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The owner of the Franklin company AP Live, which provides audio-visual support at live events like conferences and concerts, quickly recognized that his business already had many of the tools that would help it succeed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were doing virtual meetings. We just didn't realize we were doing them," AP Live owner Tom Atema said. "We aren't doing live events, but we're still bringing people in and connecting everybody … We're just using technology to connect people virtually instead of in person.”

Atema said he realized the impact the coronavirus would have on his business on March 6. He was in Houston and the virus outbreak had already led to event cancellations across the U.S. As an events company, AP Live had to adapt quickly. 

Rather than focusing on live events, AP Live is now helping organizations communicate online. That could include simply making sure a Zoom call runs smoothly, or bigger projects like building a custom website to serve a large audience with pre-recorded content and live components.

The company built an in-house studio in Franklin where a moderator can lead a virtual event. Williamson Inc. has been using the studio to host virtual events about financial resources available to businesses and updates on legislation. 

"All the pieces existed, we never put it together that way. That's the key thing we've done that's good for us," Atema said. "We've been able to reuse all the stuff we already had, and all of our systems and processes, just in a different way.”

Even with those shifts, Atema said revenue has fallen. He said the hardest part, one of the hardest things he’s done in his life, was laying off some employees. The company was expecting 2020 to be a big year and staffed accordingly.

Despite those hardships, Atema believes that his company will emerge from this virus outbreak “better and more collaborative” than it was before. The company has rolled out new services, and is working with new clients. 

“We had grown to the point where we were segregated into our specialties,” he said. “Now, we've had to work together to come up with solutions to get through this.”

Atema said he expects live events to come back because there’s no replacement for connecting in person, but it’s hard to know when that will happen. 

Even when that happens, he expects that AP Live will continue to provide some of the virtual services it has been offering during the virus outbreak. He imagined conferences where participants connect in person for several days, and then follow up virtually. He doesn’t think the virtual tools organizations are mastering should go away. 

"There's a place for this in our future,” he said. “I want to be a part of it."

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS is a series documenting how small businesses in Williamson County are adapting to the coronavirus outbreak.

If you know about a business that is using a creative approach to adapt to the coronavirus outbreak send an email to matt@businesswilliamson.com

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