Takeaways from the Pandemic

Published On: June 10, 2020By Categories: Business Management, Drawing from the Well

Education is a dear teacher, so learn from these times.

By Gary Shawver, MGWC

What do we take away from this pandemic?

We’re living in unprecedented times as this pandemic has caused enormous havoc to all economies. I’m writing this column in the month of May, so by the time you read it, things may have changed. I don’t think anyone can predict where life is heading.

So how is all this important to our industry? One needs to understand that when something as dramatic as this occurs, we need to evaluate what has happened and how it will affect us going forward.

First, I expect many businesses will close and never reopen. They will not withstand the strain of the loss of revenue for the extended length of time and no amount of loans can bring back that lost profit. In fact, loans may be the final nail in the coffin for many—even the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the federal government. Some of the businesses that close may be suppliers to you. You will need to be aware of this.

In addition, some of your supplies may be in short supply, depending on where things are made. You should be checking with your suppliers to see if they are experiencing any shortages of products you need and try to keep an adequate inventory of those products. If you don’t have the product, you may not be able to complete a project or make a repair. This includes parts to keep your equipment running.

Realize different parts of the country and the world have been affected differently. Some areas may have had plants that supply our industry shut down for having employees sick or not willing to work for fear of contracting the virus. Other plants may be shut down for lack of orders. Every situation is different. Getting some of these plants back up and running again could take time.

Automobile manufacturers have begun reopening after being shut down, but even so, buying the vehicle you may need for your business could be a challenge as well.

There are some reports discussing the potential for the virus to return as a rebound virus or pick up steam when fall comes around. If so, there may be new guidelines that will permit you to keep operating, but with restrictions or measures that may require you to do more checks on personnel.

They may allow personnel who have potential health issues and are vulnerable to the virus to not report to work if the employee is concerned. This will obviously cause you to need to adjust your schedule to keep your business going with reduced production, increased costs, or both.

Some legal firms are offering advice on how to work with employees who do not want to come into work for fear of contracting the virus. You may want to bone up on what you can and cannot do regarding employees with this concern.

To-Do List

Where does this leave you? The long and short answer is there is no definitive answer. But here are some things I think you can do:

  • Keep yourself apprised on what is developing, especially in your area. As time goes on, I surmise there will be more local guidelines and restrictions relating to the pandemic than those on a national basis.
    o This includes keeping on top of all your potential suppliers of both products you need to complete your jobs as well as parts for your equipment.
  • Do all this by reading reliable sources of news you can trust. I don’t say this lightly. Ferret out trustworthy websites that cover news and business and read them often.
  • Be sure to talk to your employees. Hear their concerns and address them before they become real problems. Your employees need to know you’re on top of these issues and have their welfare and that of their families as a priority.
  • You also need to be aware of any concerns your customers have with exposure from outside sources (you and your employees). Discuss with your customers how they want any interaction with your service personnel handled when they come to work on their property. Be sure that your employees are briefed on this.

No one likes to struggle through the unknowns that affect your day-to-day operations. It’s often difficult enough to run your business without all of this extra baggage you now have to deal with. But deal with it you must.

Seize the Moment

Some politicians have said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, the slogan is appropriate for your business in this moment in time.

During the Great Recession of the late 2000s, a column in the March 2008 issue of Plumbing & Mechanical magazine titled “Bless the Slow Times” made several good points. It outlined what one could learn by going through the slow times and how you could improve your operation by dealing with these issues.

Often a business owner coming out on the other side of a slow time is a better businessperson because of it. Education is a dear teacher if you learn from these times.

And so it is with this one. Learn from this experience and remember the lessons learned. How do you do that? Write them down, refer back to them two years from now, and be wiser.

I remember well the lessons my parents told me about living through the Great Depression of the 1930s and the subsequent World War II era. And because of that, they were called “The Greatest Generation.” I wonder why.

Take one day at a time and you will most likely survive!

Gary Shawver, MGWC, is vice president of Shawver Well Co. Inc. in Fredericksburg, Iowa. He has been in the water well industry for more than 40 years and is a Master Groundwater Contractor. He served on the NGWA Board of Directors. Shawver is semi-retired, having sold his business to his employees. He can be reached at grs@shawverwell.com.

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