THIS SIDE UP

Testing the fabric of business relationships

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 8/6/20

What do candles have to do with an economic recovery? The answer is really little to nothing. However, the story of Justin Skory and Cierra Fasulo, who started The Perfect Match Shop candle company in their basement and have sold 10,000 candles since the

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THIS SIDE UP

Testing the fabric of business relationships

Posted

What do candles have to do with an economic recovery?

The answer is really little to nothing. However, the story of Justin Skory and Cierra Fasulo, who started The Perfect Match Shop candle company in their basement and have sold 10,000 candles since the shutdown in March, is affirmation that there is opportunity in times of adversity. Theirs is a feel-good story, and heaven knows we could use more of them.

There’s irony to the story, too, at least for me.

I visited Justin after stopping in to talk with Diane Plante, president, and Dianne Miguel, treasurer, who have owned Global Excellence based in Apponaug opposite Police Headquarters for the past 27 years. I’ve visited the travel agency in the past and it was always a hubbub of activity with agents on their phones and bent over their computers. On Friday the office was bright – the two had repainted it and put up fresh ceiling tiles – and it was shiny clean, but we were the only ones there. The phones were silent the computer screens dark.

Last year was one of the best for the agency as it booked $13 million in business. About 85 percent of that came from corporations with one of the largest pieces of work being the airline bookings for 7,000 Mary Kaye associates who had won cruises for having achieved sales goals.

That’s all changed.

With no door-to-door sales, Mary Kaye isn’t selling. There are no quotas. There are no cruises. There’s no need for flights. And so it goes on down the line to hotels, restaurants, parking lots, the convenience store and even the dry cleaner around the corner.

To stay afloat, the partners implemented an across-the-board pay cut and put everyone on the state WorkShare program that picks up a portion of payroll. It helps, but it’s not enough. In the second quarter for 2019, Global did $2.6 million in sales. This year it was a minus $900,000 as the company refunded deposits on trips that had to be canceled. There are some flickers at the end of the tunnel, yet they seem to be dimming with the second wave of the virus. The agency has booked dance group tours this fall and in January for Portugal and Jamaica. They hope those won’t have to be rescheduled.

Plante is counting on a pent-up demand for a surge in the business. That, however, dims as hope for a quick-fix vaccine evaporates and day after day there are reports that we’re in the same place or, in some states, worse off.

“This is worse than starting from scratch 27 years ago,” says Miguel.

They haven’t given up. They ordered hand sanitizers with the company name and number, sending them to 2,500 corporations. The intent is twofold. They aim to remind customers they are there to meet their travel requirements as well as seed the thought with companies that have their own travel departments and are now downsizing, that they can do the work.

The partners intend to apply for the governor’s small business plan, although they hold out little hope that the maximum $15,000 would mean much.

Their first concern is their customers, those people they have worked with for years and those people who have entrusted them with they money to do what they need. Such business relationships are built over years. They don’t just evaporate. Yet this pandemic is testing the very fabric of good businesses. Those who once met their customers face-to-face have had to depend on Zoom, FaceTime and other virtual means of communicating. They aren’t calling for travel arrangements.

Like so many companies, Global Excellence is being challenged to find new ways of serving their customers. Until the threat of this virus can be better contained, so much of business survival is dependent on innovation. It’s like starting anew, and that, as The Perfect Match Shop as shown, can even happen during a pandemic.

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