When people ask me how the company is doing, I have been using the following analogy of late: “we made a controlled descent to a lower altitude but our aircraft and our flight plan remain intact.”
Frankly, it did not feel that “controlled” to me five weeks ago but after a period of immense change, we seem to be reasonably settled into our new routines. It is amazing how quickly the new patterns of life have become familiar.
We have unquestionably descended and many B&Mers are still paying a heavy price. The painful reality of this ongoing crisis is that 1353 of our hourly and salary staff remain on temporary lay-off. That is just over 25% of the total number of people that B&M employed on March 1.
We have been at this level for a month now and further descent seems highly unlikely. The demand for our services has stabilized and I feel much greater hope in the past week that we can revive certain portions of the business that are temporarily dormant and start bringing people back to work.
We are intact in many ways. Most importantly, our focus on health and safety remains resolute. There have been no new COVID-19 infections in our employee group in nearly a month and the broader pandemic seems to be slowly abating in most of our communities. We are not unscathed however. Tragedy has struck the loved ones of some of our colleagues so we must not become complacent or calloused about the threat of the virus.
We continue to have thousands of people at work every day. Some of whom are literally at or near the front line of the pandemic, courageously performing their duties in healthcare and long-term care facilities. Early on, we fortified our finances to ensure we could support the ongoing business. As a total company, we found ways to keep moving forward.
Our plan is to return to our chosen altitude but I can see now that it will clearly take some time. There is persisting uncertainty and a multitude of things that remain beyond our company’s control. The virus continues to be formidable and unpredictable danger to our collective wellbeing and the enormity of the economic consequences of the pandemic are coming into sharper focus.
In spite of the caution about the schedule and pace of our ascent, I know we will get back up there again and we are mapping out strategies to not only revive the business but also to thrive in a post-peak environment that seems destined to be markedly different for the foreseeable future.
With all the talk of the “new normal”, I am reminded of just how abnormal our lives have become. A quick scroll through the old photos on my phone remind me how different my work and home life currently is and the degree to which my daily world has shrunk in both experience and social contact.
I miss my people. I miss visiting offices, jobsites, and all-staffs. I even miss meetings. This weekend, our Ottawa office was slated to host the 25th edition of the B&M hockey tournament. It is one of the many small events that stitch the B&M nation together and I will sorely miss participating. I love the hockey and the beer but I will miss the hang more than anything.
Fortunately we are all finding new ways to interact and connect. We talk a little louder because we’re standing farther apart. We are using video more effectively. Most significantly, we all seem to be communicating more frequently, more informally and more openly in spite of our physical separation. That alone may be our greatest achievement during this crisis.
So thank you for finding a way to keep in contact, for working together, and for staying at least a “hockey stick” apart.
My brothers and I truly appreciate your efforts, your loyalty and your support of us personally. We will see you all soon on the other side of this madness.