This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass

ASCA Executive Director Kevin Gilbride assesses how the industry is reacting to the pandemic, as well as how snow professionals respond to challenges.

March 20, 2020

I’ll admit, the last week to 10 days has been surreal.

At this time of year I’m typically talking to contractors throughout the industry about whether it snowed enough in their markets to earn a respectable profit, if they had access to enough rock salt, or what the upcoming legislative plans for their state would entail.

Instead, I spent this week talking with ASCA members across the country to get an idea of how their day-to-day businesses were being impacted by an obstacle you can only see with an electron microscope.

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As of yesterday afternoon, I’ve heard business, for the most part, is what we anticipated it’d be for Winter 2019-20. In a nutshell, lack of snow and ice events produced poor business conditions for most snow companies, and those companies with the proper balance of seasonal to per-event contracts ended up in black ink. However, much of the conversation focused on how to manage labor around government mandated closures and quarantines.

A few commonalities appeared from my conversations that I’d like to share:

  • Nearly everyone has made it optional for office personnel to work from home.  Some have required it while others have simply offered. And I’ve heard everything from a lot of employees working at home to no one opting to do so.
  • It’s easy for those individuals outfitted with laptops to work from home – myself included.  Some even allowed employees take home their whole workstations – computers, monitor, printer, etc.
  • Nearly everyone has the doors to their buildings locked and allow only essential personnel in the building, this includes their field personnel.  Many are doing this for obvious reasons, but also to ensure they don’t get their field personnel sick. 
  • In-office meetings are generally being held in open areas with everyone keeping their distance from one another. In fact, I saw an image shared on social media of crew leaders having a meeting around a truck trailer bed, spaced six feet from one another. 
  • They are increasing communication on how they are handling the current situation and what the plan is to keep everything around the office safe and sanitized.
  • Everyone has an aggressive cleaning policy in place for public areas. 
  • It seems like most companies have a recommendation on communication from those working at home. Some even suggest video communication (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc) throughout the day if only to maintain the human contact we’re so used to under normal conditions.

One the business side, everyone is planning.  Planning for the different scenarios that may play out.  Many have or are working on two or three financial scenarios depending what may happen over the next few days and weeks.  

The fact is they are looking ahead so they are able to move quickly if a number of different circumstances occur.  Mostly, they are communicating with their employees and they are letting everyone know what they expect today and what they are doing to plan for the future.

The fact is the coronavirus pandemic is another business challenge we must learn how to manage and overcome. We’ve experienced our fair share of bad winters, material shortages, economic uncertainty and traumatic events (remember when it felt like we’d never bounce back from 9/11?). The one commonality is we persevered and came through the other side, often stronger and wiser. An ancient proverb states “This too shall pass,” and I believe it’s important to keep in mind for the days ahead because we want to be there ready to roll when this crisis passes.