It happens every year. I still feel that same tinge of dread and nervous excitement that I experienced as a kid on the first of September. That old program, etched there in my memory, lurches into action. The wistful reflection on summer’s end and an apprehension about what is to come. The impending rigor and responsibilities of the classroom. I enjoyed school but there was always part of me that never wanted to go back.
Here it is again today. A 2020 edition that features some satisfaction, a few more nerves and a stronger dash of foreboding. I feel prepared and hopeful but I know the pandemic is far from over. We all may be tired of the coronavirus but it is not tired of us.
The past summer has been good for our company. Recovery began to take hold in the spring and the turbulence began to subside. The pandemic began to feel less unfamiliar. Still strange, but manageable.
August has been particularly good. We have experienced no new COVID-19 infections in the past four weeks after and have no active cases. Precautionary testing, isolation, and tracing are continuing with great care and vigilance in all offices. Our abundance of new practices and protocols remains in full swing.
B&M’s overall business continues to recover and improve, an ongoing theme since June. Activity, as measured by field hours-worked, was about 8% less than August of 2019 but we have been tracking closely to prior norms for most of the summer. We returned 200 more people to work during the month and have crawled back to within 5% of our pre-pandemic workforce total.
Our yearend forecasts, updated recently using third quarter year-to-date results, demonstrate that the financial health of the company remains secure. We still anticipate falling short of our original budgeted sales and profit by 10-15% but this outlook is dramatically improved from the grim days of April. We are earning profit, collecting money and preserving a healthy cash position. Most significantly, we are booking new work and maintaining our backlog.
The good news is not universal. Some of our divisional operations are still struggling, particularly those serving customers or industries devastated by the pandemic. Some of our people remain without work. Our border is closed and our routines remain disrupted. This crisis has exacted a heavy psychological toll on people everywhere. Our customers are still trying to take stock of the future.
Ours is not a resounding victory. The immediacy and diversity of our business never permits such a claim. But it is remarkable progress. The pandemic crisis has been rough. We clearly suffered but we found a way to not only endure but also to flourish. So please take a moment today to look back and savour this morsel of glad tidings. You earned this. B&Mers made sacrifices. There were many difficult and unpopular choices. We slogged forward with the moral toughness to keep doing the right things over and over. My brothers and I are so grateful for all your hard work and vigilance.
This autumn is not going to look like the summer. The stakes are getting higher again, as schools open, people congregate, and the weather begins to drive us all indoors. I hope by now it is obvious to everyone that we need to keep doing everything to stop the spread. Masks. Distancing. Hygiene. Cleaning. Isolation. All of it. Clearly, we B&Mers are up to the challenge. We proved it this summer. But the fall is here and, like it or not, we just need to keep at it.