Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Day 1 Of Our Shutdown

I wanted to talk about why Heritage Restoration Inc decided to shut down and the events leading up to it. In recent weeks I started our weekly meeting by asking “Why are we here and can we still work safe?” and this week I got the answer I was dreading but secretly hoping for: Shut down.

I should start by saying that while I am the Boss, President, and CEO, I believe the company is not run by a single person. While I am ultimately responsible for the direction and health of the company, we are guided by the collective skills and intelligence of our team. So I believe that decisions such as health and safety should be decided by everyone, not just by me. This collective company guidance certainly has it drawbacks and BIG industry criticisms, but in this case it was the only way to manage because we were all in at every stage. This goes against many norms, but then again, so does our company.

Greenhouse packed up and ready for install

We started weekly meetings at the end of February with Project Leaders to make sure we were adequately prepared and coordinated for the weeks ahead, as well as to discuss safety and training. We started the meetings since the company has grown and we wanted to be sure we all knew what was happening. By the time this crisis started, we opened the meeting to the entire crew. The decision to shut down was not easy but fortunately, we had 3 weeks to prepare.

On Monday March 2, 2020 we talked about COVID 19 for the first time as a group and began light cleaning and washing our hands. We purchased some supplies and ordered lots more, as well as started to investigate options if we needed to lay people off.

By March 9, 2020, one of our workers came in with a fever and cough, where she was sent home and eventually got tested for COVID 19 (was negative). This was a big wake up call. Cleaning and hand washing became more intense. That same day, Rhode Island’s Governor Raimondo declared a State of Emergency, which immediately made disaster loans available through the Small Business Administration. By Tuesday, March 10, 2020, we applied for the loan knowing we could decline it if we didn’t need it.

Our sick employee started receiving Temporary Disability Insurance immediately(RI is one of the few that offer it and the company pays in). No one was able to work form home. The crew continued to work trying this new life of social distancing and hygiene. We dedicated one person to a daily cleaning, somewhat successfully kept work stations isolated, and made rules for the field crew to stay isolated. We instructed all of the crew to strip down when they got home and limit other social contact. We were doing pretty well but we noticed our group was still vulnerable from the “outside”.

The Monday March 16 was a bit more tense. More information was coming out about the virus; schools and businesses started to close. We still felt confident about our cleaning techniques and isolation, using more products at more locations. We had signs all around the shop and tried to plug up vulnerabilities, trying to make sure subcontractors weren’t near the field crew and orders got shipped. We cancelled all site visits and estimates. The SBA loan was still being processed and talk of Federal assistance was getting louder, but no clear solution was had yet.

RISD floor packed up and ready for install

By Monday March 23, the world was closing down. The governor was trying to keep industries working but a lot of businesses were shutting down. In the past week our suppliers were taking phone orders and bringing supplies to our trucks or delivering, while a few others still let you walk in. But unfortunately some outside workers or people in line still did not practice distancing or cleaning. And being good thinking humans, we became concerned about others getting us sick, but again decided to keep going. Still no word on the SBA Disaster Loan, but a Federal law was forming to allow businesses to keep employees on the payroll through loan forgiveness. We noticed supply chains and accounts receivables getting interrupted.

On Monday, March 30, I asked the question again, this time there was no hesitation, we have to close even though we could be considered “critical”. We went around the room to find out what we were all thinking, and our COO said they cannot let our field crew continue. Our collective support and encouragement has a big crack in it and we could no longer say we can stay safe. The biggest reason? Our next field project involved setting up scaffolding on the outside of a house, which wasn’t ideal with most everyone at home, and the work was not critical. We cried but we were confident we made the best decision.

Plank frame windows restored and ready for reinstall

We gathered all off the data we had been collecting for the past 3 weeks to make sure the crew remained supported. We lacked the resources to keep paying everyone, so we furloughed the crew and had them file for unemployment. We will maintain everyone’s health insurance and have weekly check ups. We are family after all.

Bowed window ready for glass and painting, but we cannot get the glass right now

To further layer on the insanity we finally talked with SBA on Tuesday, March 31. We found out we will be getting a loan in a few weeks, although this is from the Disaster Loan program, not the recent bill that was signed into law. We have not seen any of the details, but we are excited to know we will be supported when we need it. What we want to do is get everyone back on payroll and still make them stay home.

So here it is April 1 and I am home, not sick but with plenty of things waiting to be finished and installed at work. But we will be back and a month behind, but so will all of us. But I could care less about the work if we don’t have a crew to do it. So please stay safe and stay TF home.