Finding Sanity in a Crazy COVID World
SMI Spotlights: Dawn Vitarelli, Client Services Manager
Maybe it was inevitable. Or maybe it was just bad juju brought on by everyone standing all those brooms on end. Either way, 2020 went downhill faster than you can say Novel Coronavirus.
From the initial “pandemic shock” to the shutdowns, furloughs, home restrictions and Zoom zaniness that followed, everyone has a few 2020 stories they’ll never forget. Unfortunately, far too many stories did not have a happy ending, and our heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, friends and co-workers.
For the rest of us, 2020 was a mix of uncertainty, frustration, trepidation and, yes, even a few lighthearted moments along the way.
Enter Dawn Vitarelli, SMI Client Services Manager extraordinaire.
If you know Dawn, you know she’s quite a character. With her infectious laugh and irreverent sense of humor, Dawn spent 2020 keeping her family, which includes her co-workers, clients, and crews, laughing through the toughest of times.
As the focus of our inaugural SMI Spotlights feature, we couldn’t think of anyone better suited to share their stories of chaos and camaraderie during those crazy COVID times than Dawn.
On working from home…
“Before the day started, all I can say is, be grateful you weren’t cooped up with me. Most mornings, I barged into my kid’s bedrooms, dressed in a fuzzy robe and towel on my head, and ‘serenaded’ each one awake. My kids are not fans of One Direction, so naturally that was my band of choice.
Once the workday started, it was tough not having that true face to face interaction with my work family. The SMI team had also just starting using Microsoft Teams, so we still had a learning curve – one that we quickly overcame in a very sink or swim fashion! Adapting to change is part of our job, and this team got in a groove pretty quickly.”
On lifting the spirits of her co-workers…
“One thing I try to do no matter who I’m talking to is make people feel better somehow, even if it’s just a little chuckle. So that’s what I did. I gave the SMI team a little laugh every day by sending update emails describing what was happening in my house. They got a few laughs, and I think it was therapy for me too!”
On mitigating the impact of lockdowns with her crews…
“When the COVID closings really hit, within 2 or 3 days, basically every work order in house got cancelled. We were scrambling to have crews stop work immediately so they weren’t doing work they wouldn’t get paid for. It was a ridiculous time just trying to get everything stopped, cancelled and closed out to make sure our crews got paid for services completed.
I love the crews that do this work for us. They are so wonderful, which is why I’m so proud that we never slowed down on paying our crews on time, despite 95% of our services being cancelled.”
On navigating the chaos with her clients…
“Something that really resonated with me during this time happened when I reached out to a client who I hadn’t talked to in a few days. I started the conversation by apologizing that it had taken me a day to get back to him with everything going on. He said ‘Don’t worry about it Dawn, we are all in triage mode right now.’ That’s how it felt. We were just trying to address the most urgent of urgent matters first.”
On the recovery as businesses opened back up…
“When businesses started to reopen, the work requests did not trickle in. If it was a national account, it was all back at the same time. They just picked up the programs where they left off. Clients were giving you the old work orders plus new ones for COVID touchpoint cleanings. We wanted to make sure it was seamless for them and safe for their employees and customers. It was more than a little crazy, but the strong relationships we have with our crews helped curb the chaos. They really prioritized our clients’ needs, which meant we were able to deliver flawlessly.”
On keeping a positive outlook no matter what…
“I am a strong believer and I pray every morning. My days somehow work out. The goal is to try to make someone else’s day better in any way I can. If I can include an extra service that may not be on the work order, I will do that. If you make someone’s day, it will inevitably make your day, and the positivity just keeps on going.”
Dawn Vitarelli has been with SMI for 6 years, first as a Vendor Manager and now a Client Services Manager. All of us at SMI appreciate her dedication to our clients, crews and coworkers during this unprecedented time.