What We’re Made Of: Rick Warren, West Entertainment

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Rick Warren, West Entertainment, at his home office in Orange County.

What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Rick Warren
Managing Partner, West Entertainment
Location: Orange County, California
Day 35 of working from home
Date of writing: April 20, 2020

Are you in lockdown right now?
Yes. California was the first state under lockdown in the US.

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
With the recent change in business and day-to-day operations because of COVID-19, we were able to quickly and seamlessly start working remotely without missing a beat. We love Teams and Zoom for business – and use WhatsApp for our “water-cooler” chatter.

What’s your new office attire or go-to comforts at home during this time?
Rocking my vintage concert t-shirts – and giving the collared shirts a rest for now.

Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by COVID-19?
No

What news outlets are you following?
CNN, MSNBC, BBC and NPR.

“What we have learned from the impact of 9/11 is that you must have cash on hand to survive these unforeseen downturns in business.”

How are you passing time?
Cooking, planting our spring garden and lots of binging on Hulu, Netflix and Prime shows… Just finishing Season 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm! Oh, Larry David!

Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
We were coming off a successful and profitable 2019 and bringing that momentum with us into 2020. The team was doing great with personal/professional goals set for the year.

Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
Most orders for the second quarter of 2020 have been canceled. This will have a negative impact on our company, however the US government has set up a Paycheck Protection Program grant that will keep all employees on payroll. Beyond June, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Most of our clients are preparing for a July reentry into business and we are supporting those efforts. I’ve been around long enough to remember 9/11. What we have learned from that experience is that you must have cash on hand to survive these unforeseen downturns in business. I created policies early on that have helped West Entertainment weather this current storm.

How prepared was your company to instate remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic? Any tips on how to remain productive under these new circumstances?
West was a startup three years ago, which gave us the ability to approach the industry and our infrastructure investments differently. We’ve always built flexibility for our global team to connect remotely, therefore our office-wide contingency plan enabled us to perform and deliver at high levels with no impact on our availability, capacity or security.

How can we, as an industry, work together and rebound from this unprecedented crisis?
As we all work to navigate our industry back into health, now is the time to strategize on ways to come back better and more profitable. Content remains king as seen with our data analytics engine West DnA. Therefore, working in a more transparent manner with Hollywood and all distributors, through tools like WE by West, gives more direct access and flexibility to content availability and budgets, which could have a very positive impact.

Some companies may have been inspired to create new product lines, or redesign existing product or services as a result of the pandemic. How is it driving innovation?
We are enhancing our digital workflow on WE by West and improving the platform with a new AI engine, which drives additional results beyond IFE, by creating new revenue streams for airlines.

What’s one thing that will never be the same again for commercial aviation?
The requirements of masks, taking of temperatures and social distancing will add new challenges to the already high security requirements of commercial air travel. However, there may be a plus to the social distancing requirement – open middle seats. We would be so lucky. Stay healthy and safe.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.

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