It is during times like these when we are tested as owners, managers, employees and members of our community. I watched the evolution of consumer behavior over the course of just a few days when, at the beginning of a four day meeting, most people were hugging and shaking hands and by the end of it, we were just waving goodbye. Since you already know about empty airplanes and empty shelves (you can’t not know with our 24/7 hyperbolic news coverage), let’s talk about you. First things first – after taking care of your family, let’s get to work on the business.
Let’s break this down into these areas of immediate concern where planning may be a challenge:
- Help from the Government
- Payments to Vendors
Your team needs to be assured that you have their backs. Using up sick days, personal days and vacation days when they are available may get you through the next two weeks or so, but what are you going to do afterward?
- Shop: If you do your work in house, keep the shop working to get caught up on all of the jobs you have. If customers need anything for a special occasion, offer to deliver it to them if the store is closed or if they don’t want to venture out.
- After thing get back to normal in a few weeks, customers with finished jobs get the first phone calls – we want to get foot traffic going again.
- Inventory: This is an excellent time to work on planning for the rest of this year. Too often people tell us that they don’t have time to really dive into inventory planning – well, now there aren’t any reasons why your team can’t spend their downtime working on BTB from home. Except for the Napa office, we all work from our home offices and we’re all here to do calls over the next few weeks – all of our travel has been canceled for the next month.
Help from the Government
- Small businesses with 50 employees or fewer would not be required to provide more than 14 days of paid sick leave if it “would risk closing the business.” The federal government would cover the cost if businesses that qualify for the exemption choose to provide this support to their employees.
- Companies covered by the policy will not foot the bill for paid leave. The government is providing new tax credits to both help offset the costs of accommodating the new mandate and the economic impact of the outbreak
As you know, schools all over the country have already been shut down for the coming weeks, whether they are running online classes or not. Universities and colleges are just canceling their programs through the end of the school year. But what about us? In some parts of the country, there are already businesses being shut down if they are considered non-essential. You can expect that virtually all hourly workers will be without income for some time, weeks or perhaps a month or two. There are things that you can do during that time to offer some support to your community.
- Support your local food bank either as straight donations or as a percentage of certain purchases, like OTC gold buys.
- Speaking of buying gold, one could make the argument that there will be many people without paychecks who are going to need cash and that the jewelry store can, through OTC purchases, be a provider of much needed cash to the community and as such, could be considered an essential business. I wouldn’t want to encourage you to fully staff up and expose your team to more interaction than necessary, but there are ways to mitigate store traffic and exposure. (Lock the doors and let in one or two customers at a time, sort of thing).
- Providing much needed cash to your community and, at the same time, donate a portion of those gold purchases to your local food bank would allow you to do what you can to help those who need the most help.
- Keep your merchandise in their vaults and only work with OTC customers and those picking up their own repairs.
- Open for just a few hours each day, say from 10am to 1pm
- Have security – and I say this because in case people start to panic in coming weeks or months, you don’t want to be an easy target
- Don’t stop working
- Use this time to catch up on all of those things that you just couldn’t get to; plan, clean, re-merchandise – this is not a vacation.
Budgeting: Cutting spending goes without saying, you need to preserve cash. Other than doing community oriented posts and blogs, this isn’t the right time to be advertising except that you are able to provide cash to the community.
Payments to Vendors
If you have plenty of cash on hand, you may not need to change a thing, but I’m already getting phone calls and emails from jewelers who don’t have the greatest cash flow and they are concerned about keeping up with their commitments should their stores be shut down for some period or if customers just stop shopping for a few weeks. I would recommend you get ahead of it and start having those hard phone calls with your suppliers right away. Don’t just ignore them, they have their own businesses to keep going. If you can’t pay all of the bill, send in something each week, if you can. Time is going to fix this, and you can run the business without profit for quite some time, but you cannot run the business without cash – you need to preserve cash.
If you have a line of credit, please make sure it’s intact. Call your friendly banker and let them know that you may want to draw down on it to support the community by buying gold and keeping your team employed.
- Cash on hand: It may be prudent to keep some cash on hand, whether to buy over the counter, especially for smaller purchases, or to pay out to employees for emergencies. You can cut checks to customers when you buy something, have them endorse them and then cash them. Not everyone has a checking account and they may need the cash now.
- If they can’t come to you, you can go to them. To their office or home to deliver an anniversary or birthday present or when their watch is back from repair.
We plan for downturns. Or at least, we should be planning for downturns. It is times like these where we learn to weather storms and decide what’s important, and although current events will eventually pass, no one can predict if this situation is going to be two weeks of pain or two months. On the other side of this, however, we’ll all still be here.
Tough times don’t last, tough people do. In times like these, you’ve got to get tough.