Lori Grant looked into the night outside her hotel window in late February 2020. She had been CEO of Klick Health, the world’s largest independent health marketing agency, for just a mere four months. She had spent the day leading one of her first leadership off-site meetings in Utah, planning for the year ahead.
At the same time, she along with her Chairman, Leerom Segal and a handful of other leaders had been discussing information coming in from their in-house medical experts and industry contacts. It was early in everyone’s understanding of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 (COVID), the respiratory illness that had been generating fear and confusion as it spread across the globe and they began examining various options to simultaneously run the business, preserve calm, and maintain safety. Together, they developed a nine-point safety-protocol and business continuity plan, but when and how to enact it?
Grant and the leadership team had to decide whether to continue company practices or make the dramatic and unprecedented call to halt all further travel, suspend on-site client work and ask their entire team to begin working from home. The fuel for any agency depends on client relationships and Klick’s commitment to providing a superior client experience meant that meetings were usually conducted in person. How would their clients react if Klick started canceling meetings? Was it safe to start shifting towards virtual pitching? Would Klick’s competitors take advantage of its caution and try to sway more work their way? Would Grant personally be accused of taking an alarmist position just months into her tenure? And, how would the teams responsible for generating outstanding work, such as the creative leads who typically thrive in “live” collaboration sessions, perform when forced to work remotely, distanced from the energy of their colleagues? Would productivity be impacted? Ultimately: how would Klick’s unique people-first culture survive if it lost its high-touch model?
Grant vividly recalled filming a video on her iPhone, outlining their course of action at 11 PM in the hotel’s kitchen. She, company co-founder and chairman Leerom Segal, and the rest of the leadership team agreed it should be posted on Genome, the company’s internal portal for everything, so that every one of their 1200+ employees (called Klicksters) would see it upon logging in for work the next morning.
Citation: Jennifer White and Greg Licholai, "Klick Health: Global Pandemic Crisis Management," Yale Case 21-014, March 16, 2021.