Stella Crewse (CEO) | Grandview, Missouri | Services
Stella Crewse, Morgan Miller Plumbing | Grandview, Missouri
Stella always wanted to run a business. She wasn’t passionate about a particular product or service, though — she just loved running a back office. She was Morgan Miller’s operations manager when the company’s then–owner, Jeff Morgan, decided to go into retirement and Stella stepped up to lead the 23– year–old business. It’s one of the greatest decisions she’s made. Stella led her company to utilize the full menu of G Suite products to share documents and stay organized. Google Maps, for instance, became something her team would use in a particularly fascinating way. This tool allows an estimator to pull up aerial photos and move around a neighborhood without ever leaving the comfort of the home office. With a sewer line replacement, for instance, an estimator can pull up, see the home, and in most cases identify where the sewer line has to run to connect to the city sewer.
Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.
The company Stella leads also defies expectations about what a plumbing company should be. Its primary marketing is done online and over social media. Morgan Miller utilizes digital services like Google Ads and maintains pages with Instagram, Pinterest, and “the Book Face,” as Jeff calls it. The company’s Facebook page, as well as its Google My Business profile (which has been important in leading customers to the business’ website), is where the employees of Morgan Miller get to show their lighter sides. They might post pictures of office dogs, show off a plumbing truck with inflatable unicorns hanging off the side, or feature a technician shoveling a customer’s driveway. “You can say anything you want in a print advertisement and people either believe it or they don’t,” Stella says. “But when you’re online, people get to know who you really are. Social media allowed people to truly trust us and this helped us grow not just our business but also our community.
For example, 54% of Arts, Education, and Entertainment SMBs increased video conferencing to deliver what are traditionally in-person services.
All of this was important as a pandemic–hit nation moved into lockdown. Google Maps was particularly handy, saving estimators from having to physically drive to locations and be out in public. Many other digital tools were important as well. Stella’s company had already moved just about all of its operations online well beforehand, from accounting to dispatching. “Everything was digital, even our phones, so we were able to maintain operations seamlessly,” Stella says. “Of course there were still a host of things we had to learn how to do quickly, such as how to be our own IT people in our home offices, which is why plain old Google Search was so important too. I’m not sure how we would have survived without having Google there to answer our questions.” Morgan Miller implemented new social distancing guidelines for its technicians and began conducting daily staff meetings remotely via Zoom and Facebook video chat. The team turned to social media to pivot its lighthearted marketing to better fit the times and, most importantly, maintain communication with its customers about how it could continue serving them safely. It also took the opportunity to integrate additional technology into its operations, such as an updated dispatch system that will make the company even more digitally driven moving forward.
Today, Morgan Miller is extremely busy, with a “Help Wanted” sign on its digital door, and Stella’s team is using digital tools like Zoom to help bring even more employees on board. She is proud that her plumbing company was able to pull through COVID–19 with relative ease and she knows that this was thanks to its early adoption of digital tools and platforms. While the pandemic’s onset was frightening at first, she says, it quickly evolved into an opportunity to make the business even better by forcing the adoption of greater efficiency and digital fluency throughout the company. “This experience has given us the confidence that we will be able to continue operations seamlessly no matter what comes our way,” Stella says, with an added word of advice for other small business owners who might find themselves in a similar situation: “Embrace the digital tools that are out there. There are so many and they can help you market yourself, keep in touch with employees, and even manage the back office. There is a digital tool for everything — don’t be afraid of them!”
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