What did you say?

We did a quick (unscientific) poll of our readers asking where their business stands today, and also what their staffing looks like at this time. We received answers from five provinces, one U.S. state and even one from the U.K.

How’s business now?

The answers were as divergent as the places they came from, and also varied within provinces. In Ontario, respondents said their business is anywhere from less than 10% of what it was pre-Covid, to more than 100%. The U.K. respondent said their business is over 100% what it was in early 2020. Those who reported higher business percentages were suppliers and wholesalers.

As for cleaners, most reported they were in the 50-60% range of where they expected to be at this point in the year. The drastic change in society accounts for much of this, with many working from home, social events put on hold and travel cancelled.

Our U.K. respondent said, “The question of what our percentage of business is now is tricky to answer. Our clientele never left. There was a definite slow down, but once the initial ‘panic’ was over, we adjusted (with toilet paper to spare). The only definite business we lost was community events, which were cancelled, and the summer income from tourist travellers.”

Who’s working?

While we had the occasional comment that people were being brought back from furlough, most of those who actually hired employees this year, again, were suppliers and wholesalers.

One in Ontario said, “I have hired 2 drivers, 1 customer service representative, 1 tailor and 1 production person to replace employees who found other jobs during shutdown, or who cannot work due to personal reasons.”

Another Ontario wholesaler said business is booming, but only because of years of preparation. “Wholesale business completely disappeared, but we made it up through other business model aspects that we laid the groundwork for over years of effort.” Instead of layoffs, this company had just over 60 employees in March, but has nearly 100 now.

An operator in Manitoba said, “It’s an ongoing process. We have had vacant positions since May. We’re not only facing the Baby Boom retirement challenges, but also the fear of the health care environment.” We assume this company does laundry for health care customers, which is one area that has held steady through the pandemic — but with added concerns over virus transmission.

Most staffing increases have come from among employees furloughed when lockdown went into effect. Even though cleaners are considered essential services, people have not been using them enough to keep full staff intact.

“We have rehired staff as sales grew from 18% in April until now, when they are 42%. We hire more staff at part-time hours. The CRB from Employment Insurance is paid if staff are at less than 50% of previous wages,” said one savvy operator in Ontario. Utilizing the assistance from the government is one way to keep people working.

In Alberta, one cleaner has juggled schedules to keep things going. “I have only hired two part-time employees for Saturday-only shifts. This was because previous employees on temporary layoffs used to work evenings, and we have cut our schedules to 8-hour days, instead of 12. We laid off close to 35 people during the pandemic, so we are focused on bringing back the best of those, but with our schedule change, many don’t want to come.”

Looking a bit further into the future, one company in Ontario said, “We laid off 34, rehired 6, and have not made any new hires. I don’t see us hiring new employees for at least a year.”

Another echoed that sentiment. “Seventeen were laid off, 8 brought back to reduced hours, and no more hiring until things improve drastically.”

So what’s the take-away?

There are several key things we see in this small survey.

1. Everybody is experiencing fluctuations, so don’t feel you are alone.

2. The longer this situation goes on, the more people are adapting to it and venturing out to do normal business. This will only get better as restrictions lift. Growth will resume eventually.

3. If you are waiting for everything to go back to “the way it was” you need to change your thinking. There truly is a new normal, and we’ll probably never be the same again.

It’s time for creative thinking, evaluation of your business model, and consideration of new ways to do business. The landscape of the fabricare industry worldwide has altered permanently. That calls for innovation, creativity and courageous ideas.

We plan to focus on that topic in January, so watch for it.

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