April 21, 2020

Which Is More Important—Your Customers or Your Employees?

By Paul Bieber

Which came first—the chicken or the egg? There is no correct answer to either this headline question or the scrambled eggs you had for breakfast. But they have the same concepts behind them. Can you have one without the other? Could you even serve a customer without employees or could you pay your employees without customers?

Most glass businesses in the U.S. are working on reduced hours and reduced revenue. Many have closed and many are using the loan and forgiveness programs to pay their employees. So, what do you do?

Can you stay open in your state as an essential business? If so, what is the risk to your employees, their families and yourself? This is the hardest question our industry has come up against in my 44 years here. With the government Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), you can pay your people. But what about rent, utilities, taxes, insurances and such? Can you really afford to close for four weeks? The biggest question though is: can you risk asking your employees to go to people’s homes or businesses?

There is no right answer that will fit everyone. I urge you to think of employee safety as your number one goal. Over the weekend I watched the demonstrations of people not wanting to be forced to stay at home. These people were hand-in-hand with strangers, trying to make a political point. This is not a political issue. It is a medical issue. I am betting that most doctors know a heck of a lot more about what to do than most politicians trying to score election points.

Listen to the doctors. Keep your employees safe. If you are staying open, issue the masks, the gloves, the sanitizer bottles and give the permission to your workers to leave any jobsite where they feel safety is not the number one concern of the jobsite or home.

I guess I am taking a position on this one. It is your employees and their health that is more important than a customer.