Episode 12: The Money’s in the Bank

Jay, William, and Laura talk about the status of their CARES Act loans, and to everyone’s surprise (including his own), William reveals not only that his Paycheck Protection Program loan has been approved, but he’s already got the cash. Was it divine intervention? Plus: Jay offers up a stress test for businesses in crisis—five ways to assess whether your company is positioned to survive.

Episode 12: The Money's in the Bank

Guests:

William Vanderbloemen is founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

Laura Zander is co-founder and CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool.

Jay Goltz is founder and CEO of Artists Frame Service and Jayson Home.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Episode Highlights:

William Vanderbloemen: “I am amazed at how much routine actually liberates you rather than enslaves you. It’s made sense out of the days. We’ve got good friends that own solid businesses who are streaming Netflix and wondering what to do next.”

Jay Goltz: “In 2008, the real estate market was completely decimated. Nobody was doing anything. I looked at an 85,000-foot building to move my warehouse and factory to, and the price kept dropping. Deal of the century. Would have never happened without the crash of 2008.”

Laura Zander: “It’s been four years of doubling my Prozac, trying to just figure it all out. So, you know, I’m comfortable right now. I mean, we will figure it out. We’re in a good spot right now.”

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
All right, let’s get started. I’m curious if all of you have gone ahead and applied for CARES Act loans. Let’s start with you, William. I don’t know of any business owner who’s done more to investigate and figure out how this whole thing works than you and your team have. You’ve shared that information with a lot of people. But how’s it working out for you? Did you get your application in?

William Vanderbloemen:
Well, we put our application in, Loren. And you know, austerity’s in place in our house. There is no wine or beer during the week. Otherwise, I’ll gain the COVID 19, and I don’t want that. So when Friday rolls around, it’s like, “Yes, okay, made it to Friday.” So I get to five o’clock, and I make Adrienne a cocktail, and I make mine, and then I get a voicemail from my banker saying, “Please call me as soon as possible.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, really? Really?” And so I called her, and she said, “I just want you to know, you guys are the first organization in all of our banks nationwide to be approved for PPP.” So I’m like, “Okay, that was worth it. That’s fine.” Within 48 hours, we were funded. So the money’s in the bank.

Jay Goltz:
What?!

Laura Zander:
Oh, you really are close to God. Oh my God. I’m gonna start going to church. Okay, you’ve convinced me.

Loren Feldman:
William, how do you explain this? Why do you think you were successful?

William Vanderbloemen:
I don’t know.

Jay Goltz:
They don’t want to mess with the guy with God. It’s obvious.

William Vanderbloemen:
Dumb luck. There’s a story in the New Testament that Jesus tells where he says there was this widow who kept coming to court and she just kept bugging the judge over and over and over, and finally wore the judge out by coming to him over and over and over, and he said, “Just give her what she wants.” And that might have been a little bit of it.

Our COO is so good and just kind of bull-dogged it and called over and over and over. And we were providing this resource to a whole lot of people. Our bank knew about it. So I don’t know. The lines fell in pleasant places for us and it worked out. I’ve actually heard of a church with about 25 members yesterday that got funded. So, it’s happening.

Loren Feldman:
Did you get as much money as you were anticipating?

William Vanderbloemen:
Yeah, every dollar.

Laura Zander:
Wow.

William Vanderbloemen:
We created a little calculator on that. I think we’ve overplayed it, but churchcovid19.com.

Laura Zander:
I’ve used it.

William Vanderbloemen:
You enter payroll, and that’s what we used. So maybe we could have squeezed some more money out, but we didn’t. Adrienne’s dad, my father-in-law, was in politics for a long time, and he told me as soon as this CARES Act went through, he said, “Be sure you’re first in line. Because once it starts, it’s a feeding frenzy.” And he said, “I know this is different than anything else.” So we got a little rabid about it, and I don’t want to take credit. Our bank gets a lot of credit.

Laura Zander:
What bank do you use?

William Vanderbloemen:
BBVA.

Loren Feldman:
A lot of people, even if they’ve gotten it through their bank, they’ve then run into a wall at the SBA. Did you have to do anything with the SBA?

William Vanderbloemen:
No, no, no. I forget the name of the other act… the interruption of business stuff that you can do straight through the SBA, which I think is …

Loren Feldman:
E.I.D.L. I think.

William Vanderbloemen:
Yes, that’s it, where they credit the first $10,000 to you. We have applied for that. We have not heard anything about that, but I’m not über concerned about that. I understood that would take a while.

Loren Feldman:
How about you, Jay? When we spoke last Friday, you felt you had all your ducks in a row, and the application was ready to go. Where do you stand?

Jay Goltz:
Well, there might be some irony here. I was with this smallish business bank in Chicago that got swallowed up by the bigger bank from Ohio—not a Chase size, but but much bigger—and I thought, “Great, here we go again, because I’ve already seen this movie.” Maybe I’m better off with them because [my banker] claims that I’m number three on the list. He’s trying to hold on to my account, because he knows I’m not happy with the whole merger, and maybe being in a bigger bank now will help. I don’t know, but he claims we’re number three.

Loren Feldman:
Number three on the list to be approved by the bank?

Jay Goltz:
Literally like half the bankers left the bank after the merger, and he stayed around, and I’m number three on his list.

Loren Feldman:
Supposedly, they’ve been approving these loans for a week. Why would you still be number three? What’s keeping you from approval? Do you know?

Jay Goltz:
I don’t know. I mean, that’s like asking me why the sky is blue. I have no idea and frankly, my CFO is dealing with it. I’m dealing with other stuff, but I wish we had video for this because while William was talking, my mouth was hanging down the whole time that you actually have money in the bank.

Laura Zander:
Oh my God. Me too, yeah.

Jay Goltz:
Did the Easter Bunny come by too today? Is he outside? I’m flabbergasted, but I’m hopeful that it’s going to go through. I’m hopeful, but I’m not counting on it. So, we’ll see.

Loren Feldman:
How about you, Laura? A lot of the people applying for these loans are truly desperate. From what you’ve told us, you’re not as desperate. Your sales of yarn online, I gather, have continued to hold up. But you’ve gone ahead and applied for the loan?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, absolutely. I use US Bank, and they didn’t have the application process ready until Sunday morning. I put everything in Sunday morning, and then every day they send an email saying, “It hasn’t changed, it hasn’t changed, you’re still in step two of seven.” They’ve done a good job of communicating regularly and have really laid it out.

I was bugging our banker every, probably four times a day. I used William’s calculator. I’ve been following everything that William has been doing, studying it. In fact, I’ve been putting together a selection of resources per William to share with the knitting community and all the different yarn shops.

But yeah, we’re still just waiting. I’m with Jay. I mean, I’m hopeful, but I don’t know that it’s gonna make a difference. And yeah, yarn sales are good. The two businesses that we have, one of them is doing well, and the other one is losing lots of money every week. The one is covering the other one for right now.

Loren Feldman:
And Is that why you decided to apply for the loan, I assume?

Laura Zander:
Oh, absolutely. Because I don’t know when this is gonna fall out. I mean, right now, things are going well. People are knitting a ton, people are buying a lot of toilet paper. It’s the same kind of thing. But at what point does the bottom fall out? I’m a little worried that we’re going to have a delayed reaction. We are trying to just do what we can, push as hard as we can, save as much as we can to be prepared for when the bottom falls out for us.

Jay Goltz:
The interesting question is, did you steal from future sales now? Or are they just going to knit more stuff? It is possible that people will just knit more. Or it’s possible they just loaded up on the supplies, and you’re gonna see a drop later. Who knows?

Laura Zander:
That’s the thing. W e just want to be smart about it, and be prepared for whichever way it goes.

Loren Feldman:
William, do you have any advice for Jay or Laura?

William Vanderbloemen:
Loren, I’m just a recovering preacher. I’m still learning how to do business. And I’m sure you guys have used the same bank for a while, but like, I’m loyal to a fault. It was Compass Bank, which then became BBVA. There was some pain in that, but we stayed with them. We do our personal with them. We’ve done every penny of every business we’ve ever done with them. And as a result, we have a person who works with us. I think that the relational equity that we built over a long time kind of got us a little farther in the front of the queue.

Where I’ve heard trouble for some churches is, if you dig a little deeper and say, “Why are you not getting anywhere?” They’ve bounced from bank to bank every year to get an eighth of a point here or whatever the thing is. It’s like frequent flyer programs. I’m embarrassed how well United treats me, but it’s because I only use them. I don’t know if that’s a transferable principle, but it’s part of the equation for us.

Jay Goltz:
I need to step in on that because I’ve been to 10 banks over 42 years. Some I was with eight years, 10 years. Some I was with for a year or two years. I’m sure in your case that was helpful, but I don’t want anyone listening to believe that if they stick with the same bank for years, they’re going to take care of them, because that is absolutely not always the case. If you’re at the wrong bank, meaning they’re really not a small business bank, you’re naive to think that, “Oh, I’ve had my car loan there for years. I’ve had my checking account there since I was 20 years old.” If they’re the wrong bank, and they’re not a business bank, it doesn’t matter.

You happened to be at the right bank, and you stuck with it. It worked. But there’s lots of people who are at banks that really are not small business banks. And at the end of the day, I don’t care how many years you’ve been there, they’re not giving you a business loan because they just don’t do that stuff.

Loren Feldman:
In your case, Jay, I think your situation was, you thought you were at the right bank, but then it got taken over and it became the wrong bank.

Jay Goltz:
Yes, I was at the small business bank. So here’s my advice about banking. Banks need two out of three things. They either need big business, they need retail business, or they need small business, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bank that does all three. The gigantic banks of the world have banks on every corner, they’re doing tons of business with mortgages, with car loans, blah, blah, blah. They don’t really need the small business community, which is why all these other banks exist. And the small business banks usually don’t have banks on every corner and don’t do business with the big [ones], so it’s two out of three.

I was at a smaller bank that was designed to take care of small business, and they got bought out by a much bigger bank. But it’s still a business bank. It might be okay. And like I said, the guy’s paying attention. And he’s calling us. There’s a tip. The guy called me. I’m not calling him. He’s following up with us. I feel like we’re in the queue. I will be disappointed if I don’t have the money in a couple of weeks, but I certainly am not expecting it this week. I haven’t signed any documents, so I know the process isn’t done because I have to DocuSign something, and he hasn’t sent it over to me yet, so I know it’s still not officially in.

Laura Zander:
We’ve had US Bank for probably 15 years now. We went there from Wells Fargo. And I think the fact that we’re in a small town helps, even though it’s a large national bank. The guy who I work with, he comes in and visits. I can email him anytime. It’s so personal.

Jay Goltz:
Do you borrow money from them?

Laura Zander:
No. Oh, we just did. We just did for the very first time.

Jay Goltz:
My point is, if you never borrow money from a bank, that’s like saying, “I’ve got a great insurance company, but I’ve never been in an accident.” If you’ve never borrowed money from the bank, you have no idea. That’s why I say people are naive. They think because they’ve been to the bank for years, it’s going to take care of them. And when it comes to the business loan, some of these banks just don’t do it. They really don’t.

Laura Zander:
Okay, I mean, we had a line of credit for quite a while but I see what you’re saying.

Loren Feldman:
Okay, next topic. We’ve heard your stories the last few weeks. We know that each of your businesses has, to say the least, taken a hit. I’m wondering, have you thought about what it would take to actually put you out of business? I’m asking this in part because I’m curious about what makes a company well-positioned to make it through a crisis like this, and I’m wondering what we can learn from this. Jay, let me start with you. Have you thought about what it would take to actually end your business?

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, and remember, I’ve lived through four recessions, September 11, the whole thing. This is worse, to some degree, in the short term, and after I got over the… I’d say two days of shock, I started saying to myself, “Okay, let’s go through this.” Number one, I’ve got a strong customer base that loves my businesses. My framing business in Chicago is literally 20 times the size of the national average. I probably have 30% of the market here in Chicago. And then my retail furniture store, same story in my wholesale. I’ve got a strong thing.

Number two, it’s about legal exposure. I don’t have partners. I don’t have investors. I don’t really have a landlord. So it’s not like I get a call like this, “That’s it. We want you out. I want you to sell the inventory.” That’s a huge deal, and that was by design. I never want to be in a position that some partner I’ve got who’s living in Boca Raton now, who’s 73, calls up screaming, “I want my money back, close the business down.”

Loren Feldman:
Let me stop you there. We’ll come back to you, but you just made a couple of interesting points. William, how about you? Have you thought about what it would take for you to actually go out of business in this situation?

William Vanderbloemen:
Oh sure, I mean, not more than 365 times a year. You’ve probably seen the entrepreneur’s journey, and daily journey, is like, “I’m awesome. I suck. We’re doing great. We’re gonna close.” I don’t know how as a small business owner you don’t go through that.

I do think, for me, I have found where my checks and balances are to see when I’m out of touch with reality and in touch. Adrienne and I balance really, really well. She’s usually the realist, and I’m an idealist. When I start to go through the paranoid tailspin of, “Here it is. This is it. We’re closing up shop. We’re done,” I’ll gut check with her. In this instance, she’s been very clear to say, “No way. The business will come back.” Now, how we lead through this could end the business.

Loren Feldman:
William, what do you mean by that?

William Vanderbloemen:
I mean, so I read a really interesting article. It was in Harvard Business Review and it was a large quantitative study of businesses that bounced back after the ‘08 recession and whether they were aggressive in cutting costs or aggressive in investing in more…

Laura Zander:
Marketing.

William Vanderbloemen:
Exactly.

Loren Feldman:
We linked to that story in the 21 Hats Morning Report.

William Vanderbloemen:
What I took away was, if you cut too aggressively, you’re more likely to fail than anybody. However, if you’re too aggressive and bullish about just pushing forward at all costs, you’re second likely to fail. It’s in the middle there of walking this tightrope that really determined who made it and who didn’t. I think that’s what we’re trying to do.

Last week’s podcast [episode] was the day after we reduced payroll by 40 percent. We could have reduced it more. We didn’t, and that reduction was a combination of layoffs, furloughs, and payroll reductions, beginning with my salary going away. That was pretty severe, but we could have been more severe.

The market, unless churches can’t gather anymore, and unless schools can’t have school anymore, unless non-profits go off the market, they will need top leadership. Some people might say, “In a recession, when everybody’s looking for a job, why do I need to search for one?” Actually, it’s trickier then to figure out who really needs a job and who wants this job.

I’m not concerned about the necessity for my type of work. The market, I don’t think will go away. How I lead through this crisis will determine our viability in the long term. I’m looking for checks and balances where I’m not being irrationally panicked or irrationally aggressive. I’ve tried to surround myself with a leadership team, and it’s a very small team, but I’m incessant with them about saying you have to tell me the truth. I’m trying, Loren, to not be the reason that our business ends. It won’t be because of my team members. They’re amazing. It won’t be because the market collapses. That’ll still be there.

Loren Feldman:
Do other people who do what you do?

William Vanderbloemen:
Well, before COVID we had a few people that were trying. After COVID, I’ll be interested to see how many are still standing.

Laura Zander:
I’m curious, William. You keep saying your leadership. Are you not treating your team well? What are you worried that you’re gonna do wrong?

William Vanderbloemen:
Cut too deep too fast or fail to jump on opportunity.

Laura Zander:
So you’re worried that you’re going to either be too impulsive or not impulsive enough.

William Vanderbloemen:
Exactly. It’s the tightrope of when do I expand and when do I be cautious?

Laura Zander:
It’s the BOSU Ball. This is why I’m so glad I’ve been doing yoga because it is literally just surfing.

William Vanderbloemen:
Yeah.

Laura Zander:
If you lean too far on one side, you fall. If you lean too far on the other, you fall.

William Vanderbloemen:
The other external circumstance, is somebody gonna write an algorithm that suddenly causes companies to find staff without having to look? Is there a Pandora for staffing? I’m not real concerned about that yet. Am I concerned that churches won’t be able to meet for a year and a half and all of a sudden the economics change? Yeah, that would change things severely. But would that end the business? Or would it put it into sort of an Ice Age hibernation that we would come out of later? I think probably the latter, not the former.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, how about you? Have you thought about the possibility that the business might not survive this?

Laura Zander:
No, I haven’t a ton, but here’s why. I finally realized why I’m not freaking out. We have been struggling for three years ever since the flood that hit us and made us move in 2017. It’s been three years of struggle and being scared that the business was going to go away, thinking that we might close. I’ve been in battle for a really, really long time. So there’s part of me that I think emotionally is either just beat down or numb or callous, or I’m just used to it.

Jay Goltz:
No, I have the answer. You’ve become a warrior. This is what happens. You’ve become a warrior.

Loren Feldman:
But let me just point out, Laura, for people who’ve been listening to the podcast, they’ll recall that a couple of months ago, you were telling us that you and your husband Doug, were on the edge…

Laura Zander:
Oh my God. I’ve been on the edge forever.

Loren Feldman:
…with the acquisition of the company in Texas. That was before any of this happened.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, exactly. And it’s been years, really since the spring of 2016 when we let our general manager at the time go, and everything has just fallen apart. It’s been four years of doubling my Prozac, trying to just figure it all out. So, you know, I’m comfortable right now. I mean, we will figure it out. We’re in a good spot right now. We’ve made the changes that we’ve needed to make. I’m not really worried about going away. We’ve been dealing with it for a long time.

Loren Feldman:
Is there any particular thing that does concern you most?

Laura Zander:
It’s what William was just talking about. It is the emotional stress that is being put on our team. It’s whether I’m going to be able to help lead, I guess, and have the empathy that I need to have. Just because I’m not freaking out doesn’t mean other people aren’t freaking out. I’m trying to be very aware of that and conscious of that. That’s the biggest struggle for us right now is that everybody’s on edge, which I’m sure is very normal. But that’s my biggest concern: can we lead this team? Can we do it in a way that doesn’t end up with people being horribly upset or bitter, or miserable, or whatever it is.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, I interrupted you before. You were kind of giving us what sounded a little bit like the beginnings of a stress test for a business entering a crisis. What else is on your list?

Jay Goltz:
Like I said, I’ve lived through two slowdowns, but I’ve never been to where the business was literally shut off for six weeks or even more. I went through this in my head, and here’s what I came up with. Number three is, do you have the will to go on? I have enough real estate, frankly. I could probably retire and be fine. I have absolutely no interest in going down to Florida. No offense to Florida and playing Pinochle and talking about my prostate with my friends. I have absolutely no desire to go do that.

Laura Zander:
Good. Because we have no desire to do that with you.

Jay Goltz:
I’m as enthused today as I was 20 years ago. I plan on working for a long time. The fourth one, which I don’t think I have exposure to, and I don’t think either of you do either: are your people going to be there when the dust settles? I believe that my people are 100 percent with me and are committed and will see us through this whole thing.

Then lastly, this is the trickier one: what kind of resources do you have? Do you have cash? I don’t have a whole lot of cash because I’ve always reinvested, but I do have buildings… I have a building that doesn’t have a mortgage on it, which gives me some credit. I think that that is going to be a defining thing for some businesses. Do you have any cash? Do you have any credit? Do you have any inventory? I’m sitting on enough inventory that I could bleed off inventory for six months and be okay. I’m not going anywhere.

Everything you need to know about business, you can learn from watching the Rocky movies. Rocky II, having his head beat in, he’s sitting in the corner, he looks up at Mickey after a bad round and he says, “I ain’t going down no more.” That’s where I’m at.

Loren Feldman:
How’s your prostate? [Laughter]

Jay Goltz:
It’s good! I swear I went out to lunch with someone I was telling this, and as we were leaving, the guys next to me—I swear to God—one guy said, “Oh, I gotta get an MRI on my prostate.” See what I’m talking about? I mean, that’s what guys do when they sit around these big tables and you wonder what they’re talking about. That’s what they’re talking about.

Laura Zander:
Mystery solved.

Loren Feldman:
In one way or another, each of you brought up the question of how long this lasts and how long you have to make it through. None of us knows, obviously, but are you thinking about that at all? William, are you planning for something? Are you thinking in terms of June? July? August? Next year?

William Vanderbloemen:
Well, I spend my day trying to connect with our clients. We’re creating a lot of content, but connection trumps content right now. I think that’s a customer care lesson that I’m learning and maybe it helps somebody out there today. There’s an innate desire among people to be with other people. It’s just not good that we’re alone.

CS Lewis had a definition of Hell. He said, “Hell is God’s granting of our final wish to be left alone.” I’m trying to connect with clients. As I connect with them, invariably the question comes up: so when do you guys think you’re going to be able to get together? It varies by region, obviously, but it also varies by church size. I’ve got guys with a 5,000-seat auditorium. That’s an entirely different situation than 200 on a Sunday.

Loren Feldman:
I read something on the internet, William, that indicated you actually did help a church hire a pastor without meeting them in person. Is that correct?

William Vanderbloemen:
It’s not quite 100 percent. They’d done some interviewing before this, but the congregation had not met, just the search committee. It was actually the oldest megachurch in the country, Moody Bible Church, which has been around a long time, very historic, lots of process. It’s not a nimble startup. It’s got some good calcification. It moves slowly. They got down to their final guy, and COVID set in, and the search committee said, “Well, rather than wait, let’s get this done.” So he met the deacons and deaconesses via Zoom. He did a virtual Town Hall. He preached virtually live on a Sunday to an empty room, but to the whole congregation so they could decide and vote whether he’s the guy or not. Did that on a Zoom meeting, I attended, and then did a Q&A, and then they used SurveyMonkey to vote. It was pretty awesome. The oldest megachurch in the country hired their newest pastor over Zoom. That’s a pretty good headline.

But to answer your question, Loren, a friend of mine wrote an article—Andy Crouch, it’s a great article—that talks about, “Is this a blizzard? Is this a long winter? Or is this a mini-Ice Age?” And you’ve got to figure that out and then adjust your business accordingly. So like, cash reserves? We’re built for a blizzard, no problem. We actually can withstand a long winter with cutting some costs and get through it. If it’s a long Ice Age, it’s a different proposition. And so polling people, what I’m hearing—and it changes every day—but the most recent things that I’ve heard is, there are parts of the country where this may not be true, but church-wise, most everybody’s hoping Father’s Day can happen. It may happen sooner in some parts, later in others. We’re planning to have a really rough Q2 for sales. We’re planning for about a half load in Q3, and hopefully three-quarter load in Q4, year-over-year. If it’s worse than that, and for some reason we decide to stay at home for a year and a half, then I think everybody’s got to redesign their plans.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, how are you thinking about how long this might last?

Laura Zander:
Kind of around the same. You know, we actually had some in-person events scheduled, some retreats [in] late June. We just decided to move that to late August. These are smaller, you know, 50, 60 people kind of thing. The customers are moving. They’re switching the dates, and they seem to be okay with it. Our biggest trade show is in early June, and that just got canceled. I think we’re thinking August-ish and that things will pick up and be relatively back to normal in the fall.

Loren Feldman:
Jay?

Jay Goltz:
I have a different answer. I feel like we’re in the cockpit. We’re going through a horrendous storm, and I’m paying attention to the gauges and what’s in front of me. I’m not thinking about two months from now, because there’s just nothing I can do about it. If I watch the news, they’ve got all these pontificators who are making up stuff, and whoever says the most outrageous thing gets on. “This is going to be worse than World War II.” It doesn’t mean anything.

I’m focused on, “What do I do today? What should I be doing for cash reserves?” I’m just seeing the way it goes, because I don’t know if this is going on for another three weeks, another three months. I don’t know. It doesn’t help any to be trying to guess, because there’s nothing I can do about it.

Laura Zander:
Well, same page, but I’m looking every day at our cash flow and I’m looking at our forecasts and adjusting. Right now, today, trying to predict how much cash we’re going to need over the next six to eight months, that’s where I’m at. Ask me again next week…

Jay Goltz:
What are you going to do with that information, though? That’s my question. What are you going to do with that information?

Laura Zander:
It’s changing how we’re spending things. I’m giving budgets out to the different teams. I’m watching it in case I need to cut budgets even more, in case we’re going to need to cut payroll, in case we need to cut down our ordering.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, it’s different because Laura’s—

Jay Goltz:
She’s got a business that’s working.

Laura Zander:
Yeah.

Jay Goltz:
Thanks for reminding me of that, Loren.

Loren Feldman:
You’re welcome. That’s what I’m here for.

Laura Zander:
Thanks for reminding me that you own your building, jerk.

Jay Goltz:
Build-ings. [Laughter]

Laura Zander:
Oh, yes. Sorry.

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, so it just shows you that everyone has assets and liabilities when this stuff happens. I’m down, literally 95% of my people are furloughed, and I’m not spending any money. I have to tell you, in some weird way, I’m like on a manic high. I’m in battle mode here. I’ve got good plans. My people are coming up with stuff we’re going to do as soon as we open, and I’m planning on sending a letter to a woman that I talked to nine years ago who wanted to work for me, but she couldn’t because she had an employment contract. Now I’m thinking, I wonder if she’s on furlough now. Talk about a game changer. I just sent her a note because I couldn’t find her phone number. I might be able to snag a million-dollar-a-year salesperson who I could have never hired before. So I’m just looking for opportunities to make lemonade out of lemons.

Laura Zander:
That’s a good point: opportunities. Jay and I have actually been talking offline about us looking into buying a building.

Jay Goltz:
And you’re going to get a really good deal and an incredibly cheap interest rate.

Laura Zander:
Yep. I’ve been researching, finding some buildings, looking at when do we think the commercial real estate market is going to hit bottom? Kind of studying 2008, 2009, saying…

Loren Feldman:
Laura, do you even know how difficult it is to buy a building right now? Are commercial realtors operating?

Jay Goltz:
Absolutely.

Laura Zander:
Oh, yeah. The guy who lives across the street from us, actually, he runs an escrow company, and he just said, “Everything has dropped out.” Nothing’s going through because of all the uncertainty. And I’m not looking to buy something… we don’t want to buy something today. But again, this goes back to, I’m trying to think about six months from now. Starting to put my feet in the water, starting to kind of look around, starting to track rates, starting to track prices.

Jay Goltz:
I can give you a real story. In 2008, the real estate market was completely decimated. Nobody was doing anything. I looked at an 85,000-foot building to move my warehouse and factory to, and the price kept dropping. Deal of the century. Would have never happened without the crash of 2008. I ended up with an 85,000-foot building with 27-foot-high ceilings and three loading dock doors. It was a game-changer, and I wouldn’t have bought that building if I didn’t live through the crash in 2008.

Loren Feldman:
What’s your situation, William? I assume you have a landlord?

William Vanderbloemen:
We do have a landlord. We were actually, at the beginning of the year, starting to talk about downsizing our space here in Houston so that we could have regional offices—probably in a WeWork or that sort of thing in about five other markets. And that’s still gonna happen. It’s just been put on pause. But it’s been really cool because we’ve been working [on] remote policies for the last year to say, “How would we work if we didn’t have an office?”

So in the middle of shrinking that, back in January, we found a subtenant for half our space. We have about 15,000 feet, not a lot. We don’t have manufacturing or anything. And we shrunk it down, where we have five, they have five, and we share five. We had put in there buyout clauses—they’re growing very fast, an oil-and-gas company that actually will grow through this—and we had hoped that they would actually buy us out, so we could go buy a building, kind of take a note from Jay, and just own my property rather than pay for someone else’s mortgage. That’s still in play. In fact, I just told our lead team, if we get out of our lease now—which may happen since we have a cash-strong subtenant that may want to make their own move—that’d be fine. And we can just stay virtual till everybody goes back to work and then figure out what to buy. We’re kind of in this weird no man’s land, and we’re figuring it out one day at a time.

Jay Goltz:
You have to realize my percentage of occupancy costs are five times what William’s would be. I have a factory. I’ve got showrooms. Rent is a major expense of mine, and it isn’t in his case. For me, it’s a game-changer. For him, it would be nice and worth doing, but it wouldn’t be the thing that, in 20 years he says, “Oh, thank God I bought the building.”

Loren Feldman:
I just love the fact that William’s recruiting service for churches is sharing office space with an oil-and-gas company. If anybody was wondering, yes, you are based in Houston.

William Vanderbloemen:
Oh, Loren, it’s even better than that. It’s an oil-and-gas company. They do a software for midstream, the shipping of the product after it’s out of the ground, and they’re based out of Israel. They’re all strong-practicing Jewish people.

Jay Goltz:
I knew that was coming!

William Vanderbloemen:
It’s just an amazing coexistence that people would think, “That can’t happen.” Well, guys…

Loren Feldman:
You guys need to merge.

William Vanderbloemen:
There you go.

Laura Zander:
Go do recruiting for him.

Loren Feldman:
All right, we’re almost out of time. Real quickly, you all sound like you’re doing pretty well, but I’d like to go around to each of you. Maybe you have a tip, just dealing with the isolation, with the sheltering-at-home aspect of this. William, how about you? How are you coping?

William Vanderbloemen:
So we have seven children, two of whom are out of the house, five here. One’s in college. My wife is now a university professor and a high school instructor and a middle school instructor and an elementary instructor and running a house. She could run the military. She can build a routine that works and scales, and she has built a routine and a schedule for us, and I am amazed at how much routine actually liberates you rather than enslaves you. It’s made sense out of the days. We’ve got good friends that own solid businesses who are streaming Netflix and wondering what to do next and waiting on what’s to happen.

The one thing that I’ve had all the children do every night before bed: make your list of six—I stretch it to seven—accomplishments you want to finish tomorrow for your work. For me, it’s seven items that have to get done. Even if we don’t get a contract in, or nothing good happens, I go to bed at night knowing I followed the routine, and I got seven things done.

Laura Zander:
Let me piggyback on that real quick. What I have done, and what has changed for me and has helped a lot, is a twist on what William is talking about. And that is, all of us working from home are writing up a daily status report, and it’s 20 items of everything that we did. You know, today, I’ll have my punch list of the stuff I want to get done. But then on the opposite page of my journal, I’m keeping notes of everything, every conversation that I have, everything that I do, so that at the end of the day, even if I feel like I got nothing done, I can look back and have a record of everything that I did get done.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, even through Skype, I can hear you climbing the walls. How are you dealing with that manic energy?

Jay Goltz:
I woke up in the middle of the night—not worrying—because my brain’s going. I’ve got some ideas I want to work out. And I can only tell you, my older sister sent me a text the other day, and she goes, “I’m really losing it. I’m depressed. I went out to the grocery store. It’s depressing.” And I texted her back and I said, “Our father at 19 years old went off to go through 20 bombing missions over Germany for three years. And every time he went up, he wasn’t sure he was gonna live through it. We can handle this.” And she goes, “You’re right.” Everybody needs some perspective here. You know, everyone’s going back to their homes. They’re in the house. They’re not in a foxhole, they’re not getting shot at. Really, let’s get some perspective here. This isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s stressful.

The thing you were just talking about, William? I do it at night. That’s exactly what I did. I happened to have seven things last night, and it feels good to go to sleep. I wrote them all down, cleared my brain, until I woke up with my new idea. But yeah, it’s a good thing.

William Vanderbloemen:
I learned it years ago, Jay, from a banker who was in my church, and his bank used to hand out—if you can go as far back in time—the little day planners. You remember?

Jay Goltz:
I use one!

Loren Feldman:
You forgot who you’re talking to, William.

Jay Goltz:
I’ve got a Day-Timer.

William Vanderbloemen:
He said, “I make my list of seven things every day,” and he had like 25 years archived so he could go back and look and see, “What was my list back in…” This was before the cloud or whatever. I was like, “Now that’s impressive. I want to try and mimic that.”

Laura Zander:
Seven instead of three. I just always hear three. Seven sounds like so many.

William Vanderbloemen:
I don’t know, maybe it’s a biblical thing, Laura.

Jay Goltz:
Or an obsessive thing.

Loren Feldman:
If I started listing things I have to do tomorrow, right before I went to bed, I would never fall asleep.

Laura Zander:
Yeah.

Loren Feldman:
We’re gonna have to stop it here. My thanks to Jay Goltz, William Vanderbloemen, and Laura Zander. Be careful out there, everybody.