Sunday Message From Ben: Planning Forward

April 26,2020


The blur of the weeks working from home continues. Someone on our team described work these days as groundhog day… Without many of the other life milestones, it does seem that way, though I noticed that the kolea left town this week, headed back to Alaska for the summer. They will return in August. They are my favorite local bird and I will miss them. It’s an incredible journey they make to and from Hawaii each year.

For good news, PPP loans to employers are getting funded, and congress signed an appropriation to open up additional funding. We are geared up to help both with tracking your payroll spend as well as helping with new PPP applications. If you have not yet applied for a PPP loan and would like to, consult our instructions here.

Last week I created a bit of controversy with my advice to employers: don’t spend the PPP money unless you have a fundamental business need. This was controversial because it was different from the advice of others who have urged businesses to quickly spend the cash. My position shouldn’t be controversial and I believe it’s very important for employers to hear. If an employer has work to do, the PPP loans are a no brainer. You do your work and your payroll becomes forgivable, allowing you to build up some cash in the bank along the way. These employers will spend the PPP money. Where it’s a challenge is when your work has evaporated, your cash reserves are low, and there is no reopening in sight. These are the hardest hit businesses and there are many of them in Hawaii.

Reopening, while necessary, isn’t a panacea either. Turning on a business is hard and expensive, and it will take months for demand to return. They will continue to be impacted – i.e., losing money – long after they reopen. I stick by my advice. I fear for the survival of many employers during this time and I worry about the impact on our community from the loss of these employers. This is a long game. Surviving will be thriving.

On Thursday I was fortunate to have a round-table discussion with some excellent CEO’s in town, leading businesses in restaurants and retail. These CEO’s are taking different approaches with PPP that are well thought through and fit their unique business circumstances. I appreciate their advice.

My two biggest takeaways were as follows:

  • We are undergoing a big reset, and far more will change than we currently foresee. The societal changes from coronavirus will be deep and we are just starting to scratch at them. To survive will require businesses to embrace new business models, new supplier and landlord relationships, and new dynamics with employees. The old models will no longer hold. How long will it be until we return to old densities and comfort levels with crowds?
  • Everyone needs a plan, and in this environment expect it to change. Changing the plan is good and reflects learning and improvement. Everyone can benefit from Acting Like a Rookie: asking lots of questions, getting feedback and changing. Also, the lack of visibility on the State’s plan for reopening is a major challenge for our community.

At ProService on Friday we spent our company all hands meeting expressing good news and gratitude. There was a lot of both and it was refreshing! We read emails from you, our clients, to our staff. Thank you. Your feedback, encouragement and appreciation sustain us and keep us striving. And then we read and shared gratitude from and for each other. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we have driven tremendous innovation in the past five weeks, but at our core in ProService are people that care for each other so that they can care for you. And that will not change.

With much aloha,

Ben Godsey

President & CEO