E-letter: Don’t just stand there …

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We got some sobering news last week from Coverings, the flooring side of our publishing company. We typically get 40 or 50 “returns” by Canada Post for any issue of Coverings, representing, for the most part, businesses that have closed or moved. Last week, the week that would have shown returns on our May/June, or mid-Covid, issue, we got over 700. We are looking into the possible causes, but the most probable one is the obvious one – we have businesses going under.

Kerry Knudsen

For what it’s worth, this downturn likely will not affect the overall number of companies over the next five years. Building and renovation projects need local vendors.

However, for those companies that have supported families, served customers and strengthened communities, it’s hell. It is almost a toss-off for reporters to say people are going out of business. One gets the impression that they see “companies” as amorphous blobs that come and go, cheat on taxes, dirty the environment and rip off labour. The fact is, in our industries “companies” are families that took a risk and worked long hours, stressed over making payroll and celebrated employees’ birthdays and babies. When one of our companies goes under, it means suppliers get stiffed, workers get fired and children get told there is no more money for post-secondary education. There is no “next rung” like there is for the larger worlds of finance and bureaucracy. The government can go broke daily and never go out of business. A corporate executive can “retire” or “spend time with the family” six or eight times in a career.

We do not expect a similar rash of returns on the Wood Industry side. It is interesting being intimately involved with both sectors, since we report on issues across a broad spectrum. In general terms, our flooring sector is one full step closer to the consumer. This is an inexact statement. Certainly, our manufacturers both can and do sell direct. However, while manufacturing enterprises have been able to manufacture, stockpile, fill orders, make sales, etc., the small flooring companies have been forbidden to enter people’s houses. This means no estimates and no installations, and you can only stay in business so long on receivables.

 

Our political position of longest standing has been that we need more strength in our national associations. There is strength in numbers, but we are not consolidating it or applying it. A proper PR campaign could have all of us in the “occupied-space sector” featured in print and social media as national assets and advisors. We can do it here at W.I. Media, but it takes time and money. More importantly, it requires buy-in from the industry, not constant attempts by special interests to corral government resources and frustrate projects they cannot control.

But … no sense bitching. We do what we can. Here is model letter I sent to my MP. Please, if you agree, copy it personalize it and send it to you provincial and federal representatives. Also, cc: me on the note so I can use the numbers to command some attention.

Of course, if you don’t like it, I’d also like to hear your thoughts. As I think we all can agree, there are two types of people in business: the actors and the acted upon. When dealing with government, being acted upon is normal, but it is not mandatory. The thing is, actors have to act.

Here’s the letter. Modify it as you see fit.

I understand each month the publisher of our national trade magazine gets a bill from Canada Post for returns – in this case, typically around $60. Last month, returns for its flooring magazine jumped to over $1,000, representing over 700 family owned businesses that have gone broke.

This is the first hard evidence I have seen regarding the dissolution of family businesses in our sector categorically related to the government shutdown.

I know this issue is top of mind with both all parties. However, I also note that this morning Canada’s mortality rate from declared Covid cases is less than 3/100 of 1 percent (.00027). That is about the same as the suicide rate. Not acceptable, but not provably avoidable. Meanwhile, over 700 companies have had to fire their employees, stiff their suppliers and tell their children they can no longer afford a post-secondary education.

Many of us believe the government made the best decisions it could with what it had to work with at the time, but we are losing faith. Last week on 680 News Teresa Tams recommended we all wear masks during sex. A few months back she said masks are irrelevant. This is not a confidence booster, and not an indication that the government is making all proper decisions.

With all due respect, politicians and bureaucrats will never make proper business decisions. It is time to do what is possible to repair the damage and made a decision regarding what could portend a rise in suicides on the one hand, and let people judge their own risks and try to make a living on the other.

Sincerely,