Christy Brasseaux

As Louisiana is in phase 2 of reopening, we decided to talk to some local business leaders within New Orleans about how they believe quarantine has gone and what they have learned. Working through COVID has been difficult and posed a new set of challenges. We’ve all had to adapt in one way or another whether that’s in our professional lives or personal lives. It’s been particularly difficult for small businesses learning to navigate through PPP loans, trying to maintain staff and being uncertain of when businesses can fully reopen. New Orleans once again shows its resilience during this tough time and has continued to band together to begin what is hopefully a safe re-entry into normalcy.

Christy is celebrating her 20th year with LANTEC of Louisiana; she is the Chief Operating Officer, where she has served since 2009. Her focus has been on expansion into new market territories, acquiring additional instructor talent, supporting the sales team, and building relationships with clients, vendors, fellow Microsoft Partner organizations. Christy is a 1994 cum laude alumna of USL and resides in Carencro with her husband and two golden retrievers.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your businesses?

As a corporate training provider to employers throughout the state of Louisiana, up until March of 2020, LANTEC had built its reputation on delivering live, hands-on, in-person, instructor-led training (from Customer Service to Excel to highly-technical IT topics and everything in between).  When the stay-at-home order began, we planned to weather the storm for a week or maybe two by allowing everyone to work at home until the all clear was given. HA!! What a surprise that this was going to be much more long term than a few weeks.  We immediately began hemorrhaging with training cancellations from our clients, seeing dollars fly out of the windows and knew right away our small business (with a brand new 6 month old presence in New Orleans) was not going to make it unless we made some significant changes to the way we have delivered training since 1999.  While we still felt in-person training was the best way adults learn, we were faced with a choice to adapt to online learning or fold.  At that moment, we decided to be the best version of virtual instructor-led training anywhere and set out to modify our platform and our curriculum to match this new modality.

What changes have your businesses had to make to adapt to quarantine?
LANTEC has implemented not only a vILT (virtual Instructor-Led Training) suite of class options, but also adopted a new eLearning (self-paced CBT) product to allow our clients to train from anywhere at their convenience with only a web connection. We had to quickly determine the best virtual meeting software to accomplish the closest simulation to a live environment and were tasked to ramp up a staff of 10 trainers on how to effectively manage a virtual classroom (from troubleshooting common tech glitches to successfully engaging remote learners). Within a short two week ramp up, we were ready to go and began rescheduling Zoom sessions to replace the live trainings which had been cancelled due to social distancing/stay at home orders. Along the way, we learned our selected platform was not allowed amongst our federal clients and also adopted both GoToMeeting as well as Microsoft Teams thereby now giving 3 choices to customers for vILT training. To our pleasant surprise, we found our customers not only open to the new type of delivery, but thankful for the opportunity to complete their 2020 training agendas despite the major disruption of the pandemic on their own businesses. Rather than vILT being a consolation prize for the “real deal”, they viewed it as productive, convenient, and a suitable alternative with no discernable sacrifice of quality.

Were there any resources or advice you gave your employees to help them during this time?
During this challenging time, our focus was to find creative solutions to continue to meet the needs of our customers, most of whom were on a finite deadline to complete their planned training programs as pre-determined by the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Incumbent Worker Training Program (grant award). While unfortunately we did have some necessary staff furloughs to adapt to the decrease in volume of business, we were able to maintain insurance and other benefits for those temporarily laid off.  We also ensured our instructors had the tools they needed to be successful whether teaching from home or our office. LANTEC supported additional certification training for the instructors to adapt their presentation skills to the virtual model and during this time, four of them pursued and attained the MCCT credential (Modern Classroom Certified Trainer).

What advice would you give to other business owners specifically in New Orleans about how to restart business when quarantine is over?
We definitely don’t have all the answers in these unprecedented times and our hearts break for our loyal customers in the NOLA hospitality sector who are still crippled under Phase 2 restrictions. My best advice is to continue to seek and acknowledge the silver linings within the obstacles you have been able to overcome rather than focusing on what opportunities for success were lost. Be as flexible and as human as you can be during these challenging times and treat valued employees the way you would want to be treated. Compassion, honesty/integrity go a long way toward rebuilding a future together, even though it may look starkly different than the one previously planned.

Though this is a tough time, what has inspired optimism for you and your businesses moving forward?
Something we had staunchly resisted for so long as a mechanism for differentiating ourselves from other training providers has proven to be a way to stay relevant and competitive under the most dire of circumstances. By being a late-adopter to virtual training, we benefitted from having more robust and widely-accepted meeting tools than were previously on the market. We are grateful for a clientele who trusted us enough to give it a shot and were blessed by wide-spread acceptance and even enthusiasm for our new modality. I suppose the old adage of “if you aren’t growing/changing, you’re dead” absolutely fits in this scenario!  Moving forward, the flexibility of gathering students from multiple locations albeit none in-person will allow for us to have fuller classes and increased profitability. We remain hopeful that all our friends and colleagues will weather this storm and resurge even stronger on the other side of this pandemic. Louisianians are a resilient bunch and we truly would not want to live or work anywhere else!

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