COVID-19 Response: Jason Sevinor, Owner, Salem Plumbing/Designer Bath

We check in with twelve architects, builders, designers, and suppliers to see how they are managing their staff and their businesses during this incredibly challenging time.

With the coronavirus currently taking over our personal and professional lives, the measures that have been instituted to stop its spread have had a major impact on most businesses, including those of us serving the New England design industry. In times of crisis, we turn to people who have withstood similar circumstances in the past and persevered. We reached out to twelve industry leaders who have led their firms through past crises to share what actions they are taking now, how they will measure the success of their firms over the next twelve months, and how they’re moving forward.

Jason Sevinor, the owner of Salem Plumbing/Designer Bath, shares how his company is using technology and managing resources to weather the storm of COVID-19.

What are you doing in terms of managing your business operation?
We are analyzing all expenses. If we can delay payment or pause the implementation of a program, we will take that option. All members of the leadership team have taken a temporary cut in their salaries and hourly workers have decreased their hours by a designated percentage.

We have closed our showrooms on Saturdays to reduce hours. We are focused on moving items that are in-stock instead of placing orders that will be impacted by factory closures or that will increase AP. We have no-touch delivery and pick-up options.

What are you doing with regards to working with your clients?
We have the ability to do almost everything we could do pre-Covid19 with the aid of technology. We had just invested in technology upgrades that allow us to communicate very efficiently and effectively without face-to-face contact. While we are interested in selling our products, we are using this crisis to let our clients know that they mean more to us than just dollars and cents. We are checking in to see how they are doing both personally and professionally.

Home is going to be more important than ever before. How do we keep consumers engaged now?
We have been working to strengthen our brand and its position in the marketplace for the last few years. We have marketing partners who are excellent at their respective disciplines. We try to stay current with topics that are top of mind with our target demographic so that we can speak in a way that will connect with them. We’re changing our vocabulary and how we address consumers in this new marketplace.

How are you communicating with your in-house teams and outside vendors?
We are using every communication method that’s available! Zoom, email, internal message system, phone calls, text, Facebook messenger, etc. – all of these options are used to connect. Some communication methods are useful in specific scenarios and not in others. Some people like particular modes better than others and tend to be consistent in their preferences. Certain messages lend themselves to group dissemination while others are more appropriately communicated in a more personal manner, such as a text or phone call.

How will you be defining success in three months, six months, a year?
Success right now looks like staying in business and keeping our team employed. Success in three months may look like trying to regain momentum. Success in six months may look like business as usual augmented by the addition of technology that was not utilized before the Covid-19 crisis. Success in a year may look like an effort to limit some discretionary expenditures in order to increase back-up funds in order to keep the company going if a crisis hits again.

Is there something you implemented at your firm in 2008 that worked then and now you are executing it again?
2008 was a financial crisis. The pandemic feels much different. We’re treating it differently.

How are you thinking about cash flow management differently now than in more normal times?
It’s all about conserving cash. We’re communicating with all parties that influence cash flow. We’re communicating with our vendors daily to let them know what we’re seeing in the marketplace. We’re communicating with our customers to see what they are experiencing. We’ve received deferrals on rent payments due for our facilities. Inventory levels are being reduced. Instead of having maybe three to six months of an item on hand, we are having two to three months.

Are there different cost-saving strategies you are leaning on regarding staff, overhead, and discretionary spending?
We are all making less and spending less. If the expense is discretionary, we are not going to do it. Every expense is being questioned to determine if it is essential. If it does not fund something that is required to run our business, we are usually choosing to eliminate or pause.

How do you ensure your “all of a sudden” remote workforce remains motivated and productive?
Because we were identified as an Essential Business by the Governor’s Office, we have been open to associates, however, our locations are closed to the public. We are running a much lighter crew at our locations. Managers are having Zoom call check-ins with associates working from home and this helps keep them connected. I have done selfie videos, made phone calls, and sent texts. Basically, I am using all of our communication options to connect with our team, in the same way, that I am asking them to use these tools to reach out to their customers to check-in.

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