Qualpath’s Kevin DeYoung discusses how his dealership prepared for the pandemic and the challenges of doing business during a crisis in the first of a two-part interview.
Kevin DeYoung and his team at Qualpath in Pompano Beach, Florida, were primed for the pandemic. Based in a region of the country that experiences many weather events such as hurricanes, the dealership was accustomed to dealing with power outages and servers going down.
Last year, DeYoung and his team created a virtual template for the company so the dealership could continue to operate during a crisis. When the pandemic started, Qualpath was operating remotely about a month before everyone else. It helped that its software, ERP, and just about everything else associated with business operations are in the cloud.
“I took everything into the cloud last year and that was like, okay, if we go down, what’s the strategy to work virtually?” said DeYoung. “So, everybody was all set up. The concern to me was the environment—meaning the business environment. We were ready. We didn’t go through the difficulty that many other organizations went through. However, the issue was, what is everybody else going to do and how does that impact our business? That was a big concern.”
And then it happened.
“Three and a half weeks ago, we were humming along, working virtually, good communication with our clients, and then it was almost like the next day people realized that they’ve got to go now,” recalled DeYoung. “The State of Florida started to invoke social distancing in a more severe way, and because of that we began to lose contact with our customers. It was like a light switch went off.”
Once customers settled in and employees became accustomed to working from home, Qualpath started seeing customers and prospective customers engage again as they became more comfortable working from home. Of course, nowhere near pre-pandemic levels.
Give Me a Break
Like most dealers across the country, DeYoung has seen print volumes plummet as customers’ employees are working remotely if they are working at all. That means fewer if any service calls. On top of that, some of Qualpath’s customers were calling asking for a break on their bills.
“You have customers calling you up and saying, ‘Can you defer my invoices for a week or a month, or two or three?’” reveals DeYoung. “We had a hotel call us up and say, ‘We’re laying off our people, can we defer payments for a couple of months?’”
Qualpath’s response to that question is another question, “Have you applied for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP)?” Often the response has been no.
“Our position is, look, we can help you, apply for the PPP, don’t lay people off,” noted DeYoung. “Part of the PPP is paying infrastructure bills, so, it’s less about us getting our money off of a hotel for one or two months and now it’s more about pushing business owners and executive management in the small business space to apply for government funding so that they don’t push people out on the street and make them unemployed.”
DeYoung estimates that about 30% of small businesses have not applied for the PPP.
“They have not done it because of the difficulty of the paperwork or how they do business,” he opined. “That’s just going to lead to higher levels of unemployment. And higher levels of unemployment lead to, guess what, higher levels of unemployment.”
He feels that small businesses need to do more than just ask their vendor partners for a break on their invoices.
“A small business has to apply for these loans,” emphasized DeYoung. “They have an obligation to try to hold on to their employees while they’re waiting out these loans just as we are. I haven’t had to let anybody go. We’re waiting on the PPP, and hopefully, we’ll get it on this next round.”
Safely Taking Care of Business
Even though many of its customers’ employees are working from home, Qualpath still has customers that are essential businesses and are open as usual and still require service. Any service issue that can be handled remotely is done that way, usually with the customer’s assistance. If a technician must make an onsite service call, they practice social distancing and are equipped like most of us today when we go out into the world, with a mask, gloves, and antibacterial wipes.
“When we go into these environments, we also ask, if anybody is experiencing flu-like symptoms,” said DeYoung. “We do the best that we can.”
He also tells his field engineers that if they have any reservations whatsoever about visiting a customer site, they will not be dispatched. Qualpath has a few prison systems as clients, and as we’ve all been reading, some of those are a hotbed for COVID-19 cases.
“If anybody is squeamish about it, we tell the customer, we don’t believe we can dispatch somebody but there are a lot of remote tools,” said DeYoung.
Qualpath has also been installing devices, including A3 MFPs into customers employees’ homes. The A3 machines are primarily for people who work in paper-intensive industries. In those instances, Qualpath will remotely load print drivers and any other necessary networking tools onto the employee’s home computer so when the technician arrives with the equipment, it’s as much plug and play as possible. The rule of the day is to go in and get out as quickly as possible.
Optimistic and Realistic
DeYoung remains optimistic but is also realistic about the current situation.
“It’s a temporary event that will have a long-lasting impact to a degree. States are beginning to lift restrictions. There’s going to start to be tremendous pressure from this space to get back to work. As a businessperson, you’ve got to be careful not to sway too much of your infrastructure to be prejudiced towards a temporary event.”
In part two, DeYoung offers his thoughts on how this crisis is impacting his MPS business as well as the lasting effects for the OEMs and dealers like him.
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