CEOs run their companies from island home office

Peter Krivkovich doesn’t know when he’ll return to Chicago, where the coronavirus pandemic has hit hard and his advertising agency’s employees are working remotely.

“Tough to say right now,” Krivkovich said last week.

But in the meantime, the chairman and CEO of Cramer-Krasselt plans to continue running his high-profile agency from a fully equipped office in his Windsor home, servicing a list of clients that has included Porsche, Tropicana, Nikon, Heinz, Corona beer, Mueller’s pasta, Florsheim shoes and Edward Jones investments.

Krivkovich is among several top executives who live on the island and, relying on the latest in home-office technology, are managing their out-of-state companies from their seasonal residences here during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Since the crisis has unfolded and so many of our seasonal clients have stayed in town – or they’re back down here running their businesses remotely – we’ve had to change our focus to upgrading and expanding their home networks and WiFi systems,” said Brett Ringeisen, owner of The Audiohouse in the Miracle Mile area.

Ringeisen, who installed Krivkovich’s system, said 90 percent of his business is on the island and his company – which is celebrating its 50th anniversary – focuses on “high-end homes and clients that can afford the hi-tech wizardry that we specialize in,” particularly at John’s Island, Orchid Island, The Moorings and Windsor.

He said at least half of those clients are top executives of prominent companies based outside Florida.

“Not only are they here, but their kids and grandkids are down here, too, and they’re also conducting business or taking classes on online,” Ringeisen said. “The home network is, of course, the backbone of this communication.”

Krivkovich, who bought his Windsor home in 2007, purchased an adjacent lot two years ago and added a new wing to the house. The reason for the addition was his need for a home office, which Ringeisen equipped with top-shelf audio and video systems, as well as boosters for his phone and Internet service to prevent dropped calls and improve the quality of video-conferencing sessions.

While he said he has spent an increasing amount of time here each year, he never expected to be home for three months – his longest stretch without a trip to Chicago. But the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has forced him to do so, and his teched-up home office has allowed him to continue managing his agency’s operations.

“We’ve got 300 employees all working remotely, and the ability to communicate with each other is vital in the advertising business,” said Krivkovich, who recently became a Florida resident. “We also have to communicate with our clients throughout the United States and across Europe.

“Between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., I probably spend six hours a day on Skype and Zoom,” he added. “So far, we haven’t missed a beat. But if I didn’t have all this hi-tech equipment here? I’m sure we’d find a way to function, but it would be almost impossible and, for sure, a lot more difficult.

“I’d probably have to make a decision: Do I fly back and forth to Chicago during a pandemic?”

Moorings resident Anthony DeChellis, a 1980 St. Edward’s School graduate and now the CEO of Boston Private Bank & Trust, also brought in Ringeisen to upgrade the technology in the home office of the beachside home he bought and had remodeled in 2018.

He said he needed Ringeisen’s team to add boosters for his home’s WiFi system to enable him to make phone calls from anywhere in the house and conduct video-conference sessions without audio or visual delays.

“The phone service isn’t great out by The Moorings beach,” DeChellis said. “Now, I’ve got the best WiFi available and I can roam around the house while I’m talking.”

He also can spend hours in uninterrupted video-conferences – a feature he called a “godsend” as he continues to oversee the operations of the Boston-based bank and its New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Palm Beach and Naples branches during the pandemic.

“I was here for a week at a time in January and February, but I haven’t traveled from Vero Beach since the first week of March,” said DeChellis, who also has an apartment in Boston and a second home in Connecticut, a 30-minute drive to New York City.

“I’ve been working from home, conducting all our meetings on Zoom or Webex. With 98 percent of our employees working remotely – 100 percent of our New York employees – the technology has saved us.

“If you have to work from home during a pandemic, Vero Beach is about as nice a place as you can do it.”

Jack Malloy, president of Arrow Box Company of Joplin, Missouri, built a house at John’s Island three years ago and called Ringeisen to install a best-available WiFi system to enable him to work from his seasonal home.

Ringeisen, who also installed the WiFi system in Malloy’s previous home on Reef Road, returned to John’s Island two months ago – as the pandemic shutdowns began – to upgrade the entire system, as much for entertainment and family video chats as for business.

“We’re usually down here from the middle of October through May, but when I’m here, I go up to Missouri about 10 days a month,” Malloy said, adding that he now considers himself “semi-retired” and has spent more time here the past three years. “Then this coronavirus showed up.

“Now, I’m on the phone and computer every day,” he continued. “But with the upgraded WiFi, we now have six hot spots, so there’s no problem logging into my company’s system and doing the same stuff I can do from up there.”

If a glitch develops – if a network goes down or a component fails – Ringeisen said The Audiohouse team installs remote maintenance software that enables his technicians to immediately detect problems and resolve them, often without requiring a trip to the client’s home.

“I’ve got no complaints with my system,” Krivkovich said, “but I’d still like to get back to Chicago sooner rather than later.”

And if he can’t go north because of the virus? He’ll go west to Colorado, where he has another home in Telluride, which isn’t a bad place to spend a summer.

Even if you have to work.

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