Episode 16: Dude, You’re Gonna Get on an Airplane?

Karen, Jay, and Laura talk about dealing with questions they’ve never faced before: Is it safe to fly again? What do you do if you run out of inventory and can’t get more? How do you entice employees back into the office who’ve either been happy working from home or happy collecting enhanced unemployment? Do you offer hazard pay? And if so, how and when will you stop? “We're trying to stay in business, for God's sake,” says Jay Goltz. “We will have been shut down for two and a half months. And there's a point where I'm the only one who's gonna be losing money in this deal. At the end of the day, [my employees] are getting extra money from the government for unemployment. They're getting hazard pay. Everybody at the end of the year is going to have a banner year for income. And I'm going to lose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Episode 16: Dude, You’re Gonna Get on an Airplane?

Guests:

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

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

Karen Clark Cole is co-founder and CEO of Blink.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Episode Highlights:

Laura Zander: “We had a huge bump in business those couple days that the stimulus checks all hit. Huge, record-breaking days.”

Karen Clark Cole: “There are some people, they’ve got a lot of distractions at home, they don’t have a good office setup. It is more difficult for them to work. And other people are just lonely. They’re in an apartment by themselves, and they can’t take it anymore.”

Jay Goltz: “At the end of the day, [my employees] are getting extra money from the government for unemployment. They’re getting hazard pay. Everybody at the end of the year is going to have a banner year for income. And I’m going to lose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
Let’s start with a quick update. Karen, we haven’t spoken with you in a couple of weeks. Is Blink still doing reasonably well?

Karen Clark Cole:
Yeah, things are going well. We’re starting to work on a back-to-work plan, a phased approach over the summer.

Loren Feldman:
Let me clarify. You’ve been working all through this. By back to work, I assume you mean back into the office?

Karen Clark Cole:
Correct. Back-into-the-office plan. Everyone has been very busy, and in fact, we are slightly above 20 percent growth for the year, consistently, even over the COVID times.

Loren Feldman:
Wow.

Laura Zander:
Hey, so I want to interrupt, sorry. Your back-to-the-office plan… how are you gonna do this? I’ve got quite a few people who are really getting comfortable working from home. I’m not so sure that they’re gonna want to come back, and you know, part of me doesn’t blame them. So I’ve been thinking maybe we let them work from home two days a week for a while.

Karen Clark Cole:
Laura, I’m one of those people. I’m quite comfortable sitting here at home with my cat and my birds and my dog.

Laura Zander:
Oh my God, you’re like the old cat lady?

Karen Clark Cole:
Oh, yeah, totally.

Loren Feldman:
Hope you keep the cat away from the birds.

Karen Clark Cole:
The cat’s watching the birds out the window. It’s great. It’s a little show. Anyway, you’re right. Most importantly, though, we’re asking people to continue working at home if they can, throughout the summer, at least—until further notice is what we’re saying. So we’re saying, if you can, the best advice is still to continue working from home as long as you can. That’s the safest for our employees and for their families. Also, we’re trying to allow space in the community and in our offices for those who need to go back. So if you don’t need to go back, we’re asking people, please don’t. And things that that inquiring sort of in the need world are,

There are some people, they’ve got a lot of distractions at home, they don’t have a good office setup. It is more difficult for them to work. And other people are just lonely. They’re in an apartment by themselves, and they can’t take it anymore. Whatever the reason is, we’re letting everyone decide. You may have a space reason, all kinds of different reasons. We’re not going to judge any of that. So if anybody wants or needs to come back to work, we have a few people who, once we open up—like hosts—will actually need to be in the office.

Then we’re doing a poll. Actually, I just sent the notice out today. On Monday, we’re going to call people and find out who actually wants to come back. Then we’ll create an office plan for the number of people who will be in the office, in terms of spacing desks apart. This is all starting in June. Phase Two is slated to be starting early June. And of course, that could change. But right now, we’re saying we’re going to open our offices beginning of June and we’ll create the proper safety structures in the offices for people to come back safely. That’s meetings of no more than five people. We’ll keep the desks apart. We’ll still use all the sanitizing and those kinds of protocols will be in place.

Laura Zander:
And are you picking up any resentment from the people who have to be in the office and who don’t have a choice?

Karen Clark Cole:
There are very few of them. There’s like two people who actually need to be there. So, no.

Laura Zander:
What about you, Jay?

Jay Goltz:
I’ve got a big problem with it. I’ve got half of my businesses shut down completely because it’s the framing business and there’s no accommodation out there for being open, and my home store—I have about a 7,000-foot lot outside—selling plants now. I’ve got a full load of plants so I can be open. The city already came in last night to audit us because someone complained and they admitted it was probably a competitor.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, let’s clarify there. Chicago has not allowed all retail to open. You’re kind of using a little bit of a loophole—

Jay Goltz:
No, no. It’s not a loophole. Black and white, it says if you sell live nursery products, and you’re selling to landscapers, you can be open. So I’m open.

Loren Feldman:
But you’re not only selling the plants. You’re opening your whole home store, which if you didn’t sell plants, you wouldn’t be able to open.

Jay Goltz:
Yes, exactly. But Home Depot is open, and it’s selling all kinds of stuff that’s not allowed. So it’s not a loophole, it’s just…

Loren Feldman:
But that explains [how] you have competitors who probably are not open, and that’s why…

Jay Goltz:
Not probably. None of them are open because they don’t sell plants. They’re trying to poke me in the eye, and it’s like, tough luck. And they said, “You’re doing everything right. Everyone’s wearing a mask. Everyone’s six feet away.” We’re cleaning everything.

Of course, there’s someone who comes in who was just waiting for an opportunity, and my guy says to him, “You need to wear a mask.” So what does this guy do? He’s got to go back home, get on Yelp, and roast us: “I’m a doctor. I’m a surgeon. And this is baloney. No one’s gonna tell me to wear a mask!” He goes [on] a whole tirade about, “This whole thing is overblown, and Northwestern hospital is half empty, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s like, really? Are you really a doctor? And what an embarrassing thing for doctors everywhere. We’re just following the law. Then he went and did it also to Whole Foods. He’s going around because he’s got nothing to do but go after people who are trying to follow the law and stay safe.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, when you started this, you said that you have a big problem. Is that the problem that you were referring to?

Jay Goltz:
No, no, the problem is, people are coming into work in the home store, dealing with customers, not thrilled. And I’ve got people sitting at home getting paid, doing nothing. So, of course, they think “Well, wait a second, I like that program better. I’d like to be home doing nothing and getting paid.”

Laura Zander:
What do you do about it?

Jay Goltz:
What we’re going to do is, we’re going to pay hazard pay to the people who are coming into work. And then of course—and I’m very, very appreciative of the PPP—but the SBA—and I’ve read a lot about this—has refused up till now to give any guidance on this. So when you say, “You can pay hazard pay.” What does that mean? Can I pay 30 percent more? 50 percent more? 10 percent more? You’ve got a bunch of law firms and accountants out there trying to read the tea leaves, all admitting they don’t know, but going, “Well, our impression is, our opinion is, our guidance is…”

Karen Clark Cole:
Isn’t that an optional thing that you can just pay what you want?

Jay Goltz:
No. Yes. Yes and no. I can. But the question is, is the PPP police going to come in and say, “Oh, no, you can’t pay hazard pay at 50 percent.”

Loren Feldman:
Well, you can do it. The question is whether the loan will be forgivable, right?

Jay Goltz:
Right.

Laura Zander:
But they don’t care. They’re not looking at each individual. It’s the sum total, isn’t it?

Jay Goltz:
You don’t know. Who knows?

Karen Clark Cole:
That’s my impression, Laura. That’s my understanding.

Jay Goltz:
But you’re using the same words. It’s your understanding, it’s your impression. Me, too. I agree with all of you, but who knows?

Loren Feldman:
This doesn’t answer the question, but they have said that they will automatically audit any loan in the amount of more than $2 million, and they will spot check loans of less than $2 million.

Jay Goltz:
I’m less than $2 million. There is some good stuff. This is what I’ve been doing for a week. I’ll give you the black and white, and I’ll give you the gray. The black and white is, you can absolutely hire people to replace people who left, no problem. That’s about the only black and white one I have. The gray ones are: can you wait a week or two? I’m gonna guess, probably not. So I already started it. I immediately put everyone on it. The gray ones: how much hazard pay can you pay? No clue, no guidance whatsoever. And can you pay vacation pay? I’m not going to do that anyway, but some people are asking that. Again, no guidance.

I’m gonna pay some hazard pay, and then if the employee is still not happy about it, there’s a point at which, you know what? We’re trying to stay in business so you all have jobs. I’m sorry. I don’t let anyone use the word “fair,” because I don’t believe that word fits in business. Is it the right thing to do? Yeah, we’re gonna give a little more money to people who are working. But if they want to go, “Well, that’s not fair. [The other employees] aren’t working.” Okay, life isn’t fair. I don’t know what to tell you.

Loren Feldman:
Karen, has anything come up for you? Do you have any concerns about meeting the requirements for forgivability with your PPP loan?

Karen Clark Cole:
No, we’re being pretty careful. But again, it’s like Jay said, it’s a little bit hard to understand.

Loren Feldman:
Oh, it’s very murky. There’s no question about that.

Karen Clark Cole:
Yeah, it seems the rules are changing. But, in any event, it will still be the cheapest loan we could ever get. We’re looking at it like that.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, what’s going on with Jimmy Beans Wool?

Laura Zander:
Kind of a hybrid of what Karen’s talking about and what Jay is talking about with the different businesses. We just got notice yesterday that all retail can be open, restaurants can be open starting Friday, I believe…

Jay Goltz:
Wow.

Laura Zander:
…in the state of Nevada.

Loren Feldman:
Friday, meaning a week from today when we’re taping this? Or meaning today?

Laura Zander:
Oh wait, today is Friday. Ah, what’s the date?

Loren Feldman:
It’s easy to forget what day it is. Today is Friday, May 8th.

Jay Goltz:
God, she’s gotta go now.

Laura Zander:
Okay, yeah, tomorrow. I guess tomorrow, I think, is the day.

Jay Goltz:
Tomorrow is Saturday.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, okay. Well, then I meant Saturday. Jesus, it ends in “day.”

Karen Clark Cole:
So technical!

Jay Goltz:
I’m in the Midwest. It’s still Friday here. I don’t know what it is out there.

Laura Zander:
I guess, as of tomorrow. Retail stores are only supposed to have 50 percent capacity and blah, blah, blah. From the Jimmy Beans standpoint, what we’re starting to talk about is, “What does reopening look like for us?” We’re not going to open tomorrow. We don’t really have any plans, for multiple reasons. Our retail store manager is an older guy. He’s in his 60’s…

Jay Goltz:
Ouch!

Laura Zander:
He’s very uncomfortable working with the public. He self-furloughed a long time ago. We don’t really have the staff to man the retail store right now. What we’re talking about doing is, do we do two hours a day or two hours three days a week? Our clientele typically skews on the older side as well.

Loren Feldman:
But it’s not a big issue for you, right Laura? You don’t really need to open your retail store.

Laura Zander:
And that’s the other part of it. Yes, we don’t really need to. We may just start with curbside pickup. It becomes more of a community service, because the knitters are gonna go crazy. They’re going crazy at home. They need their yarn.

Jay Goltz:
Can I tell you about my curbside pickup? They’re ripping up the street in front of my business right now to put in some new cable things. So my curbside pickup now has a 50-foot-long truck out in front. The entire street has now got construction guys ripping up the sidewalk.

Loren Feldman:
It is a good time to be doing street work, Jay.

Jay Goltz:
I said that, really. Better now than in a month.

Karen Clark Cole:
I have a question about that, though. The curbside pickup is a totally different set of logistics, and so are you guys just suddenly learning how to do curbside pickup? How are you dealing with that?

Jay Goltz:
We walk it out, they drive up, and they open their trunk. In our case, we left the product out in the yard—I have a parking lot adjacent to the building—and they put it in their car, and they leave. And I’ve gotta tell you, other than this doctor guy, if he is a doctor, everybody’s extremely appreciative and happy to be out and happy to support us, and it’s really been… it’s one extreme or the other. It’s a love-fest on one side, where they’re thrilled to be able to come in, or they’ve got a problem, but I’ve only had one guy who’s given us any issues.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, you basically opened that store last week during our taping of this podcast. How’s the past week been? Has business come back at all?

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, absolutely. People are coming in, and I will tell you, my friend in Arizona—Hall of Frames, he’s got eight stores—they just opened up for appointments. He said he’s crazy busy. I keep telling everybody—

Loren Feldman:
He’s requiring people to make an appointment before coming in?

Jay Goltz:
Yes. But I keep telling everyone, anyone who thinks they can predict what’s going to happen, they’re guessing. Because it depends what business you’re in. There’s plenty of people who have been sitting at home, not spending money. They’re going crazy. They can’t wait to go out and spend money. And then there’s other people who have used up their money. There’s no one-size-fits-all to this thing. Some people are going to be just great and some people are going to be devastated and there’ll be some people in between.

Laura Zander:
We had a huge bump in business those couple days that the stimulus checks all hit.

Jay Goltz:
Wow.

Laura Zander:
Huge, record-breaking days. Which is almost a little disturbing to me, as a saver. I’m like, “Oh my god, all these people got their stimulus checks and they went out—”

Loren Feldman:
And they’re blowing it on yarn!

Laura Zander:
They’re blowing it on yarn!

Jay Goltz:
Better than drugs. Probably, I guess. [Laughter]

Laura Zander:
We may go the appointment route as well. We’re just kind of trying to figure it out. The Texas side of things, again, we’re a wholesale business, and it’s just dead. Our sales have dropped so much. We’re taking this time right now—that’s why I was a little late on this call—to talk through QC procedures, really cleaning up all the things that have been neglected in this business for the last few years, retraining everybody. We’re bringing in somebody who was a master dyer years ago, and she’s gonna start retraining. I just bought a ticket to head down to Texas next week.

Karen Clark Cole:
Dude, you’re gonna get on an airplane?

Laura Zander:
I am.

Loren Feldman:
Wow.

Jay Goltz:
You are such a brave soldier. Wow, fearless.

Laura Zander:
No, it is what it is.

Loren Feldman:
I did just see a report—actually, we had it in the 21 Hats Morning Report—that for some people, they’re saying it’s actually a relatively nice time to fly. You kind of get the plane to yourself. There are no lines anywhere. There are some advantages to it.

Laura Zander:
You probably don’t have to smell anybody’s bad breath because they’ve all got masks on.

Loren Feldman:
The food choices at the airports are somewhat lacking at the moment, I think.

Karen Clark Cole:
Keep in mind, in Washington State anyway, we’re still under shelter-at-home orders, so we’re not allowed to unless it’s really necessary.

Jay Goltz:
Well, if you get on the plane, and there’s other people near you, all you have to do is give out one little [cough], and that’ll be it. You can clear the whole half of the plane for yourself.

Laura Zander:
I also just had a conversation yesterday with the owner of a trade show that I had gone to in January in New York. I had had dinner with him, and we had gone to a Broadway show, and we hugged. We hugged, we sat at the same table together right across from each other, blah, blah, blah. And he confirmed yesterday that he has not gotten the antibody test, but he’s like, “After we had dinner, a couple days later, I had 103 temperature.” He had every one of the symptoms. He’s like, “I am 99 positive.” And I think I’ve told you guys that my people got sick. really sick. Thousands of people from the show got sick.

Loren Feldman:
That’s how it spreads.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, I’m pretty confident that I’ve already been exposed.

Karen Clark Cole:
They haven’t proven yet that if you have had it, you won’t get it again.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, but I mean, I don’t know. I, maybe naively, feel like all of my travels through Asia and India for the last four years, and then going multiple times a year—and I have gotten wicked sick, like wicked sick, over the last few years—there’s part of me that kind of hopefully, naively thinks that perhaps I’ve built up a bit of an immunity.

Jay Goltz:
I think that’s quite possible.

Laura Zander:
And I’m not a hand washer.

Jay Goltz:
Well, that’s good to know. Next time I see you, I’ll keep that in mind. [Laughter]

Loren Feldman:
Laura, last week you expressed concern about the supply of yarn. You were a little nervous that you would run out of product, I think you said maybe in six weeks. Anything changed with that?

Laura Zander:
Um, no, we just might run out a little faster. So one of our mills opened this week, and they’re at 25 percent capacity. So I …

Loren Feldman:
When you say one of your “mills,” that’s one of the mills that’s a supplier? I think that you said they were overseas. Maybe Peru, Brazil?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, there’s a mill that we buy from in South Africa, and then there’s one that we buy from in Peru. So the South African one opened at 25 percent capacity this week, and the Peruvian one has not quite opened yet. We’ve put our orders in, and I actually prepaid. I sent them a note last week and said, “Can I pre-pay you a big, huge chunk?” Because we haven’t bought inventory in a while. We’ve had a little bit of sales, so I’ve been able to take that and hope that maybe we’ll get to the front of the queue.

Jay Goltz:
I’ve gotta tell you, I’d be careful with that, because I prepaid a supplier in Italy for some frame molding and he went bust and I never got paid. I lost like 100 grand.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, well…

Jay Goltz:
I’m just saying, I’m not arguing with you. You gave him 10, 20 grand, but I would just be careful because some people will just go broke and take the money.

Laura Zander:
Fair point. I mean, this business has been around for like 200 years, and it’s family-owned. And we’ve been—

Loren Feldman:
Also, there are only a couple of suppliers in the whole world, right?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, fair point.

Jay Goltz:
Calculated risk. I’m not saying you were wrong. I’m just saying, calculated risk.

Laura Zander:
Can you just say that I was right? Can we just get that on tape?

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, I did. I said you’re right. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying, I’d limit it. That’s all. Just in case, because you never know.

Loren Feldman:
Any other contingency plans? Are there other ways to get yarn?

Laura Zander:
We still have some older inventory on-site that’s not current inventory, so not current types of yarn. We can do something with that. We have what we call “replacement yarns.” We have a hodgepodge of inventory that is just kind of random shit. Jay, you’ve probably got some random stuff at your place.

Jay Goltz:
I have hundreds of thousands of dollars of that that I’m working on getting rid of because I should have gotten rid of it before now. But for sure now, I’m going to get rid of it. Let me ask you a question. There are going to be some knitting shops [closing], I assume?

Laura Zander:
I’m sure there are.

Jay Goltz:
Have you considered sending out an email to everyone, saying, “Listen, if you’re thinking of closing and you need to get rid of inventory, please call me. I’m in a position to buy inventory.” And then you’d be throwing them a life preserver, because it’s not like they can go sell it out at cost.

Laura Zander:
Mmmmm. Yeah, we maybe could.

Karen Clark Cole:
I think it’s funny that what’s gonna happen is, a year from now, we’ll see everyone walking around with hodgepodge sweaters that they had to knit based on the available yarn.

Laura Zander:
It’s not that desperate quite yet. But yeah, that’s an interesting thought.

Jay Goltz:
Could you just say, “Yeah, that’s a great idea, Jay.” Can I play that back to you since you seem a little testy about being right?

Laura Zander:
Mmmm.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, let me ask you. When we first started taping these episodes, you were kind of bemoaning the fact that you had excess inventory. It sounds like now, it turns out that might actually be a good thing.

Jay Goltz:
Let me tell you what’s interesting, and I won’t mention names. There’s some suppliers in this industry, and I’m talking about big suppliers, that the word on the street is they might be going down because one of them in particular is owned by a big company, and they might be done with them. And if that happens, it is going to create a huge hole in the marketplace, and then connect these dots. I buy from Italy and Spain. They’ve been shut down now. I might end up being the only guy in the United States with a lot of inventory. So I went from, “Oh, my God, I’ve got too much inventory, and I’ve sent too many corner samples out for free to these frame shops,” to, “Oh my God, I’ve got a lot of inventory. What a great thing.” So it’s a possibility that in a month or two, this thing could be an opportunity for me. I don’t mind having a warehouse full of inventory right now.

Laura Zander:
Same page, same page. Depending on the two different businesses that we have, but, the Jimmy Beans side of it, we had way too much inventory six weeks ago. And now it’s just going down and down and down to a really healthy spot.

On the wholesale side, on our manufacturing side, we didn’t have enough inventory to begin with, because we bought the business with zero inventory. That’s where we’re really suffering. But it’s the same thing—our inventory is healthier than it’s ever been as a result of this and of so many of our suppliers being closed and we couldn’t get stuff.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, I keep thinking, I’m intrigued by the thought of you getting on a plane. I’m wondering, have you started to do any other things that you hadn’t been doing? Have you been out and about in a way that you hadn’t been?

Laura Zander:
No, not a ton, and I don’t really want to go down there [to Texas]. I mean, I do, because I love the people down there, but I’m going down there because I really kind of have to. It’s falling apart a little bit.

Jay Goltz:
I don’t think you’re taking any huge risk getting on an airplane at all. I do think there’s an element of this—and I get it, I’m not downplaying it at all. It’s extremely serious and tons of people are dying and it’s horrible, but I do think that something like getting on a plane where there’s not a lot of people, wearing a mask, I’m no doctor, but I can’t imagine that’s a major risky thing at this point.

I’m going to stores as little as I have to, but I will tell you, my head’s changed. A month ago, six weeks ago, when I went in a store and someone’s wearing a mask, I’m thinking, “You idiot.” And now I go in there, and they’re not wearing a mask, I’m going, “You idiot.” I don’t think anybody should be going into stores without masks on at this point. And like I said, with the customer thing, they’re getting it. We’re trying to be respectful to the situation.

I will tell you though, this is not black and white. I’m absolutely not subscribing to the, “Oh, everyone should open up, and if people die, they die.” But we can’t wait until this thing’s completely gone either. I mean, trying to find a reasonable middle to that… I don’t have an easy answer. I don’t think there is one. We can’t wait until there’s a vaccine made. We’ll be all out of business.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, what I was gonna ask you guys about and ask for your advice on, was you had talked about hazard pay. We’re doing the same thing with the people who are coming into the warehouse here in Reno and paying them a percentage. I’m really considering, I’m really worried that once everything opens back up, at what point do you stop giving them hazard pay? And then, what about all those people who came to work even though they didn’t have to? They probably could have quit, filed for unemployment—

Jay Goltz:
No, they wouldn’t have gotten unemployment if they quit.

Karen Clark Cole:
Why did you decide to give hazard pay?

Laura Zander:
Because they were scared. A fair number of them were scared in the beginning.

Karen Clark Cole:
And if they get paid more, they’re less scared?

Laura Zander:
Yeah.

Jay Goltz:
No, they’re getting compensated for taking risk, and we need to use up the PPP money. That’s a legitimate way. For me, it is.

Laura Zander:
For me, it was more an acknowledgment of, “I acknowledge that you could stay home, or that you could call in sick, or that you could use your PTO, but we need you right now. I appreciate the fact that you’re coming to work and getting in your car and that there is a risk.” Especially in the beginning, when everything was just so terrifying. The media made it so terrifying.

But what I’m a little bit worried about is, at what point do you stop this hazard pay, and then where does motivation go? All of a sudden, they’ve been getting paid an extra amount, and then things go back to normal, and I’m wondering if I keep it for some of them—the ones who have been really reliable and really dependable and have shown up every day.

Jay Goltz:
I can tell you, I’m not grappling with that at all. I’m gonna pay the hazard pay for eight weeks until the PPP thing is done. And then if people aren’t happy about it… Whenever I do business speeches, people say, “Jay, how do you motivate people?” I believe the secret—in my world, I’ll just say for me—it’s not about motivating people, it’s about not demotivating them. I have people who come to work—my average person has been here 10 years. No problem. If they need to be motivated by getting paid an extra 30 percent, and they know the company can’t afford it? Sorry, that’s the way it is.

And if they’re not happy with that, they should go work somewhere else then, because there’s a certain point where enough’s enough already. We’re trying to stay in business, for God’s sake. We will have been shut down for two and a half months. And there’s a point where I’m the only one who’s gonna be losing money in this deal. At the end of the day, they’re getting extra money from the government for unemployment, they’re getting hazard pay. Everybody at the end of the year is going to have a banner year for income. And I’m going to lose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There’s a point where I have no guilt. I’ve treated everyone well, I’ve compensated them, I’ve done the best I can. But if, after two months of getting extra pay, they come and say, “Gee, I really would like…” You know, that’s unfortunate you feel that way, but you know what? I don’t know what to tell you. There’s a point where enough is enough already.

Laura Zander:
No, that’s a great point. Remember, I’m coming from the last two or three years losing hundreds of thousands and not being able to give raises and not being able to give bonuses.

Jay Goltz:
Okay.

Laura Zander:
And so for two or three years, I asked them all to give me everything that they have and not get paid for it.

Jay Goltz:
Okay, so that’s different.

Laura Zander:
They’re getting paid under-market right now.

Jay Goltz:
Wait, so then the answer is you go from hazard pay to just giving them raises of whatever, 10 percent, and like, that’s reasonable. That’s fair. That’s the right thing to do.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, I mean, I’m just so impressed that, after years and years of us all pushing so hard and pushing so hard and losing money and forgoing raises and not having Christmas parties and not doing this, not doing that, and not having any money in the bank, and being frickin’ terrified constantly, that they’re all still showing up every day.

Jay Goltz:
Here’s the problem I’m having. I’ve got one person in particular. This is the exact situation I’m in. What do you do when you explain to them, “Look, we have to do business. We need to stay in business. We’re going to give you extra money, happy to do it.” And then there’s one person who goes, “Hey, I don’t want to come back to work yet.” I don’t have an easy solution. Tell them everyone else came back? I’ve gotta tell you, I need you back here. I won’t even do it this month. I’ll wait until June 1st when the whole state’s opened up. On June 1st, if you don’t want to come back to work, then I’m gonna have to replace your job. I mean, I don’t know what choice I have. At some point…

Laura Zander:
Yeah, we’re in the same spot. We have a couple people like that, and I don’t know what we’re gonna do.

Loren Feldman:
Karen, I’d like to ask you about what Jay was saying before about trying to find the happy medium, opening back up at the right speed. Not too fast, not too slow. Are you at all concerned that people are jumping the gun around the country?

Karen Clark Cole:
Yeah, the governors in California, Washington, Oregon, and maybe a few more are all working together with a reentry plan. I’m super impressed with not only our governor, but California and a bunch of other states. They’re really taking charge and taking it seriously and making sure that everybody’s safety and well-being is paramount over the economy. Obviously, they’re closely related, and it’s very difficult to make a call to affect someone’s livelihood by not allowing them to open their business versus looking at overall public health, but I think a lot of what they’re encouraging, there’s a lot of curbside pickup going on. There’s a lot of deliveries. And it’s really fun for me to watch how businesses in the Seattle area are pivoting and being creative.

Even for us, we have really state-of-the-art research labs in our Seattle and San Diego offices. How are we going to run research studies in there? Because that’s one of our researchers who’s acting as the interviewer, essentially, in close quarters with the participant, who’s somebody off the street. So now we’re doing everything remote, and there are some studies that we just can’t do because it requires physical VR equipment in some cases. We’re busy trying to figure out, “Okay, so what would allow us to do that?”

We’re looking at ozone treatments to sanitize the hardware. You put it in a little case, you shut the door, it gets sanitized, and then the new participant can take it out and put it on. And then our moderator is in another room using a robot to communicate with a participant. We’re doing all kinds of crazy things like that to try to pivot and be creative so that we can get back to serving our clients. They’re trying to run their businesses, and they need to study to get their business going.

Jay Goltz:
I’m going to tell you what I find extremely disturbing when you watch TV. You see some of these states where these people are going down to city hall or wherever with guns and signs without masks on, with the constitutional thing. I get it that, sometimes, you’ve got to open the business, but to suggest this isn’t a real problem and they should all go down there congregating without masks on? It’s really just unfortunate. And there’s no question people are going to die from this unnecessarily. With that being said, they’re gonna have to open up the businesses at some point. But they can be more respectful to each other is my point.

Loren Feldman:
Let me ask you this, Jay. The government can say, it’s okay to open up, but consumers actually have to come back. Whether you can just flip a switch and turn the economy back on is an open question. Is there something that you guys, as business owners, should be thinking about in case this reopening doesn’t go well and you have to go through the process again?

Jay Goltz:
Your fear mongering isn’t working again. And no, I can’t predict three months from now.

Loren Feldman:
I’m not asking you to predict. I’m asking you if you’re prepared—

Jay Goltz:
No, I don’t have an answer. No, there’s nothing to prepare. All I can do is try to get rid of some inventory, try to keep some cash around, and here’s where it gets interesting. There is going to come a moment in time where you do have to say, at some point, these are grown people. If a business owner chooses that they want to open their business, and another human being who lives in the United States wants to come in and do business with them, where’s the line where we say, “Okay, it’s their call,” versus a person in the statehouse who’s never run a business in their life and is getting a check every Friday.

Loren Feldman:
That’s a great question, but it would be different if it only affected the two people who are doing business with each other.

Jay Goltz:
I got it. But what about if you’re gonna lose your livelihood and everything you’ve worked for your entire life? I’m saying it’s not black and white. I’m saying there is a point where there’s risk out there. And like I said, there will never come a day where everyone’s gonna go, “Okay, completely done.” Like World War II, done, done. It was over. There’s not going to come a day where anybody’s gonna be able to say, “This thing is completely done. Open for business, no one’s gonna die.”

Loren Feldman:
We shut down so that we could put ourselves in a position to use that time wisely and ramp up testing, our ability to trace, and we’re not doing those things.

Jay Goltz:
No, no. I’m not arguing with that. I don’t think it’s time yet. I think we’ve got to get the testing thing done, but no, there’s no question. But like I said, there could come a point where we could say, “Okay, all that stuff’s done.” I mean, I can’t stay closed for a year.

Laura Zander:
Well, it seems to me, after what I’ve been hearing, that we can’t decide as a community if we’re China or if we’re Sweden. Do we want to be completely locked down and squash it out? Or do we want to just open it up and let natural selection take its course?

Loren Feldman:
That’s a good way to put it, Laura.

Jay Goltz:
I want to know, do you think I’m gonna survive natural selection? Give me your best guess.

Laura Zander:
No. Are you kidding?

Jay Goltz:
‘Cause I’m elderly?

Laura Zander:
No, cause you’re assholey.

Jay Goltz:
No, those are the people who survive. Haven’t you figured that out yet? You’re so young and naive. You think the nice people survive?!

Laura Zander:
You’re too stubborn. Of course you’re gonna survive.

Loren Feldman:
On that note, we are out of time. My thanks to Karen Clark Cole, Jay Goltz, and Laura Zander. Really appreciate it guys. Thank you for taking the time and for sharing what you’re going through with this. Be careful out there.