On-Demand: The Realities of Running a Business During a Pandemic (Part I)
May 05, 2020
EisnerAmper was joined by executives of leading middle-market organizations and we discussed managing a business during the current pandemic.
Nkrumah Pierre: During today's panel, we will have the opportunity to hear from executives leading sizable, middle-market organizations during the current pandemic. We will learn about strategies to remain relevant, valuable, and successful during the downturn and times of uncertainty. During the allotted time, our listeners and guests will have the opportunity to ask questions to the panel via the ON24 platform.
My name is Nkrumah Pierre. I'm your moderator and host for today. Director of business development at EisnerAmper, and also head of the Friends of the Firm program. I would like to introduce you to our panelists. First, starting off with Bruce Eatroff, managing partner of Halyard Capital, fellow Lafayette alum. Bruce.
Bruce Eatroff:Thanks, Kru, and thank you for hosting this event today. As Kru mentioned, my name is Bruce Eatroff. I'm the managing partner of Halyard Capital. I run a lower middle-market private equity firm based in New York for the last 20 years. We invest at the intersection of technology and services companies, so we intersect quite a number of businesses that obviously have been materially impacted by COVID. We also are, small promo, an EisnerAmper client, member of our portfolio companies, and we're interested in having a very frank, open conversation. No one has all the answers today. We're just discussing how we deal with what is obviously an unprecedented time in the world. Thanks, Kru.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, Bruce. Next, Doug Klares, founder and CEO of Infinity Consulting Solutions. Doug.
Doug Klares:Thanks, Nkrumah, and thank you for inviting me. This is certainly something that is unprecedented, and I think all of us are learning as we go, and to be able to share some of the experiences that I've had over the years of running a national recruiting and staffing firm. When you're looking at employment numbers on a daily basis, as you can imagine, this is something that is challenging to navigate through. So I'm excited to be part of this panel, and I'm excited to give some insight.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Doug. Next, Bill Shaid, founder and president of PAINTech.
Bill Shaid:Thank you, good afternoon everyone. I'll open by saying both my wife and I were infected by the virus, so know firsthand about the pandemic. We're a commercial painting contractor, been in business approaching 25 years. We cover the mid-Atlantic states. We operate in about six states, based in the suburbs of Philadelphia in Conshohocken. I'm fourth generation in the painting industry, and my relationship with EisnerAmper is I've had the pleasure of working with the succession family planning group for the last while and been a great experience.
Nkrumah Pierre:Awesome. Thank you, Bill. Last but not least, my colleague, my friend, John Delalio, managing director.
John Delalio:Thanks, Nkrumah. Hello, everyone. My name is John Delalio. I am managing director of EisnerAmper's cloud accounting practice. Basically, we deliver outsourced accounting to small- to mid-sized businesses and family offices. We have over 100 clients and I will say all of them are affected in one way or the other by these times we're going through right now. Some are doing well, some are not doing well, but I will say the reason I'm really excited to be here is that everybody I encounter is trying to do better and trying to feed their neighbors and feed their friends and keep their companies alive, so I'm just delighted to be here to engage in the conversation about what you can do.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, John. Let's diver right in. The first question: what's your business/market outlook for the next six to 12 months? I'll start with you, Doug.
Doug Klares:ure. Unfortunately, I think, on a day to day basis, the longer that we are sequestered in our homes, that business outlook, I think, at the beginning, everyone was hoping for a nice V-shaped recovery. However, I think the longer that we, as a society, are asked to stay home to flatten the curve, it makes it a heck of a lot more challenging, I think, to see a V-shaped recover.
Doug Klares:As we discuss and have deep conversations with our clients, and our clients range from financial services companies to, believe it or not, cruise lines, to professional services organizations, they're starting to see some cracks in their own business, and when I look at employment numbers that have reached 30 million in a matter of six weeks, I'd love to say that it's going to be a V-shaped. I do think it's going to be a little bit longer than all of us first anticipated. I think it's going to be a bit of a slog. I think there are going to be some reverberations throughout the market. The hope is that our pharmaceutical companies that are tirelessly working on COVID will be able to come out with some sort of drug that will certainly help us, but I think, until then, it's going to be a little bit of a slog, and it's going to take a little bit longer than I think all of us anticipated when this first came on our soil.
Nkrumah Pierre: Great points, thank you Doug. Next, John?
John Delalio:Yeah, we're seeing a bunch of different clients having different affects. I have some clients that have been severely impacted. Those in retail. I have a sports and gambling client that is going through very hard times right now. We've also had some clients that are, believe it or not, benefiting from this awful situation. We have one e-commerce company that's a craft company that basically ship craft kits to homes, so clearly their business is up. While they were about to be out of business, the PPP loans helped them get a little wind in their sales, and they are doing well. I think the big challenge, and the thing that we're advising all our clients to think about, there is the COVID period that we've got to get through, but there's the post-COVID period, which, nobody really knows what that's going to be about, so clients are very focused on conserving cash, thinking creatively about how to service their clients and how to survive in a post-COVID world, but that's where people are really focused right now.
Nkrumah Pierre:John, good points. As we listen to news, media sources, and have conversations, a lot of folks are focusing on what does it look like when we get past the pandemic, so good points. Bruce, would love to hear your thoughts from a private equity standpoint.
Bruce Eatroff:Yeah, I look at it from the eyes of our portfolio companies. First of all, I agree with John. It's going to be cloudy at best. You try to run businesses by seeing forward, and when you can't see very far forward, you have to take a conservative approach. With that said, we really try to emphasize that liquidity is the most important. The thing that will always help you preserve for another day is cash. Obviously some businesses are well-funded, others, the government has stepped in. We think that's hugely important. I think the government is way more aggressive than they've been in other cycles, so how we're going to pay back the debt is unclear. You saw some massive government borrowing numbers, today, being announced, but I think you have to kind of plan for the worst and hope for something better. I think that planning horizon has to be reevaluated on a weekly basis.
We have weekly calls with almost every one of our portfolio companies, and I would say the only consistent thing is that nothing is consistent. There are going to be some companies that do well. We're moving to a digital, remote workforce. That creates some opportunities. I think, also, a lot of business models are being rethought today. I think that's another theme that you're going to hear played out over the next several quarters.
Nkrumah Pierre:Absolutely, thanks Bruce. Then Bill, running a painting company, I imagine your workers can't work from home, right? So I would love to hear your take on this and kind of what business looks like.
Bill Shaid:Yeah, thanks. The way we kind of see it in the construction industry, that whether it's a W-curve or a V followed by a U, or a V followed by another V, in terms of the curve, we're in pretty good shape for the next six to 12 months. Where we're concerned is more the 10 to 18 months out. We generally perform large construction projects, so we have enough business, at this point, to pretty much sustain us. As of this past Monday, we're back tow work 100%. We're concerned, really, more about that 12 to 18 months down the road.
Nkrumah Pierre:Got it. Thank you, Bill. Moving on to the next question. The question is: how has COVID-19 impacted your business, i.e. work from home? Bill, we'll start with you first on this one. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Bill Shaid:Great. We were affected extremely differently in the different states that we work in. As I said earlier, we're in about six different states. Down South, it was, for the most part, business as usual. There was no shutdown in construction, where, as you get closer to the epicenter in New York, and our business got closer to New York, there was mandatory shutdown. About six weeks ago, we laid off about 40 or 50 people, almost 50% of our workforce, and over the course of time, we've been able to bring them back. We do have, and we've always been set up, in all of our multiple offices, for our office staff to work from home. So from that regard, very easy to work from home, but the guys out there making us the money, they're out there in the trenches everyday with masks and all the proper PPE. It's impossible for them to work from home.
Nkrumah Pierre:Got it, and Bill, congrats on bringing your employees back. That's amazing during this tough time.
Bill Shaid:Thank you.
Nkrumah Pierre:No problem. Doug, I'd like to send the question your way. Running a recruiting firm, I'd like to know what the impact has been working from home.
Doug Klares:Sure. It has been a challenge. We, as an organization, we still meet our candidates when we geographically can. We made decisions early on to keep people out of our offices, so we had to adopt technology, and, more importantly, a process to ensure that we're doing everything that we normally would do, except meeting via the internet and Zoom meetings or Skype or whatever, whatever technology people are using. The client side, I've got to be candid with you, has been probably the biggest challenge. Clients did not want you onsite, and after this, it's going to be very interesting, they're not going to want you onsite for quite some time, from some of what our clients are saying.
I think learning how to manage in an environment like this has really taught some of our managers some lessons in how to be a little bit more effective. Also, it's shown us some of the things that we have done extremely well as far as setting up operationally, and it also showed some things that we can certainly improve on. But I do think our team has done a spectacular job in getting used to doing the business this way, although I can tell you unequivocally there's not one person that works for us that is not itching to come back to the office when they feel safe and when we can.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, Doug. I am also ready to get back as well. Bruce, I'll send it your way.
Bruce Eatroff:Yeah, I have to admit, the 30 second commute from the bedroom to the basement is one nice part about being home, although there's certainly parts that we're missing. But yeah, we're an information business. We're a deal business, so functionally we're probably one of the easier businesses to transition to remote working. We communicate with people through these types of tools, whether it's Zoom or audio conference. All of our technology is cloud-based, so we're using SalesForce and Microsoft 365. So, from a day to day basis, actually it was not all that disruptive. What's interesting is, though, over the medium term, whether business practices will change. We're now debating things like will we invest in new business and a team that we've never met in person, and I think the answer is probably not, but those are the things that, really, travel has impacted.
I think one of the things, one of the medium-term to longterm impacts is so many people in this country had taken short hop travel for granted. So many of our executives commute to their offices, work partially remotely. That's going to be rethought. We had a couple of our companies who still manage AP and AR on a very manual check basis, and so we had to send somebody into New York once a week to pick up checks to make sure someone physically deposited them. I think that's going to change. There are a variety of things, that, as you think through the marketplace, I think are going to have more medium-term impact.
I think, obviously, you have a huge number of physical businesses, so it's run the gamut, obviously. Things like restaurants and childcare centers, they're physical business. There's no digitizing them. You can digitize components of them. So I think you're going to see a true demarcation, that's when we talk about how this comes back. It's not going to be one size fits all, for sure.
Nkrumah Pierre:Absolutely, Bruce. If you find a business that will do virtual daycare please let me know, because I'm in need for my son. John, kicking it to you with regard to the cloud accounting business that you run internally here at EisnerAmper. Would love to hear some of your thoughts around how the work from home new phenomena has affected your business?
John Delalio:Sure, the first thing I'd say is it's not really a new phenomenon. I've been in a work from home mode probably since about 2000, doing various forms of outsourcing. We're not often onsite anymore, and as a firm overall, EisnerAmper has been looking to actually increase the number of hoteling spots in our office space. We've been moving in this direction anyway. Clearly, this situation has moved up our timeline. For our clients, it's not a problem. We're always virtual to them. But to each other it's the challenge. How do you take care of your teammates when they're sitting at home and they've got kids climbing over them or they're having a hard day? We're doing a lot of training and a lot of conversations that are more about being purposeful, how you talk to people and how you reach out, and we're doing the same thing for our clients. In a way, it's business as usual, but better business as usual, because we're using this medium of video much more effectively to communicate with everyone.
Nkrumah Pierre:Awesome, John. Thank you. Next question: the people challenge. Of course, we're talking to leaders within practice areas, leaders of businesses, and, as you can imagine, you have to, one, manage your employees, two, keep them positive during a time that is so uncertain, so just wanted to get an idea and a feel from the panelists with regard to one, how are you boosting morale? How are you keeping your employees engaged and/or positive during this tough time? Doug, I'll direct that one to you first.
Doug Klares:Sure. Thank you. This is probably, in my opinion, the most challenging piece. I think there's a lot of fear associated with a pandemic, both for health reasons and livelihood reasons and childcare issues and thinking about your parents. There's a lot. I think you started off, and you introduced this by saying, let's be empathetic. I think, as a leader of an organization, it is our responsibility to look to all of the people around us and try to put yourself in their positions and look at things from their eyes to help guide how you're going to manage that group. I think a lot of leaders may have that opportunity, and sometimes they may miss that. I think that's where the true effectiveness of the leader in a situation like this, I think, is going to be judged. I think everyone will certainly be Monday morning quarterbacking this for years to come, and I think, in the moment, when we're faced with "business decisions" and people decisions, I think the people and the leaders that can really marry the two and have a thorough understanding of both, making sure that they're both taken care of, I think years from now people will look back and say that person really handled this the way it should have been handled.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Doug. Bruce, would love to hear your thoughts.
Bruce Eatroff:Yeah, I think Doug has really hit on some of the same themes. I think transparency, frank conversations are really key at this point. This is no surprise. Sometimes when you have layoffs at companies, it's a little opaque to employees, but, given the front page news every morning, I think people appreciate real, good insight into what's happening at the business, why you might have to do furloughs or layoffs. Obviously the government, again, has cushioned the blow, to some degree, with pretty attractive, at least short-term, unemployment benefits. That's helped to some degree. I think you're trying to give people the sense that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thankfully, our businesses generally are in reasonably good shape. This is clearly going to be a year where flat is the new up, so I think you also have to just recalibrate people's expectations. We throw out a number of our budgets, and basically they were set in a different timeframe. So you don't want to demotivate people, so you're trying to, also, not be Pollyanna-ish as well. It's kind of a careful balancing act.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, Bruce. John?
John Delalio:Yeah, I think this time period has been pretty amazing from an accounting firm perspective, because it did fall during busy season for tax, and I was talking to one of our team who's been in this company for, I think, 40 years. He said over the last two weeks or three weeks, he's never worked harder in his career, and he's never been more rewarded by what he's doing. A lot of our clients are reaching out to us for help, and it's an awesome position to be in for our team, that we can actually help them.
The advantage of the service I actually run is that all the data is up in the cloud. We can do bill pay in the cloud, we can reconcile sales in the cloud, bank recs in the cloud. We can really help out our clients who can't get data, can't pay bills. I'm sure there's many of you out there who have been rattled over the last few weeks with the whole CARES Act and what does it mean and what should you do? We've been ramped up to actually help people during that time. I would say our accountants are very tired, beyond the typical tax busy season, which has been postponed, but on the same token, they just feel really rewarded about what we're doing to help out commerce in the United States get back to normal.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, John. Bill, would love to hear your thoughts. Bill, we can't hear you. I think you're still on mute.
Bill Shaid:Ah, thank you. Yes. For us, our culture is so important, and I think this issue, question speaks to that. We have been doing happy hour lunches, we've been communicating constantly, our HR Director has just been insanely busy trying to keep up with all the communication. I think communication is key to the whole process, whether it's strictly from the company down, or it's 360 coming from the employees back to us, keeping those lines of communication open.
Nkrumah Pierre:Bill, thank you. I'll say a few words, just with regard to the business development team here at EisnerAmper. One of the great things from our leadership, both Jay and Michael Bright, they give us a lot of autonomy, and the ability to, one, be creative. One of the ideas that came up was this panel. We too, similar to what Bill said, we're doing the virtual happy hours, the virtual networking, and really keeping in front of those strong relationships. I think another really key point during the pandemic that we've learned is how imperative and how key it is to have strong relationships and to maintain those strong relationships and be authentic, so that's truly helped us get through this time of uncertainty.
Moving to the next question, now we're starting to hear a lot of executives and teams and companies talk about going back to work. What is it going to look like when the company opens back up? You listen to Cuomo, and you listen to a lot of the governors around the country, and they say, "Listen, it's going to be something that we do slowly so we can assess the situation." I spoke to one of my buddies earlier today, and he said, "Sometimes I feel like I'm driving down a tunnel with no lights on. I just have no idea what's going on, what's next." I'm curious to hear from the speakers, no real order, I guess we'll start with John, with regard to the coming back to work strategy. What does it look like, and what are you thinking?
John Delalio:We've never left. We're kind of back to work. We're looking forward to getting together physically and doing those things as well, and I think also, Nkrumah, you'll attest to this, our business development activities are a little bit different virtually rather than physically, but I think the important thing that we're doing is focused on what our clients need to get back to work. As I told you earlier, we're really worried for them about what post-COVID is going to look like from the economy. How much revenue are they going to get? What are their costs going to be? We're very focused on, and I think there's going to be a shift in business, in that flying without data, not knowing how much cash you have, not knowing what your forecast looks like, your AR, your AP, and not having those metrics in front of you in the next year or two, I think, is going to be very difficult for a company to survive.
We're very very very focused on making sure we can get that data to our clients quickly so that they can make decisions with data, not a dartboard, and be able to make the right decision for their business.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, John. Doug?
Doug Klares:Go ahead, Bruce.
Bruce Eatroff:I was just going to chime in, Kru. I think it really depends on where you are in the country. We have businesses, really, across the United States. If you're in Texas and you can get in your car and drive to your office and not have a ton of interaction, it's okay. I think people are already starting to think that way. It's much easier. If you're in Manhattan and you've got to commute from Long Island or from Westchester on crowded trains or take crowded subways, it's a difficult decision and I think most people are going to have to really be very understanding about how they're going to handle it and be respectful. Some people are going to be comfortable with it, others are going to be a little bit nervous. I think you can't be too forceful. This is a very fragile issue.
Doug Klares:Yeah, and to mirror what Bruce is saying, we have offices around the country. Before we came out with our first set of guidelines, our VP of HR actually did a sort of focus group to have a discussion with a smattering of people around the country to get an understanding of maybe some of the things that we may not have thought of, and, to mirror what Bruce is saying, our biggest challenges are the offices that have mass transit. The people that can hop in their car, they're not concerned. They are very confident that we will do our best to control things in the office and make sure we social distance and cleaning supplies, mask supplies, the whole nine yards. To Bruce's point, I think it really is going to depend on where you are geographically. There's probably going to be a lot of exception that, right now, we're probably going to have to look at that we might not have looked at prior to, whether someone is going to continue to work from home or not.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Doug. Bill, if you'd like to add anything else?
Bill Shaid: Yeah, just a little bit. We've kind of made the decision. We've put together a COVID response leadership that meets everyday, and we've decided that we're not going to make it mandatory when we decide to open the office back up, we're going to make it optional, and that's strictly for office staff, so not a large portion of our business, or our employees, but that was a decision that we made fairly early on, to make it optional. It's going to be a struggle. We have some people in private offices, some people in cubicles, and the people in the cubicles, I have a feeling, are going to be concerned about when and if the right time to come back.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Bill. We have one more question for the panelists, and then we'll move to your questions. I see a few questions coming in through ON24. This question is directed to Doug and Bill, regarding the SBA PPP loan. One, what was the process like? And two, any words of wisdom?
Doug Klares:I guess, to jump in real quick, the process, to be candid, is a little surreal. There were some guidelines set forth that we as an organization, we looked at, we submitted our application, all the information that was asked of us. We were granted a loan and now there seems to be some additional guidelines and the Treasury Department is sort of chiming in after the fact. This is something that sort of keeps me up at night. As a business owner, I want to ensure that I'm always doing things the way I'm supposed to and changing, not necessarily changing the rules, but the guidance and guidelines, there's so much information out there that it's dizzying. I've got to be candid with you, probably my best friend over the last two weeks has been Jeff Kelson, one of the partners at Eisner. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to him in the last two weeks, and he has made himself available 24/7 to me, because I continually have additional questions, make sure that we're in compliance with the laws.
Bill Shaid:I guess I'll jump in on that. I think what Doug said, surreal is probably a great word. When the SBA released the applications, it was a mad rush. We were fortunate enough to get approved. We have a great relationship with our bank, but it was back and forth and back and forth, and also, to kind of what Doug said about, now, the forgiveness, the guidelines are changing daily. The final guidelines have not been issued yet. My accountant has been my right hand over the last two, three, four weeks. Speak to him probably at least once a day. I'm looking forward to final guidance coming out. I think it's great being able to keep everybody employed, especially during the six weeks when a couple of our states were shut down.
Nkrumah Pierre:Bill, thank you. Gentlemen, you can probably see on the dashboard under "Q&A," there are about 10+ questions. It's going to be impossible to get to all of them. We can also do follow ups offline as well, but one of the questions that came in from Kelby, who's a friend, hey Kelby, thanks for tuning in. The question is around real estate. I know when we had spoken as a group a couple days ago, it had come up, what's your take on real estate. Do you think people are going to shrink their office space? Then we also spoke about the fact that, due to social distancing, they might need more real estate, more square footage. I'm curious to hear thoughts from our panelists. Feel free to chime in if you'd like to answer it.
Bruce Eatroff:Yeah, maybe I'll start. I think it's unclear in urban centers, for sure. I think New York, if I was a betting man, I'd say it's probably medium-term negative for real estate. I know some people are already talking about reconfigured offices. Certainly I think, at a bare minimum, you're going to have a greater percentage of work from home, so you're going to have, I think, more business models that look like some of the accounting and consulting firms do where people don't have offices, they almost have more of a hoteling structure. Real estate has already got enough challenges. The question also highlights malls. Malls are really in a tough place, and retail is really, really tough. But I think the biggest question still is offices, because I think once you get out of the cities, there's definitely enhanced productivity in offices for sure. So I don't see it being impacted as much.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Bruce. Anyone else on the panel?
Doug Klares: Sure, I think more will be revealed. Just speaking with the people internal to our organization and some of our contractors that are working from home, the fact that they don't have a choice to work from home I think makes it a bit different. I do think that, if companies can learn to manage a little bit better from a remote workforce and give people that option when they need and be a little bit more flexible than maybe they have been in the past, that, sort of to Bruce's point, could have some impact, especially on the urban centers. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to tell my entire organization, "Okay, everyone's going to be working from home from now until the end of time." That is certainly not something I'm ready and willing to do at this point.
Bill Shaid:I guess I'll jump in. Obviously there would be a huge impact to our business, being in the construction industry. We've kind of been trying to listen to what's going to happen, and no one knows yet. I think you're going to probably see some take additional office space because the cubicles are going to go from 6x6 to 10x10 or whatever it may be. We're also hearing, on the flip side, that people are going to reduce their office space because people are going to work from home. I think it'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Bill. Moving to the next question, it's around recruiting. It's around executives who currently have found themselves on the other end of the spectrum, so they're either furloughed or unemployed. I lead our Friends of the Firm program here at EisnerAmper, and I talk to many CFOs, comptrollers, chief human resources officers, who are either exploring opportunities, or they were exploring opportunities before COVID, and the conversations have been vast. I'm curious to hear from Doug, one, from a recruiting standpoint, what do you recommend to someone who is looking for their next position? How can they stay sane during this tough time?
Doug Klares:I'll let you know about the staying sane piece, because I'm not there yet. But with regards to the recruiting, I think it's a pretty standard process. Most people, especially at that level, have a network. I think the first place to look is to tap into your own personal network. There's plenty of people that I'm sure we've all worked with before in the past that we've sort of lost touch with. I think it's always a good time to reconnect and have discussions. I would say, I also know most people at that level have dealt with recruiting firms. Some recruiting firms have been more successful for them in the past, and they have better relationships. I think reaching out to those people and getting some guidance from them. I've had plenty of people that I've known over the years that have called us for guidance, even when they weren't moving or not looking, whatever it is. The ones that respond quickly, those are probably the ones that you want to stick a little closer to, that are willing to spend some time and give you advice.
Always make sure that your LinkedIn profile is as up to date as it possibly can. Make it look nice. Make sure that it is marketing-ready, because basically you are marketing yourself. If you are not very good at writing resumes, maybe tap into some of those recruiters, and, more importantly, if you want to use a professional resume writer, you could certainly do that. So I do think there's a lot that can be done in any market when it comes to recruiting, it's just a matter of preparing yourself, tapping the people that you know, and just understand it might take a little bit of time.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Doug. Anyone else? So I saw a question in the chat from John, and John, hello. Thank you for tuning in. I look forward to our catch up call in a couple weeks. His question was furloughing versus reduction in pay, and that question goes out to everyone on the panel. If you're looking to either furlough some of your employees, or even just do a reduction across the entire firm, have you guys had those conversations, what are your thoughts?
John Delalio:Hey Nkrumah, this is John. Let me start this one off. I will say, there is no answer, a definitive rule on the way to go, and the reason for that is the rules are being defined as we speak. We're getting guidance from the Treasury Department daily, and interpreting that information to help people make better decisions. I think you've got to have eyes wide open and have a good model to understand the math behind the furloughing versus the pay cut versus the PPP loan, and you've got to reach out to people for help, because there is that 75/25% limit you've got to be careful of. What's a full-time employee versus an FTE, full-time equivalent. There's a lot of stuff out there that's very, very gray, and I think the banks are doing their best to process answers, but it's really not their area of expertise. And I think actually banks have a different issue of processing the volume of requests and loans. So you need to reach out to, I'll say, of course your accounting firms, but talk to those people that are in it daily and are paying attention to it. And you must, must, must pay attention to it. It's very important.
Bruce Eatroff:Yeah. I would probably have a slightly different lens on that. John's really speaking from a PPP perspective. I would, I would almost talk about it from a cultural perspective and we've had a bunch of our companies, debate this very topic, our largest business, which wasn't eligible for any of these SBA programs, decided to do an across the board reduction and the CEO stood up and said, I'm going to take zero. I'm going to take a hundred percent reduction. And it's going to be graduated based on seniority. So, it just depends on the industry. If you can pull it off culturally, we're all in this thing together. We're furloughs. It's a little bit of haves and haves nots. It's a little bit harder to debate. I do agree with John. There's no right answer. They're all interim steps to hopefully get back to what the business looks like on the other side of this. In Doug's world, you’ve got to minimize turnover. So, how you do that? It's really a judgment call on the spot.
Doug Klares:I definitely want to mirror Bruce's cultural piece. It’s interesting. I, on a weekly basis now, I do a companywide call and, a short while ago we actually had to do a layoff. And I field the questions live, via chat. And I can't tell you how many people during that call said cut my salary. And that was something that I was just not aware was even on people's minds. So I do think, to Bruce's point, it is certainly a cultural piece and that's something that, as a leader or an owner, or someone who runs your business, you probably have a pretty good understanding of what that culture looks like and people's willingness or potential willingness to share that burden.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thanks, Doug. So, I see another question in the chat from one of my colleagues and the question is, what question would our panelists most like to have answered if they could ask it?
William Shaid:I've got it. I'm going to ask two questions. What is the, what does the economy look like 18 months from today, and when will we find a vaccine?
Nkrumah Pierre:I like it.
Doug Klares:I'd like the lotto numbers for the end of the week. So, that's where I would go. What is going to be the official guidance on the PPP program? And will it come out before May 7th, which is the amnesty period? I think that would be a question I would love to know. And what does the second half of the year when people are saying this could, this could sort of pop up again, is this actually going to happen where we're going to have to be sequestered again?
Bruce Eatroff:Yeah. I mean, my question would be similar. When does the consumer think this Coronavirus pandemic is behind us? That's probably a near term issue, but we don't know.
John Delalio:I think for being based at a Nassau County long Island, which is a total hotspot, I'm really interested in knowing what the right regimen is going to be to come back and start being social again. I think the virus is going to be here for a while, but I think we're all itching to get back out there and get business going again. And, I really want to know the safe way to step back towards normalcy.
Nkrumah Pierre:Those are all great questions and thank you to our audience member for asking that question. One, I'd like to say thank you for each of our panelists for rocking the panel, for spending the time with us and giving your insights and taking away from your business. What I'd like to do now is just to kind of a lightning round to hear final thoughts from our panelists. Bruce, I'd like to start with you and then after you I'll go to John, any topic.
Speaker 2:Having gone through, this is probably my fifth economic crisis. My first one was in 1987. I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think good businesses will persevere. This is obviously unlike any of the others, but we've got a ton of really smart people working on ways to build vaccines and medications. So hopefully we will all be stronger on the back of this, but in the midst of it, it's going to feel pretty ugly at times. Just be really open with people and transparent. That's always been our consistent message and I think it will hold you. Not every business is going to make it. We’re seeing, unfortunately, bankruptcies left and right. Hopefully most of the world economy will recover in a reasonable fashion.
John Delalio:I would say I feel good to be an American and know about business having been in it for many years in my career, in the United States. And I have complete confidence it’s going to come back. And I think there's opportunities out there. I think there's problems, absolutely no doubt, but there's also opportunities and I think it's going to take a fair amount of being clever to navigate the times ahead. And, I actually, this past weekend I watched a professional bull riding event, which I've never watched before, but I thought it was very interesting because I give them a lot of credit for two things. One, they were very respectful of social distancing, cleaning, all of the riders wore masks. But I also think they were very brave. Their business relies on those events and so they were brave to hold that event and take that risk in a safe way. So, I think that's where I'm really interested in seeing how United States business comes out of this. Those acts of smart bravery that will allow our economy to come back online.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, John. Bill?
William Shaid:I think what we're going to probably see is that the smart business people, take this opportunity to either grow their business, expand their business or survive. I can speak to us when this first happened. We met with my leadership team and we said, what can we do? Several weeks ago we launched a disinfecting nanocoding, to help America, in particular our clients, stay healthy, stay protected. And hopefully for me it's a business opportunity to continue to grow our business.
Nkrumah Pierre:Awesome. Thank you bill. Doug.
Doug Klares:I think that we have to remember this will end. I remember after 9/11, it was three weeks after 9/11, being in New York, the entire world was rocked, right? But, especially in New York, it was just one of those moments. And I remember standing in line about three weeks after 9/11 at Starbucks waiting for coffee. And next thing you know, two people in front of me started arguing about who was in front of who. And I remember thinking in that moment that things got back to normal pretty quickly. Because you just had this massive world event and then next thing they're arguing over who's in front of the other. So I think that, what happens for most of us, especially for myself, we tend to project and we tend to think that what we're thinking in our head is ultimately going to be the outcome.
The reality is it's not. We have to control what we can control. We have to have measured responses. We have to be calming our actions. And, I think that if we can do that as a society, I think that if we can do that at the company level, at the individual level, we're going to come out of this. I mean, we're America. This is what we do. I don't know what it's going to look like, but we'll come out of it. And I think that as long as we continually remind ourselves of that, I think we'll be okay. In fact, I know we will be.
Nkrumah Pierre:That's beautiful, Doug. Great way to end it. Thank you. But I can say one thank you to each of our panelists, John, Bruce, Doug, and Bill. You did an awesome job. Thank you so much. I'll leave you with the parting words of a Warren Buffet. He said, “Don't bet against America” and I couldn't agree more. Thank you everyone for tuning in. Look forward to the next one. Take care.