When the governor issued the directive, our first instinct was to chew through it to assess the repercussions.
Our propane business was exempt, but we closed the offices to walk-in traffic and diverted bottle fill to our retail store.
Our recycling business was exempt, but the market was all over the place, so we reduced our hours to the public and started an in-depth cleaning process that was a few years overdue. To give you an impression of the volatility, we saw markets collapse and close and others trade up and down 400%. It seemed time to clean up, buy low, and hunker down.
Our retail store had several exemptions. We deliver animal feed throughout western Montana, and the critters still need to eat. We sell gear and equipment to fire departments throughout the country, and they are critical. We supply and repair heating equipment, and that is also essential. We provide a lot of alternate energy products for off-grid and grid-tied use, and that is essential.
It’s awesome that people can still meander by and pick up a hot tub or some other little nonessential thing when they stop for some critical chicken feed.
- To increase comfort, we first told all our staff that they didn’t need to come in if they didn’t want to. They could take a break and collect unemployment, and we’d still maintain health insurance. We had less than a 5% takeup on that offer.
- We created drive-up lanes for feed and other purchases and encouraged people to call in orders.
- We used a 54-gallon barrel of USP isopropanol to mix up 74 gallons on sanitizer using the WHO official recipe. We bottled it in 32oz high-quality USA spray bottles (that we sell), and we supplied employees and counters with ample sanitizer for work and home. Our installers started leaving a complimentary bottle with each install, and we gave some to customers in need. We even stocked a Corona bucket of free samples.
- I built some themed coronavirus shields for the counters. Polaskis support the fire equipment counter shield, and rakes support the feed counter shields. My recycling employees even did some creative floor painting to indicate proper social distancing. Recycling people are a bit less politically correct than most, as you’ll notice.
- Ok, we have had a lot of fun – we visited our local B2B customers and handed out bottles of Corona topped by a roll of toilet paper around the neck. We advertised our “no s*** sale,” where we gave away a roll of toilet paper with every scrap car. We found if we respect the issue but inject a sense of humor wherever possible, it helps people get through the mess.
- I handed out Tyvek suits, but nobody wanted them except to save for Halloween or painting.