I’ve used the word “unprecedented” more often in the last few weeks than in the last few years. I’d search for a new word to use in its place, but for now, unprecedented still fits.
As promised, Fullbay is bringing you updates on the unfolding situation as frequently as we can. We talk to shops all over the country in an effort to find tips we can share. And I’ve realized something through all this: shops are eager to share. They want to help each other out.
It’s more of that powerful spirit that resides within the repair industry as a whole.
We spend some time each day checking the news and determining what we want to pass on to you. The situation is fluid; it shifts by the day, and sometimes by the hour. So we’re careful with what we bring you, and we ask you to remember that things can change rapidly.
With that in mind, here are some updates from around the repair industry and the country itself.
The Payroll Protection Program & Canadian Stimulus
A couple of weeks ago we talked about the Payroll Protection Program – part of the U.S. government’s efforts to keep small businesses afloat until the economy can fully reopen. The nearly $350 billion in funding went quickly; as I write this, a bill that infuses hundreds of billions more into the PPP has just been signed.
The program has had its issues which have been reported on at length in the media. Our friends at TDI Fleet Service applied for and received one of the loans, though the funds have yet to be dispersed. We’re hoping more information and some patches (for want of a better word) roll out in the next few days.
Canada has its own version of a stimulus bill that it is rolling out. Small businesses will gain some immediate relief: Canada is covering 75% of payroll for companies that have seen a 30% drop in income due to COVID-19. There is a salary cap for what this subsidy covers ($58,700) but it’s welcome relief for many. In addition, companies have access to one-year, interest-free loans to help them offset expenses and keep staff employed. The Canadian government has also recently made arrangements with territories and provinces to lower the rents for small businesses that pay under $50,000 in rent per month.
Private citizens will also see assistance. Student debt repayments have been delayed for six months, tax filing dates have been extended, and those who have lost income due to COVID-19 will receive $2,000 (Canadian dollars) per month for up to four months.
The situation in Canada continues to evolve just as it does in the U.S. You can read more about what our neighbors up north are offering here.
RUNNING A SHOP
Safety is on everyone’s mind these days. How can we stay safe? How can we protect our staff and our customers? It was easy for us at Fullbay; we’re designed to operate remotely, so sending staff home was no big deal.
Repair shops don’t have it so easy. Sure, they can send home a lot of back office people, but someone has to be inside to actually carry out the work.
Shops have adapted. We’ve talked to quite a few of our customers about the steps they’ve taken to stay open while still staying safe. Some have put a stop to walk-in traffic altogether, requiring customers to make an appointment before visiting. Everyone has made sanitization and maintaining physical distancing an absolute priority.
PROTECTING YOUR PEOPLE
I wanted to highlight something that kept coming up: the importance of the people.
Everyone is worried about their business, about making payroll, about what happens next…but without your people, you don’t have a business. During our latest webinar we spoke at length to Troy Willich of TDI Fleet Service, and the topic kept drifting back to looking after his staff. Like the other owners and managers we’ve talked to, he wants to protect his people; that included coming up with contingency plans – if they didn’t qualify for loans, if they all got sick and had to close the shop.
He frequently checks in with his staff (in a socially distant manner, of course) to see how they’re doing. He encourages them to share information with customers and vendors, and reminds them that the best way to beat this thing is to keep themselves and their families healthy. If that means staying home, then they stay home.
Above all, Troy emphasized that the best thing he’s been able to do is keep the most vulnerable members of his staff at home. He’s been able to do a lot of remote management, and even credited Fullbay as a large part of the reason he’s been able to effectively manage from afar.
I’d like to share a thought that has stuck with me as we all work through this. It’s wonderful to see so much concern for technicians. Keeping your staff healthy should be the #1 goal of every shop owner. But shouldn’t we be keeping our techs happy and healthy all the time, not just during a pandemic?
The rush of concern I see for them is heartening. But I also hope that concern doesn’t just drop off once we’re able to leave the coronavirus in the rearview mirror.
CONTINUING TO DO OUR PART
We’re going to provide information where and when we can, but like so many of you, we wanted to do more.
Starting in May, we’ll be making a donation for every U.S.-based shop signup to Feeding America and every Canadian-based shop signup to Food Banks Canada, both of which help distribute food to those who need it most. If you’re able to donate, go for it! You might also consider donating to your local food bank.
We’re also doing all we can to make Fullbay itself even more useful to shop owners trying to maintain social distancing. We’re shifting our focus to building features that will allow even more work to be completed remotely, providing a safer environment for your employees – so stay tuned for more updates about those new features.
On top of that, we’re still committed to providing you with the fantastic customer service you’ve come to expect: our staff may be working from home, but they’re standing by ready to provide training and assistance.
I think it’s safe to say none of us have ever seen anything quite like this. But as we settle into our new normal, we’re reaching out to one another, offering a helping hand where we can. People continue to look after each other. It’s inspiring, it’s wonderful; it’s human nature.
We’re doing the same thing here at Fullbay. We look for the places we can help out, the bonds we can strengthen.
We’re here for you.