Sébastien, founder and CEO of Black Tie Property Services, explains how his business has been impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis.
What services/products does your company offer? Who are the customers of your company?
We provide exterior maintenance services such as rope access window washing, pressure washing, dryer duct cleaning and building inspections. Our clientele consists of property managers, both commercial and residential, as well as hotel complexes in Vancouver and Victoria. We are also working with several real estate developers and construction companies to prepare their new developments in anticipation of possession by their clients.
How are you feeling as an entrepreneur during the COVID-19 crisis?
Lots of uncertainty and instability. This crisis is incomparable to anything we’ve seen before, and the situation is so volatile that every day and almost every hour brings a new set of challenges. On the other hand, being a member of EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization), I feel privileged to belong to a global group of entrepreneurs who rally and support each other in difficult times.
Did you have to adapt your business model?
Although we received many cancellations, our services are considered “essential” so we were able to continue our operations.
Have any business opportunities risen as a result of COVID-19?
Not really. We could have perhaps converted our operations to offer sanitation services to public places, but as we are still operational, we haven’t found it necessary.
What steps has your company taken in response to COVID-19 to continue offering its services/products?
Remote working for the office team and social distancing measures for our team on construction sites. Two-meter distance between each worker and precautions are taken for frequent hand washing and the sharing of equipment and tools. Workers with flu-like symptoms are required to self-quarantine for 14 days from the onset of symptoms.
What have been the impacts (positive or negative) of the crisis on your business?
Our revenues are down for the first time in 9 years. Some hotel and business customers have postponed our services indefinitely, which represents an immediate loss of approximately 10% of our annual revenue. The long-term financial impact is difficult to assess at this time, but we continue to hope for the best as we prepare for a difficult year.
Do you have a post-covid plan?
We want to maintain good relationships with our customers, keeping in mind that the situation will be different for many of them. We will listen to their needs and be prepared to change the frequency of our services, as well as reduce our prices in the short term to ease their financial burden as they get back on their feet
What are the lessons you will take from this situation in terms of managing your business?
From a financial point of view, I have been forced to manage many of our non-core expenses, which has been a very beneficial exercise that will help us get through a period of declining revenues and be more efficient in the future. On the leadership side, I have to make sure that I reassure my employees and communicate with them more frequently than usual. I am proud of our “open book” management which has facilitated difficult discussions regarding potential layoffs, should they become necessary. More than ever, it’s time for entrepreneurs to rally their troops and take care of the physical and mental well-being of their employees and that’s what I strive to do.
Can you foresee a temporary or permanent shutdown of your business if the situation does not improve?
We are receiving instructions from the construction industry as well as from property management associations, and we are following their recommendations by the book. For now, we anticipate a slowdown, but no temporary shutdown and certainly no permanent shutdown.