Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Personalized service made all the difference when obtaining PPP loans

Gathering the right info was vital. Photo by Krisanapong Detraphiphat/Getty

It's there in their name, but how often does a human resources company actually put emphasis on the "human" part? If it's HR&P, the answer is "especially when it matters most."

Following the COVID-19 pandemic announcement, small businesses scrambled to get their Paycheck Protection Program applications and documents in order. Up for grabs was a government-funded $349 billion in forgivable loans to help pay salaries, utilities, and other necessary expenses while businesses weathered the medical and economic storm. And if a business didn't have a company like HR&P on its side, its chances at obtaining a PPP loan weren't nearly as high.

"The PPP loan process required a great deal of HR information, and the requirements seemed to keep changing," says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media (the parent company of InnovationMap). "So we reached out to HR&P a number of times with requests, questions, etc. And each time HR&P assembled a full team to help us. I eventually started calling them 'the dream team,' because the team at HR&P had all the answers."

"As soon as the banks got set up to process these loans, the funds were gone. Every second mattered," says Kris Osterman, HR&P's CFO. "The CARES act is over 800 pages long — our team divided it in sections, and quickly went through it to find the parts that mattered to our clients. We had to make sure we had what we thought the banks needed — the information coming from the treasury was vague at the start — we had to make interpretations and apply our technical knowledge to gather what was ultimately needed for each client. A rapid response was critical."

Working (often remotely) around the clock, through that first weekend, and then several others, HR&P's team was in constant communication with its clients and their SBA lenders. At the end of the day, it was the community-based companies like HR&P that shined over their larger, more bureaucratic counterparts. The blitz of ambiguous COVID-19 relief legislation was an incubator for chaos in the financial and human resource communities. Most payroll companies simply could not respond with a level of intimacy required to support a company's specific needs. HR&P had the agility to navigate these moving targets and swiftly personalize service for their clients.

"Everyone had a different interpretation of the legislation, and there were inconsistencies in what was being requested from each financial institution. Corroborating the requests and staying in constant communication with the client was imperative," says HR&P's VP of client relations, Kevin Roblyer. "They could literally get ahold of us on a Sunday, where other providers were not available or couldn't provide that localized presence."

"All the lenders and financial institutions were asking for different information," says John McKay, HR&P VP of operations. "HR&P is entirely customizable. Our development team can quickly create functionality and generate reporting capabilities for each individual client and their bank's needs."

More importantly, "being able to speak to a designated HR&P representative was very important to limit client anxiety," says Chris Fisher, HR&P's VP of sales.

Thanks to years of expertise and a deep knowledge of its clients, HR&P played a critical role in securing vital PPP funds for many small and mid-sized businesses.

"It took a lot of creativity," says Fisher. "And everything changed with the second round of funding in April. Because of our high touch service model, our clients were prepared and more equipped to succeed."

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Building Houston

 
 

The second cohort of The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator hosted a day full of thought leadership and startup pitches. Photo by Shobeir Ansari, Getty Images

In light of COVID-19, it is more relevant than ever to discuss and support startups with sustainability and resiliency in mind. At the Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Cohort 2 Demo Day, a virtual audience was reminded of that.

"So, 2020 has certainly been a year of unprecedented uncertainty and change for Houston, for Texas, for our country, and for our world," says Christine Galib, director of the accelerator. "The past few months in particular have been especially difficult as the global pandemic and civil unrest continue to spotlight systemic and structural scars on the face of humanity."

The virtual event was streamed on July 1 and hosted several thought leaders and presenters before concluding with pitches from four of the cohort companies.

"Through it all, and in a virtual world, Cohort 2 startups, the mentors, and our Ion team have been the change we wish to see in the world," Galib continues. "For these startups, failure is simply not an option — and neither is going at it alone."

Earlier this year, Galib announced the second cohort would be focused on solutions for Houston's air quality, water purification, and other cleantech needs. The program, backed by Intel, Microsoft, and TX/RX, launched on Earth Day and commenced shortly after. Cohort 3 is expected later this year.

Here are the four companies that pitched and the problems they are trying to solve.

Re:3D

re:3D was founded just down the street from NASA's Johnson Space Center to address the need for a mid-market 3D printing solution. The Houston-based startup also wanted to create their 3D printer that operates on recycled plastics in order to prevent excess waste.

"Where some see trash, we see opportunity," Charlotte Craff, community liaison at Re:3D says in her presentation.

Re:3D's clients can get their hands on their own Gigabot for less than $10,000, and the printer uses pellets and flakes from recycled plastics —not filament — to print new designs. Clients are also supported by the company with design software and training.

"We can help the city of Houston help meet its climate action and resilient city goals by transforming the way people think about recycling," Craff says about Re:3D's future partnerships with the city.

Water Lens

While two-thirds of the world is covered in water, only 0.7 percent is drinkable. And of that fresh water, 92 percent of it is used in agricultural and industrial settings. This is how Keith Cole, CEO and founder of Water Lens, set the scene for his presentation.

Water Lens, which is based in Houston with a lab located in Austin, wants to solve the problem of cities and countries running out of fresh, drinkable water by equipping huge water-using companies with a water testing tool.

"We've developed a system to let anyone test any water literally anywhere in the world," Cole says, citing clients like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Halliburton.

S2G Energy

S2G Energy, based in Mexico, is focused on optimizing energy management in order to digitize, empower, and unlock potential for cost-saving efforts and technology.

In his pitch, Geronimo Martinez, founder of S2G Energy, points out that restaurants, commercial buildings, and other adjacent industries can save money by implementing energy management solutions that come out of S2G Energy's expertise. In Mexico, Martinez says, clients include the top two restaurant chains that — especially during COVID-19 — need optimization and cost saving now more than ever.

Eigen Control

A refinery's distillation columns are expensive — their fuel use accounts for 50 of operating costs, says Dean Guma, co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Eigen Control.

Guma explains in his pitch how Eigen Control's technology can plug into existing sensors, model networks based on data, and employ the startup's artificial intelligent technology to reduce carbon emissions and save money on operating costs.

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