Learn How Businesses Progressed Through COVID-19

“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.

WFCT Preview Day

Hitting Home

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.

Planning Ahead

Chris Robinson

“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.

Customer Reaction

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.”

Jeremy Dobbins

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.”

Looking Ahead

“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.

The Holidays Sure Have Changed …

Several window film businesses have changed how they gather to celebrate the holidays and honor their staff this season, as COVID is still impacting the country. Window Film magazine recently conducted a poll to see what percentage of industry shops would be open, have reduced hours, host a holiday party and more.

When it comes to holiday gatherings our poll results showed that 66% of film businesses will have a small socially distanced party this year, according to the poll. The poll results also showed that 33% of window film businesses will have special holiday hours.

Michelle Clark, president of Carolina Premier Window Films, Inc., in Rock Hill, S.C., says her company will be going to dinner to celebrate the holidays with her staff. She also noted that her company will not be open this weekend or next weekend, as Carolina Premier Window Films, Inc. only focuses on flat glass window tint installations.

Tommy Silva, CEO and president of T&T Tinting Specialists, Inc., located in Honolulu, Hawaii, said recent gathering restrictions are preventing his company from holding a holiday party this year.

“Unfortunately because of Hawaii’s current COVID Tier System we can only gather in groups no larger than 5 people, so we cannot celebrate together,” said Silva.

For the first time T&T’s in 39 year history, it is not having a company-wide Christmas celebration, according to Silva, which usually involves all 30 employees plus their guests. “This year I just sent a personal Christmas card to each employee along with a dinner gift certificate for each to go and enjoy with their families and a few custom T&T face masks to remember the year by,” said Silva. “We will get back to doing it all again next year!”

Silva’s company is also planning to close at 2 p.m. on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve, as well as closing on the holidays.

Fusion Tools is following in a similar style, as this company is also not having a company gathering. “We are not doing a big celebration this year, but we never do,” said Jordan Campbell, vice president of Fusion Tools, located in Maryville, Ill. “Maybe we will in the future, but for now everyone is happy just to have the time off to spend with their families. We do get our employees Christmas gifts and they seem to appreciate that.”

If you were thinking about hosting an in-person gathering at work for your company, The Centers for Disease Control does have a page on its site designated to “COVID-19: Holiday Celebrations,” which covers everything from social distancing, limited attendance, staggered attendance and more.

Tell us about your how window film business is celebrating the holidays in the comment section below.

FilmTack Develops Anti-Microbial and Anti-Fog Face Shield Visor Film

FilmTack developed an anti-fog face shield visor film that, according to the company, has additional protection against bacteria. This new film is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

K. H. Poon, FilmTack director, sees the company’s new product as an improved material for face shield visors that provide protection against aerosols and mucous membranes for high-risk groups such as healthcare workers and students.

“Research institutions around the world have been focusing on the development of anti-microbial chemicals but lack the capability to move forward and incorporate these coatings onto face shield visors correctly and efficiently,” said Poon.

With simple sterilizing, the functionality of the visor film is expected to last about 10-14 days, according to the company. US and Korean personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers have generated interest in the material, according to FilmTack.

OSHA Adopts Revised COVID-19 Enforcement Policies

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently adopted revised policies for enforcing its COVID-19 requirements. The new polices became effective May 26, 2020.

OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all workplaces. The new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread.

“As more states are taking steps to reopen their economies and workers are returning to their workplaces, OSHA is receiving complaints from affected workers in non-essential businesses. This Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan takes account of such changes,” a portion of OSHA’s statement reads.

OSHA is also revising its previous enforcement policy for recording COVID-19 cases. Under its recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if the case:

Under the new policy, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee COVID-19 illnesses for all employers. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to determine whether a particular COVID-19 case is work-related.

Recording a COVID-19 illness does not mean the employer violated any OSHA standard. According to current regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report COVID-19 work-related illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

“Employers must report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within twenty-four hours. Employers must report fatalities that occur within thirty days of a work-related incident, and must report in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye that occur within twenty-four hours of a work-related incident,” a portion of OSHA’s standard reads.

CDC Releases COVID-19 Response Plan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued a guidance detailing its actions and initiatives in supporting reopening plans. The response plan includes guidance for states as well as health recommendations for employers with high-risk workers.

DOL Offers Unemployment Insurance Fraud Resources

The Department of Labor (DOL) released updated resources for employers, employees and states to prevent fraud or misuse in the unemployment insurance system, including the new unemployment insurance programs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Oklahoma Window Tint Shop Turned Into a Pop-Up Pantry Before Re-Opening

As more cities and states across the country slowly re-open in the wake of COVID-19, the industry is reminded of the ways some businesses stayed afloat. Alta Mere, located in Oklahoma City, Okla., began offering online ordering options and recently re-opened for window film installations after it serviced its community by becoming a temporary pop-up pantry.

A pop-up store is a business that opens temporarily to meet customer or industry demands, according to retail business experts. According to Chandler Goodman, Alta Mere center manager and pop-up pantry founder, the experience was incredible and if given the opportunity, the business is more than willing to help its community again.

Photo courtesy of Alta Mere.

“We are no longer doing that [pop-up pantry] because Alta Mere, our window tinting store, has been allowed to re-open,” said Goodman. “The pop-up pantry had to unfortunately close because we needed the space for our ‘real job’, then John Crawford, [Goodman’s friend] had the opportunity to go back to Mississippi for school. It’s a big relief but we’re not out of the water yet.”

Goodman and Crawford were attending business school before COVID-19 began to impact the country, and didn’t want to waste their newfound free time, so the pop-up pantry began.

“The pop-up panty was an incredible idea and opportunity but two big things came up for us and business has been incredible since we’ve been back open,” Goodman said.

Alta Mere’s new proprietary service, affectionately called the Turbo Tint Process (TTP), which offers window film installations in one hour or less. Meanwhile, the business has been trying to enhance the overall customer experience by improving its wait times. According to Goodman, the waiting area is equipped with leather seats and everything from water and Coca-Cola to beer and wine.

“We all know that when people get things done to their cars not everyone has a good feeling about it because many shops don’t offer a premium experience, which includes being visually appealing,” Goodman said. “We started that [TTP] back in July with our online sales option, so in the time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, we were still able to sell some window tint, albeit it wasn’t as much as it would have been if we had remained open, but still… we were able to keep a cash flow coming in when we were closed.”

The online buying option took off and Alta Mere customers felt more at ease when scheduling and coming into the business for installations, according to Goodman, who said “it was a blessing and what’s great about that is that once those customers purchased their window film, they were able to schedule an appointment for when we reopened.”

Currently the window film business is playing catch-up while doing about 20 window film installations per day. The company was able to keep all of its employees and has hired another team member, according to Goodman.

“We literally did that [online shopping for customers] so we can cover payroll for the week and now we have a two-week waiting list right after we re-opened. It feels weird telling customers there’s a waiting period because no one likes turning away business, but that’s where we’re at,” said Goodman.

So far its customers have liked the online buying option. “We thought, well if you can get your prescriptions online then why not get your window film there too,” said Goodman. “I think the changes we’ve made will help our business even more going forward.”