COVID-19 Lessons Learned

August 11th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Online Scheduling, Long-Term Savings, Enhanced Safety Precautions … What COVID-19 Has Taught Film Company Owners

By Tara Taffera

Ten months before COVID-19 hit the U.S., Greg Goodman, owner/operator at Alta Mere Window Tinting & Paint Protection Film in Oklahoma City, Okla., put a plan into place that would greatly help his business get through the challenging times that were to come— he just didn’t know it yet. In July, 2019, the company developed and implemented an online store allowing customers to purchase automotive window tint packages, and schedule their own appointment.

“We never would have thought that implementing online selling would become so important. It has been a huge key in our cash flow even though we are closed,” Goodman said. “We have been offering a discount since the pandemic started for online purchases only.

“It has been amazing how our customers have purchased our tint online and are waiting weeks to get it installed,” he added. “We got the green light to open May 1, so we let our customers who purchased online start booking and we are full the first few weeks we return.”

Changing Business Practices

Angel Root, office manager at Midwest Tinting in Overland Park., Kan., put some practices into place as soon as the virus became evident in the U.S. in early March. Those have helped the business as well. It was then that the company started bagging keys, wiping down steering wheels, handles, switches, seat controls and turn signals.

“We send the customer pre-appointment instructions to turn off ventilation and remove any belongings in the seats,” Root said. “We use steering and gear shift covers and have masks if we are transporting the vehicle. We are doing contactless retail auto appointments. We get their info over the phone and exchange through the mail slot. For flat glass jobs, we ask them to move any obstacles and we wear protective gear and sanitize everything before starting. We are waiting on our order of UVC lights [germicidal bulbs] to use in vehicles for disinfecting.”

Tint shops across the country have taken similar precautions.

“We have designed and are building safer customer facing reception areas with shields for the protection of our CSRs and customers. We are putting in social distancing lines, re-writing procedures for more touchless drop offs, pickups and payments,” said Tommy Silva, CEO and president of T&T Tinting Specialists Inc. in Honolulu.

Chris Fonteboa, owner at Southern Customs in Ellijay, Ga., started changing his company’s methods in mid-March.

“We implemented a ‘locked-in’ work environment, not open to walk-ins and available for drop off only,” he said. “We took extra time to disinfect vehicles coming in our shop and most of all to protect ourselves.”

At Advanced Film Solutions Inc. in Lutz, Fla., Michele Feldman reported the company closed the office in early April and moved to mobile tinting only.

“Our tinter wipes down every car and steam cleans handles and steering wheels,” she said. Though very different scenarios, these trends highlight the way business has changed due to the
coronavirus, and signal modifications that are here to stay.

“We will likely continue most of the enhanced sanitation practices which should translate into fewer sick days from the staff,” said Root.

The new processes appear to be working as Fonteboa reported the company can handle everything by phone and email including estimates, scheduling, payments and more, which could signal an
increased emphasis on less customer contact post COVID.

Taking a Pulse

In mid-April, WINDOW FILM magazine surveyed its readers asking a variety of questions regarding the pandemic and how it was affecting business. Many indicated social distancing measures, less contact with customers, and more online interaction could be the trend going forward. Another norm— saving for the future—was a factor widely cited by survey respondents. (for other lessons learned see pages 18-19). While many businesses shut down to protect the health and safety of their employees, companies such as Doyle Window Tinting in Philadelphia continued to pay medical premiums for the staff they laid off, said Raymond Spada, owner. No doubt, this is taking a major toll on finances for companies across the industry.

“I am glad I ‘saved’ for emergencies!” said Nancy Chiofolo from Davis Window Film & Tint in Paradise, Nev.

Many of the survey respondents told us the last recession taught them the importance of saving for situations such as this.

“You cannot prepare for something like this,” said Mike Funk, U.S. Tint/Shadow Enterprises. “But we learned in 2009 that you need a big reserve and [need to] make other moves quicker instead of hoping it will get better.”

Marler also learned from the crash of 2008-2009, a fact which helped him now. “I run debt free, and can sustain myself and my family,” he said.

Other companies say they will make changes for the future and just hope they can survive this.

“We will try to establish more of a backup fund and hope we are still in business when this is done,” said Karl Kuhn at KK Auto Detailing in Georgetown, Ky.

Many business owners offered advice for others, including Fonteboa who suggests, “Keep overhead down and as much working capital on hand as possible.”

Another reminds companies that anything can happen–and it will.

“Always be prepared by making sure you saved some resources for these unforeseen rainy days. We have a very lucrative industry and we must all be smart at money management — spend some, save some,” said Silva.

Lessons Learned

In addition to financial lessons, owners and employees shared other important items the COVID crisis has taught them either personal or professionally

“I have really identified who my customer is and how to reach them.”
—Justin Beller, Meridian Window Tint, Meridian, Idaho

“I can change and adapt to challenges quickly!”
—Jay Phelps, Elite Tinting and Films, St. Louis, Mo.

“No matter the condition, I will prevail.”
—Mark Merrill, Eclipse Solar Control LLC, Dallas/Forth Worth

“The importance of family time … And suffering helps us grow as people and produces endurance.””
—Aaron Okada, Oasis Window Tinting Co., Buford, Ga.

“I have the ability to remain cool even in the hottest situation.”
—Reginal Drummer, owner, Tint-O-Matic, Atlanta

“Keep your head up, be positive, and pray.”
—Kris Fonteboa, Southern Customs, Atlanta

“Social media is not to be taken for granted.”
—Paul Hensel, Ace Window Tinters, Port St. Lucie, Fla.

“I will take customer safety further going forward … and we can survive anything together.”
—Marcel Perry, Sun Pro Tinting Inc., San Diego

“When something bad happens let it strengthen you.”
—Paul Valvo, Sunglass Tint Specialists, Enfi eld, Ct.

Tara Taffera is the editorial director for WINDOW FILM magazine.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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