As the days go by and the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, so too are business owners who are also concerned about their revenue and maintaining the employment of staff.
Already, some have thrown in the towel and opted to go the route of retrenchment in light of plummeting sales.
But in the midst of it all, there are a few holding on for the sake of their workers.
One such business is Incus Services limited.
Director Leslie Lee Fook yesterday told Guardian Media that his company, which has 18 employees, has already started to feel the effects of the COVID shutdown.
“There are two areas of our business, one is the more traditional infrastructure side of the business where we had to outsource services we outsource for companies, so pretty much anybody who has been affected in any of the non-essential services that are customers of ours have been impacted and as a result that side of the business did see some impact,” Lee Fook said.
The company has already lost around 10 per cent of revenue and Lee Fook is cautious about what else is to come.
He said the emerging technology side of the business is where the focus is being placed right now but he also has an eye on his staff.
“The message to our employees is first that we are all in this thing together,” he said.
However, Lee Foo said he intends, “to communicate with the employees to give them some sense of comfort and cutting back staff is certainly not an option for us at the moment.”
He said not only does his heart go out to his workers but his customers as well, some of whom have been affected more than him.
He told of one customer in particular.
“This customer, whose payments have never been a problem, reached out to say ‘would you mind if you gave me a break on this month’s bill’. So we had a conversation with the customer and what we decided to do is actually waive the bill because we know their revenue completely disappeared,” he explained.
He said the plan is to chip in and help his customers as well to get through this situation.
One of the ways Lee Fook has planned to keep spare resources on the books is by asking employees to work on a special Caribbean data project. He explained that his company joined a body called the Caribbean data family.
“Our mandate is to help flatten the curve and we intend to do that using data. So we want to use data collected from across the region to give every single citizen the ability to better understand the impact of the virus to them.”
Lee Fook’s plan for his employees is one of the examples of business owners putting mankind before money.
Chaguanas Business Chamber president Vishnu Charran said yesterday that his members had been seeking to maintain staff as best as they can.
“As far as I am aware, businesses have been operating with their normal staff until the tow weeks shutdown of non-essential businesses. Persons were not sent home before the shutdown although sales were very slow,” Charran said.
“Of course, the exception would be businesses for essential items. I heard some staff were offered vacation pay as the PM suggested. Some were given advances on their salary. The businessmen in various ways are trying to ensure that their staff is comfortable for the next two weeks. I am certain many employees will have filled out the forms for the grant from the NIS as many companies are having cash flow problems.”
“As for my company (Charrans Book Store), we have told them just call us if they need any assistance, as these are the persons we depend upon for our business to operate.”
T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria said he was aware that some businesses were trying hard given the downturn in the economy.
“Many of the essential businesses which have been very active, supermarkets, et cetera, would be able to deal with it.
“The issues have been for businesses that were deemed non-essential, as they have no income. The Government has not put any structured financial support for those companies specifically, as we have seen in other developed countries,” Faria said.
“We don’t have numbers from our members but the general feedback is that most business has been working with their management and staff to retain staff at least for April. There has been a range of solutions implemented to ensure there is business continuity and employees have a job going forward.”
He said supermarkets and pharmacies were probably hiring staff now while companies that have been deemed non-essential are doing their best to keep their people employed.