Plexos Group LLC
Disaster management with heart
Business View interviews David Odom, President & CEO of Plexos Group, for our focus on Disaster Response Management in the U.S.
Large-scale disasters are an unavoidable part of life. Whether hurricane or flood, the next major catastrophe is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Given the inevitability of these occurrences, economies, businesses, and individuals must prepare in the best way they can, so that they can react appropriately. A sure way to get this preparation right is to consult Plexos Group, a Louisiana-based program delivery, business consulting, and information technology company that specializes in disaster recovery and response services.
Plexos Group LLC was formed in 2012 using systems, tools, and expertise acquired over the course of some of the largest events to impact the U.S. – from Hurricane Katrina to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The company understands how to prioritize the unmet needs in disasters of enormous scale and make them manageable. Recently Business View magazine spoke with David Odom, President and CEO at Plexos Group, about the services they offer, some of their outstanding achievements, and what the future holds for this essential company.
“We’ve been lucky to experience some pretty rapid growth,” Odom recounts. “In less than 10 years, we’ve supported approximately $32 billion in disaster recovery funds, and managed to attract some of the leading experts in the sector – former executives from Fortune 500 companies, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and many others. Currently, we are a 400-plus employee firm, but we’re slated to have a little over 600 workers in the coming months as we continue to grow our programs across the country. We have people and projects right now in New York, Boston, New Orleans, Florida, Colorado, California, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.”
One of the reasons why Plexos Group has had such success is its focus on having an extremely agile team – one that can scale rapidly. That’s allowed the firm to take on projects and solve the needs of its clients as, and when, they arise.
“In the disaster recovery world, there are really two phases,” says Odom. “There’s the response phase that occurs immediately after the event and could last several months, perhaps even up to a year. Then, there’s the recovery phase, which is more of a long-term approach. Generally, what happens in the recovery phase is that FEMA will come in and fund immediate repairs to housing and infrastructure to get the community back operating. In addition to that, there are Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds, as well as Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, that allow houses and infrastructure to continue being restored.”
The recovery phase of each disaster can vary hugely but often takes many years. For example, Hurricane Katrina occurred more than a decade ago, but some recovery projects are still being administered in relation to that event.
“We like to cover everything in our disaster recovery program,” Odom comments. “For instance, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, we set up the website initially to start taking applications from people that had been affected by the hurricanes in 2017. We designed the recovery programs, processed them, set up call centers, took in applications, adjudicated those applications, and provided outreach to ensure eligible applicants received the funds they needed. After that, we worked on the inspection and construction management side, so we could inspect the progress of the construction and make sure everything was compliant. Then we assisted with closeout services and reporting and, lastly, we provided a fraud, waste, and abuse team. So, it’s a real end-to-end process.”
Although Plexos Group is experienced in dealing with a wide range of disasters, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities across the country was unprecedented. “The COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity for us and we responded by helping hospitals and nursing homes recover federal funding,” Odom explains. “We provided experts to help capture costs and get reimbursements from FEMA on a number of different programs. We also provided construction management and general regulatory guidance for hospitals and any other clients that needed it during the pandemic.”
Due to the unpredictable nature of disaster recovery, Plexos often sees its staff numbers fluctuate to meet demand. “I would say that our core staff is around 150 to 200 people and then we increase this as needed,” Odom says. “We’ve had as many as 1,500 employees at one point and during COVID, we launched call centers in Louisiana and Florida. We used digital technology to allow workers to take calls from their homes so they could keep working while remaining safe during the pandemic. Everybody knows that we are really a fast-paced and agile corporate environment, and there’s a lot of innovation that goes on here.”
Due to the importance of the services provided, Plexos is committed to recruiting the best individuals in the industry. “We employ a lot of problem solvers who understand how to rapidly scale and grow projects quickly,” Odom notes. “A lot of the time with these disaster recovery programs, people are trying to get back to their homes as fast as possible. So, we try to recruit some of the best in the industry, not only from a compliance standpoint but from a delivery point of view as well. That’s really become our competitive advantage and it allows us to be successful and grow our share of the market.”
Of course, as all industries are finding at the moment, securing talented new hires is not easy. Competition is fierce and this is certainly the case in the disaster recovery sector. “One day, we’ll be partnering with a firm and then, the following month, they’ll be a competitor – it all depends on the opportunity,” says Odom. “One thing that’s unique about our company is that we handle all aspects of the claims program. So, although we relish the competition, we are also ready to help out our partners when they need it. It’s a collaborative environment too.”
As well as supporting its industry peers, Plexos is also keen to offer its own employees the emotional assistance they need, particularly in an industry that can be emotionally draining at times. Odom acknowledges, “We have a very robust HR department that is constantly working with our employees to make sure everything is alright. If somebody really needs a break and has to come home from a program, we can switch them out and make that happen.”
Looking ahead to the near-term future, it seems likely that the number and intensity of natural disasters in the U.S. are only going to increase. Just between 2017 and 2020, FEMA has allocated over $100 billion in disaster funding. “I think there’s going to be unprecedented hurricane activity in the Gulf Coast and the severity of future disasters will present opportunities throughout the Gulf Coast, the Florida Panhandle, and off the East Coast as well,” Odom says. We want to make sure that when these communities are affected by a disaster, that they get the funding they are entitled to; that everything is documented and compliant.”
The firm has also been branching out into other areas. According to Odom, “We have just spun off a group that we co-founded with some other individuals in cybersecurity that attracted the investment of a Fortune 500 company, which provided a good return for our shareholders. We also have our own IT systems we market and sell, and these are growing as well. One of these is called Plexosoft and is a program delivery package that allows us to stand up systems within a few days of the disaster to help manage the funding, the status of the projects, and also to make sure that all the documentation is complete, including an audit trail.”
If these major disasters do continue to strike communities throughout the U.S., at least the individuals affected can rest assured that Plexos Group is standing by ready to secure the essential funding required for both short-term relief and long-term recovery. Whether facing earthquakes, tornadoes, or cyberattacks, Plexos knows exactly what to do next. And that’s a comfort, indeed.
AT A GLANCE
Plexos Group LLC
What: A leading program delivery, business consulting, and IT company, specializing in disaster recover and response services.
Where: Baton Rouge, Louisiana