New Orleans multimedia firm turns to telecommuting

Von Marc L.

For Brad Brewster, founder and creative director New Orleans-based Bent Media Inc., the first task this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was to locate all 13 of his employees and make sure they had gotten out safely.

Brewster himself fled the city before the deadly storm hit on Monday. His business, however, did not fare as well. Located in the middle of the now-flooded city, the building is surrounded by five feet of water.

"We have to press on," said Brewster, who has temporarily relocated his company"s file servers to a makeshift office in West Monroe, La. His employees are scattered in hotels or staying with friends, while others are still in transit. "We"re lucky what we do lends itself to telecommuting," he noted.

Brewster said he"s now trying to contact clients of his interactive multimedia and marketing services firm to see what they need. One of Bent"s main tasks was to manage Web sites for customers, some of which were located in New Orleans, and the first step is to determine the immediate needs of those clients -- such as what kind of message they want to post on their Web sites.

"Many cannot do business," he said. "Their business has been affected, and they don"t know where their employees are. Some business facilities may be damaged or underwater and destroyed. There are a lot of unknown issues."

Clients who depend on online transactions want to get something up immediately. Others are just focused on messaging their employees and getting an intranet established rather than trying to resume normal operations.

With his company"s intellectual assets in hand, Brewster said he plans to continue working virtually in the short term. "Our clients need us, and like anyone, we need revenue and that becomes even more important given our situation. Our clients have said, "We need you to help us get through this and help us rebuild." "