Mini Episode: The 21 Hats Business Owners Make Coronavirus Contingency Plans

In a quick update, Karen, Jay, and Dana talk about how the coronavirus pandemic has already affected their businesses and how they are planning for the future.

Mini Episode: The 21 Hats Business Owners Make Coronavirus Contingency Plans

Guests:

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

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

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Episode Highlights:

Jay Goltz: “We go to Italy twice a year to buy picture frame molding, and I’m thinking we’re probably going to cancel the trip.”

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
We didn’t really plan to talk about this, but I feel we need to address the elephant in the room. That’s all the news that’s come out in the last couple of days about the spread of the coronavirus. We had an item in today’s 21 Hats Morning Report about how small businesses in China are really fighting for their lives. Could that possibly happen here? Also, Facebook just canceled its annual developer conference, which was scheduled for San Jose in early May. That’s a big deal. They had something like 5,000 people there last year. And on top of that, Americans apparently are now reluctant to order Corona beer in public because of the coronavirus, believe it or not.

I’m curious: how about the three of you? Has this started to affect your businesses? Are you thinking about contingency plans? Karen, how about you?

Karen Clark Cole:
Yes, we are just starting to develop our plan now. Some of our researchers travel around the world interviewing our clients’ customers. We’re not going to the obvious places like Italy and China right now, but we’re developing a broader plan, should that affect us nationally, or in some of the other places that we’re going. Also some of our clients are postponing projects that would take us to other places, even within the U.S., where there are people coming here, similar to what you heard with Facebook.

Loren Feldman:
Have you seen any change in orders for business? Are people pulling back at all…?

Karen Clark Cole 02:58
Just one, and that’s Facebook so far. That was for research happening in Japan. Right now, I don’t expect it to affect us very much because that’s a really small portion of our business overall. We’ve got a lot of variety and diversity in our clients. Most of our work is happening here in the U.S. But who knows, if it keeps going.

Loren Feldman:
Dana, how about you? You have a retail business, a hair salon. You have employees who actually touch your customers. Is this something you’re thinking about?

Dana White:
Absolutely. We are meeting on Monday to go over not only our weekly stuff, but to go over: how do we stay protected at Paralee Boyd from potential exposure to the coronavirus. The state of Michigan already has standards by which we have to perform, so we’re constantly sanitizing anyway. Barbicide alcohol between each guest, the chairs, the bowls, the brushes, all the tools. We’re just going to encourage our staff to wash your hands more, Lysol the front door where that door handle is, because pretty much everything is already pretty disinfected within the salon—especially those things that come in touch and contact with our guests.

Loren Feldman:
Have you had any concerns yet that business might get softer because of this?

Dana White:
I have, and that’s what we’re going to talk about on Monday. We’re coming out of our slow season now, and so I don’t want it to be extended due to this.

Loren Feldman:
It may not be up to you, Dana.

Dana White:
I know, right? We’ll see. I know that within the salon, it’s going to be clean and we’re going to do our best for our staff. We’re going to let them know, “If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, do not come to work. Please stay at home until you’re clear to come back to work,” which we kind of already have in place anyway because there’s so much interaction with so many people.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, how about you?

Jay Goltz:
We go to Italy twice a year to buy picture frame molding, and I’m thinking we’re probably going to cancel the trip for two reasons. One is: I just read that Northern Italy is shutting down religious institutions and all kinds of places. They don’t want any crowds to gather. Two: I’ve got to assume business is going to get a little soft, so I’ve got lots of inventory. I know the first thing you do is watch your cash, so I’m going to work inventory down a little bit, save some cash.

Loren Feldman:
When would you normally have gone to Italy, if you were still going to go?

Jay Goltz:
We would have gone probably in April, and it’s not an emergency. We bring in new stuff for the fall, but I can easily put that off.

Loren Feldman:
When will you make the decision, or have you already made it?

Jay Goltz:
I might have just made it two minutes ago. Coming in, on the radio this morning, I heard how difficult things are getting, so I’m going to call my guy who goes there and compare notes. But it’s just not that necessary, and I don’t know that we need to be both spending the money and going over there. It’s still early in the game.

I just have to remind everybody that that bird flu that was supposed to come here never got here. I’m not downplaying this at all. I’m just going, “This might be a lot of hysteria.” Who knows? It’s probably coming here, no question, but I don’t know that it’s going to take over the country and shut everything down.

Dana White:
Well, it’s already here.

Jay Goltz:
Right, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna shut all of our businesses down.

Karen Clark Cole:
I just heard this morning actually, hot off the press, there are two more of our large clients who are stopping travel for all employees. We have a big conference next week, and Intel has asked to refund all of their people because they’re asking everyone to stop traveling. Then another one in Asia that’s stopping work. Then there are a couple of others who are worried about supply chain issues, so they’re reducing their spending.

Jay Goltz:
Keep in mind the Facebook thing, their international developers are coming here. You’d think that would be the first thing they would cancel because they’re coming from all these countries. Picture framing isn’t that big, believe it or not.

Loren Feldman:
Karen, does it make a difference to you that you’re in Seattle? Obviously, there’s a lot of travel between Asia and Seattle.

Karen Clark Cole:
Yeah, it’s crazy. When you’re in the airport, you can see it, for sure. Because of that, I flew internationally last month and when I came back in, it looked a little scary. I’m not looking at it like that for our business. I’m just looking at our clients who are large international clients. They’re making broad policies that will affect us.

Loren Feldman:
Obviously, this is something that we’ll keep talking about as time passes. Hopefully, there will not be the kind of impact that we are concerned about, but obviously, it makes sense to have contingency plans and to be thinking about what could possibly happen.