Since April, I have been focusing this column on providing information about the pandemic and recommendations on safety procedures. In last month’s column, my overall message was that we need to stay vigilant and responsive.
We show vigilance by remaining abreast of the latest developments in the trends of the pandemic as well as shifts in recommendations for protecting ourselves and our customers from virus transmission. We show responsiveness by how we react to changes in customer requests and needs, market trends, disruptions in supply chains, and adapting to new revenue opportunities.
It is quite apparent that vigilance and responsiveness will be the modus operandi for the foreseeable future. Yet we find ourselves doing this despite facing occasional urgent and acute stressors as well as trudging along with the day-to-day “background noise” of general anxiety.
In this month’s column, I thought it would be nice to take a break from doom-and-gloom and focus on some of the positives that are showing up.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE MEDICAL FRONT
Survival Rates Increasing
COVID-19 survival rates are increasing in part because of improved treatment regimens. According to the Los Angeles Times*, “when COVID-19 patients first began showing up in hospitals in the spring, doctors didn’t know which medicines or treatments would be effective.” Now, after months of trying different treatments and medications, as well as an extraordinary collaboration among doctors worldwide, some effective protocols have been developed.
As a result, treatment effectiveness is increasing, and treatment length is decreasing. It goes without saying you still don’t want to catch it!
Vaccines Being Tested
As of the writing of this column, there are several pharmaceutical companies that claim to be in advanced trials of a potential Coronavirus vaccine. This is great news considering, in the early days of the virus appearance, experts were saying it would take much longer to develop a vaccine. It will still be months before these vaccines are proven, released, and massively available, but there is reason for hope.
For many of us, our business and personal agility has been tested over the last few months. We have become experts in new areas; we have found new ways to make money and pay the bills; and we have learned how to fill out forms and applications for government assistance.
As a personal example, I quickly shifted into “chemical distributor mode,” as one of the chemical companies I work with shifted production to hand sanitizers and surface disinfectant. Since I belong to business networking groups and have relationships with many local businesses, it was a simple task to e-mail or call the proprietors of those businesses and inform them that I am able to assist them in their disinfections supplies. Many were happy to hear that a local trusted friend could help, after they had spent hours and days trying to source such chemicals.
Our current situation will likely force us to remain nimble in order to survive in the near future, as we don’t know how long we will be in this state, nor do we know what other surprises might come along.
Before continuing, I am sensitive to the fact that there are operators whose cash flow is month-to-month or even week-to-week. Shutdown has not been fun. Some of the things I speak of in this section may not apply to those of you who are really struggling. I am simply trying to remind us or bring to awareness some of the things that are actually somewhat nice during the pandemic.
For those who are blessed with a savings cushion or multiple streams of income, this has been an opportunity to take advantage of extra time. Catching up on paperwork, cleaning up the shop, and working on marketing materials. Not to mention that “list” of things you’ve always wanted to accomplish, but put aside due to lack of time. For me, it was cleaning out the unneeded supplies and selling off some equipment that I don’t really need. This also has led to some extra cash, which is nice.
Last year my business travel was two or more times per month. Honestly, I’m enjoying the less-hectic pace of the last few months. Much of my travel revolves around conventions and tradeshows. I certainly miss seeing friends and colleagues in the industry, but we stay in touch through online meetings and talking on the phone.
With less travel time, I’ve actually had time to take care of some projects around the house that have been waiting for my attention for months or years. Many of us are returning to old hobbies or discovering new ones. For me, it was the vegetable garden, and my family and neighbors are enjoying the bountiful harvest.
Sometimes it is nice just to enjoy the stillness. Sitting in the backyard for two hours on a Sunday morning reading the newspaper happens almost every week now, while last year it was maybe once a month. Everything seems to be quieter. Airport plane traffic is greatly reduced, which is nice when you live close to the flight path. Travelling Southern California freeways has been a joy with virtually no traffic slowing. Recently, I drove 125 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego and was able to use cruise control almost the entire time — unheard of until recently.
I also enjoy sitting in the front yard enjoying an evening adult beverage and waving at all the people, families, and pets walking by. It really is pleasant to enjoy this simple activity that used to be the norm in the middle of last century.
The phone is still ringing, fortunately. Customers still want their cars cleaned up. Paint and interior damage on lease returns still needs to be fixed to avoid dealership retail repair charges. People are still trying to move used cars and understand that the sale will go smoother if the car looks good.
Fortunately, the customers don’t seem to be as demanding as normal. Everyone seems to understand that this is a weird time and everything seems to take a little longer to do. I used to promise most services in a day. Now, I just say “yeah, I’ll need the car for a couple of days,” so as to reduce the stress of promised delivery times. No one has complained.
Even though overall revenue is down, expenditures are down as well — in some cases extensively. Business travel can be very expensive; I don’t miss that part of it. Also, my wife and I have not been going out to eat or spending time at the local watering hole. Our grocery bill has certainly gone up, but not even close to the amount that we typically spend on dining out.
I find that, because I’m not working as many hours as last year, I have more time to cherish friendships. I make many more voice calls than I used to. And it is so nice to have a real conversation with a friend or colleague instead of the staccato snippets that characterize texting and other formats.
CONVENTION PARADIGM SHIFT
All of the conventions and tradeshows in which professional detailers might participate have been cancelled. This is not good for our cherished face-to-face interaction. However, the industry is adjusting, and some new concepts in “virtual tradeshows” and “product showcases” are popping up. For example, SEMA week will likely be filled with virtual events put on by various companies and organizations. Stay close to social media postings about these events. Also look for Mobile Tech Expo and the International Detailing Association to host events in the future.
OVERALL POSITIVE TRENDS
Take a break from doom-and-gloom and focus on the positives.Reports widely circulated in the media indicate that there are many other “silver linings” to our current state-of-affairs. As a result of dramatically less traffic, air pollution levels are markedly lower around the world. Large companies are finding that working from home is a viable option, which could lead to permanent shifts for the workforces of the future. For some, this could lead to greatly reduced commute times, allowing more family and personal time.
Home vegetable gardening is on the rise, as people realize they don’t have to be reliant on food supply chains for these products. Even with limited outdoor space, many vegetables will do great in pots on porches or patios. Moreover, it’s fun to grow your own food and it tastes much better than store-bought.
There are numerous examples of people helping people within communities, neighbors helping neighbors, and philanthropy has increased. We are also benefiting from celebrities and artists posting personal and candid performances, messages, and content. People are finding — or re-discovering — the simple pleasures in life.
We are not out of the pandemic woods yet. We are likely to see many more months of the same challenges. Yet, if we are vigilant and responsive, as well as open to new possibilities, we may just find some positives in all of this. Cherish these.
* Source: Karlamangla, Soumya, (August 9, 2020). “COVID treatment is getting smarter.” Los Angeles Times. Volume CXXXIX, No. 250.
Prentice St. Clair is an International Detailing Association Recognized Trainer and Certified Detailer. As the president of Detail in Progress Inc., he has been providing training and consulting to car washes and detail shops since 1999. He is available at (619) 701-1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org