“As a business we’re pretty much functioning as we were [prior to COVID] with a bunch of modifications,” explained Jeremy Dobbins, CEO at Climate Pro. “We’re here, doing well and thriving.”
Chris Robinson, CEO at the Tint Guy, had a different experience with the coronavirus in the beginning, as he pointed out that Atlanta, Ga. didn’t have as many restrictions early on.
The pair along with Jeff Franson, president and CEO at Window Film Depot spoke about how their businesses were impacted by the coronavirus, some of the changes they implemented and what they see going forward in a COVID session. The session was moderated by Window Film magazine’s editorial director, Tara Taffera, and was included in the WFCT Preview Day held Tuesday January 14. The event gave its virtual attendees the opportunity to get a sneak peek of what to expect during the live show in June.
Although all of the panelists said they had safety procedures in place, COVID still found its way into their businesses. Two even contracted it, which changed how their companies were run.
“I contracted it [COVID] back in October on my 50th birthday,” explained Robinson. “I had it for a couple of weeks and I made light of it. I had flu symptoms and headaches, but never lost [my sense of] taste and I continued to run the business.”
Over the past few years Robinson has taken a back seat to a lot of the company’s day-to-day operations. Because of this he said it was easy for him to continue running the Tint Guy remotely, but things started to change as he remained sick.
“At about two weeks in I started having respiratory problems, and long story short, my oxygen level got really low, I passed out, my wife called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital where I stayed for seven days,” said Robinson. “It took me about a week to get over that, so it was about six weeks of me being sick. I don’t think the business was affected though.”
According to Robinson, he contracted the global virus from his sales manager, and with that employee being out of work it impacted the business, as more remote bidding had to be done.
“We never experienced anyone contracting the virus, but we’ve had a lot of close calls, and had to have testing done, along with having to take people out of work so that they can get testing done,” explained Dobbins.
“I don’t think anyone has a contingency plan for a pandemic but I think I automatically had a contingency plan for myself because I always wanted the business to run on its own,” said Robinson.
“I never really thought that I needed to plan for pandemics,” echoed Dobbins. “In the area that I live in we do have a lot of experience with wild fires and our team is experienced with sudden changes and having to reschedule work and dealing with the effects of a disaster. This [pandemic] showed me that [my company] does need to have contingency plans.”
Franson said his company has been very fortunate and hasn’t had anyone [employee wise] contract the virus, but he and his family contracted it but everyone was asymptomatic.
Dobbins said that in the beginning of COVID’s impact he shut his business down for about five weeks and then started to see which clients were willing to let his company work. “We started to analyze what kind of work we could do,” he explained. “Then we started putting feelers out on the residential projects we had to put on hold. For the most part most customers weren’t really fearful in the beginning, most wanted us to finish what we started and it was positive, but we had to be careful.”
Dobbins came up with a safety plan, put it on his website and alerted his customers so they were aware. “Our policy are our policies and we had no issues with customers, but we did have a line in there where if the employees felt unsafe at a job they could excuse themselves,” said Dobbins.
Franson found customer responses to be varied, as his business operates in a variety of markets and each had different state restrictions. He mentioned that Atlanta, Ga., was pretty open relatively speaking. “We had maybe two to four weeks where there was a pullback but nothing like what Jeremy experienced,” said Franson. “The guys in our Southern California office are having a completely different experience than what we have experienced in Georgia.”
Robinson said his company immediately pulled teams out of vans and didn’t let them ride in the same vehicle, as well as communicating with his customers early on. “Some [customers] even vacated their homes so we could work,” explained Robinson. “We disinfected everything, everywhere where we came in contact with and we did the best we could. For a while we didn’t let customers wait in our waiting rooms.”
He also said he and his employees tried not to touch anything that they didn’t have to, like keys, but if they did his team would disinfect it. “We did the best we could and we made it to October before anyone got sick,” said Robinson. “I think that was because we started to let our guard down. Pretty much everyone here in Georgia thinks it’s [COVID] is a hoax and they stopped wearing masks and we weren’t going to demand that they wear a mask in our waiting rooms.”
“I’m really bad at making predictions, but I think there will be people who will still have concerns and we will still have certain procedures in place,” said Dobbins.