RFA Member K·Coe Isom’s mission is “to have impact and make a difference in the lives of their people, clients, and the world we live in.” And as COVID-19 has quickly made a negative impact on the U.S. ethanol industry, K·Coe Isom, has done just that. Through taking action to help their long list of stakeholders, this leading consulting firm of the agriculture sector, has helped many to weather the perfect “tsunami” that COVID-19 has been for the ethanol industry.
For many, the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent stay-at-home orders meant that their homes were now also their offices. For K·Coe Isom’s typical 23 locations, that meant growing to operations spread across over 300 locations as employees began working from home. K·Coe Isom quickly made accommodations so that their employees could have an adequate work-from-home environment within their own houses. These accommodations included allowing them to transfer office equipment, furniture, and modify work hours so that they could meet the needs of their families first. Making sure that their people were comfortable and able to be productive while working from home was essential as their clients’ needs grew quickly.
As a company that provides services to multiple industries, K·Coe Isom had their work cut out for them as most of their clients’ industries were hit hard economically by COVID-19. Unfortunately, the ethanol industry felt the impacts of COVID-19 almost immediately as the demand for fuel dropped as well as oil prices due to the Russian-Saudi price war. When the CARES Act was passed by Congress on March 27, many small businesses within the ethanol industry qualified, but applying for resources like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans were often accompanied by a lot of questions and need for assistance with the application process. That’s where K·Coe Isom stepped in.
K·Coe Isom went to work educating their clients on available relief packages and partnered with various organizations, including RFA, to set up webinars and provide updates on resources as they were made available. The webinars proved incredibly helpful as the team at K·Coe Isom found that some ethanol facilities tuned into multiple webinars and learned something new each time. Beyond administering the webinars, the team at K·Coe Isom knew that providing ongoing support meant being on the cutting edge of providing available resources as the situation continued to evolve. To fulfill this need, they’ve been hosting town hall meetings since the beginning of April on a bi-weekly basis so that ethanol facilities always have an opportunity to ask questions and get the answers they need to maintain operations and withstand the crisis as best as they can.
“K·Coe Isom has been really supportive throughout the COVID-19 situation. They quickly did a deep dive into the various existing and new programs that could apply to our business, and they helped us to narrow down the options to what best fit our business,” said Derek Peine, General Manager of Western Plains Energy and K·Coe Isom client. “They also offered routine webinars hosted by subject matter experts that I found very helpful. I really appreciate their expertise, guidance, and availability through these past few weeks.”
In addition to financial resources provided through national aid programs, K·Coe Isom’s clients in the ethanol industry were also concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of their employees and the team at K·Coe Isom knew that their clients’ “people” should remain a top priority. Having been deemed an “Essential Critical Infrastructure” industry, the ethanol industry has remained open throughout the crisis and many facilities have been faced with decisions on how to maintain operations while also preventing the spread of the virus. K·Coe Isom has been advising their clients on how to best make these modifications in a way that supports their employees’ needs while maintaining compliance with federal and state laws.
“Once many of our clients were able to get financial assistance through the PPP and other programs, they came to us and asked us ‘okay, now that I can maintain operations, how can I best support my employees’,” said Donna Funk, Principal at K·Coe Isom. “It was important for us to not only support our clients on the business-side, but also support them on the people-side so that they feel comfortable taking care of their employees and their families.”
Many of the resources that K·Coe Isom has developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis have been made available for the entire ethanol industry to benefit from. A page on their website is dedicated to COVID-19 resources and updates which also includes recordings from their recent town halls. K·Coe Isom has also been sourcing personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and other necessary items so that they can send their employees back to the office and minimize public health risks now that much of the country is looking at reopening. Fortunately, they’ve taken this as an opportunity to purchase strategically from clients within the ethanol industry and from companies that are purchasing hand sanitizer ingredients from ethanol plants.
“K·Coe Isom has been instrumental in providing our members and the ethanol industry at large with the resources they need to keep their doors open and make important business decisions,” said RFA CEO Geoff Cooper. “While it’s hard to imagine what our industry will look like after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, I’m confident that we will come out stronger than ever due to leadership displayed by companies in our industry like K·Coe Isom.”
A strong company culture served the team at K·Coe Isom well and has allowed them to meet and exceed the needs of their stakeholders while remaining loyal to their mission statement.
“It wasn’t until we were a few weeks removed from the beginning of the crisis that we realized our reaction reflected our mission statement so well,” said Funk. “At the time, we didn’t refer to it as a set of guidelines, but it happened naturally as we try to live by that mission statement each day.”
This post is part of the Renewable Fuels Association’s #RFACommunityPartners series spotlighting individual member companies’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.