We will look back to mid-March of 2020 as the start of a sea change in the commercial flooring industry. Fuse Alliance was fortunate to have our annual meeting which took place in early March at the beautiful Hyatt Regency hotel in Indian Wells, Calif. We had record attendance and our members left with enthusiasm amid very robust sales that began in January and February.
Within a week of returning from the meeting the business climate began to change quickly. We now realize that if our meeting had been scheduled even a week later, we most likely would have had to cancel.
Hindsight provides the opportunity to really look back and examine the good and the bad of life and the good is certainly the power found in our network. We began emailing our membership as early as Friday, March 13, and from there began a period when the network really started to shine. Of course, the downside was that our businesses would be affected by government-imposed shutdowns.
We know that we dodged a bullet as most state governors deemed construction essential, therefore our members were able to continue working. The initial challenge was twofold: 1) how to protect our employees and 2) how to protect our businesses.
We moved very quickly with protecting our people. When possible, employees stayed at home. We made sure social distancing and sanitizing were taking place in offices and at warehouse and jobsites.
Once we took care of phase one we moved to phase two, which was protecting our businesses. After the government introduced the CARES Act, we recommended to all our members to take advantage of the Payroll Protection Plan. For many of our members this was a way to keep people employed with the business slowing down. On top of filling out applications for funding, our members got their billings up to date and rigorously worked their receivables. Cash flow is the lifeblood of our businesses, therefore we continued to stress staying on top of the money going in and out.
Our suppliers played a key role in helping us through this challenging time. Many offered extended terms on all orders while others offered extended terms on a project by project basis. This was key to helping us survive and thrive. We also leaned on them to hold orders when we did not need them because of projects being delayed, and they were more than willing to accommodate us.
Besides assisting members during this challenging time, we could see Fuse members growing closer. We started weekly calls first with our board on Tuesdays, then with our general membership on Wednesdays, to share best practices and update each other on how we were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and we all learned a lot. It made us realize that this is why organizations like ours exist. We are here to help our members and all of us jumped in to help.
In retrospect we inundated our members with multiple emails a day and did not hear one negative comment about receiving too many emails. Our third week in one of the members suggested we all use the video feature on our Zoom app so that we could get to know each other better – what a great idea! Seeing everyone working from home, some dressed up but most in casual clothes contributing to the conversation was humbling and very gratifying.
The theme of our conference this year was “Lighting the Future.” We witnessed the birth of a very bright future over the last few months as the true value of being a Fuse member shown through.
It is also important to point out that we grew closer to our suppliers as well. This became a true team effort and all of us appreciated how our suppliers were calling to check in and always asking how they could help.
Everyone talks about a new normal and what we learned over the last several months is there is strength in numbers and as a small business it is better to be part of a group that shares common interests as opposed to doing it all on your own.
I believe all of us have learned a lot in 2020 and I am extremely grateful to work hand-in-hand with the finest people and companies I have ever been associated with!