with the same example, an article about dog grooming is not complicated. It would take one of our writers a few hours to research and compose the article while maintaining the utmost quality. An article on corporate tax law, however, is quite complex. It requires significant research to produce an authoritative and compelling piece. Therefore, we would never charge the same price even with similar word counts. We are fair to our employees and provide a premium product to our clients.
We plan to continue offering a unique service, distribution, and quality model to our clients while moving closer to developing a personal relationship with each of them. We are keeping it fresh by going back to our inception, back to our inspiration. We’re back to our original goal of providing the same level of service and quality as those smiling teams from the past.
Our content writing service thrives the closer we model ourselves after a 1950s gas station. Who would’ve thought?
Your final thoughts
Heath Starkey: COVID-19 took the world by storm. It closed doors, shuttered buildings, and crumbled strong businesses that seemed like they were built upon a rock.
We take our hats off to each of them. If we could open our virtual doors to each of the people who lost their positions, we absolutely would – no questions asked.
The reality is, we cannot.
But we can encourage other business leaders to develop protocols in the event something happens like this again. Maybe not a pandemic, but something that may shutter your physical location or affect your consumer base.
In the end, what saved our clients and ourselves by coming together and working together to solve the problem of physical closures.
We did not use technology to develop these plans. We did not use AI to problem solve. We are people who worked with other people hand-in-hand. We used old fashioned ingenuity and created an avenue where we could all prosper together.
We worked together as a team, each tasked with aiding our customers in new ways that would provide a complete service so their business could continue traveling forward without breaking down or stalling.
And we did it with a smile.
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