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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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How One Office Manager Has Navigated COVID-19

 

Jim Davies works for a small family-owned medical supply firm in Texas. They specialize in oxygen tanks, mobility accessories, and many other types of equipment their customers need to try to live as normal a life as possible. 

 

Davies is the office manager, the marketing manager, the order processor, the bookkeeper, and the guy at the front desk. His aunt owns the company, and she offered him a job when he was 16. He worked there throughout college and then accepted a full-time position once he graduated. 

 

Now in his late thirties, Davies knows little else. 

 

This medical supply firm has been categorized as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was happy to answer our questions about the challenges he has faced at work during the last few months.

 

Frugal Rules: Has your company had to shut down at all?

Jim Davies: No, not at all. Some of my friends have been on a sort of extended vacation from work, but I’ve actually had to work more. (Laughs) I feel very fortunate and grateful, though.

 

FR: What are some of the challenges you have faced?

JD: Supply has been important. For example, we cannot operate without safety equipment for our customers, most of whom would qualify as immunocompromised. We have needed masks, gloves, soap, sanitizer, and cleaning supplies since day one. Without those supplies, we would need to shut our doors. Our customers rely on us for the equipment we supply, like oxygen tanks and the like, so that would be terrible.

 

FR: How have your customers been coping with the pandemic?

JD: We get lots of calls. I spend a lot of time on the phone with the customers. They need reassurance sometimes that we’re still open, we’re still supplying them, and we’re taking hospital-level precautions to provide them with contamination-free supplies. Sometimes we’re the only viable or affordable option they’ve been able to locate.

 

FR: Has business dropped off?

JD: I’d say no, not really. There might have been a week or two at first while everyone put their lives on hold to see where this was going. But our customers still need what they need.

 

FR: What about new business acquisition?

JD: Honestly, that’s still going strong, too. We get a lot of business from word of mouth and advertising, so our salespeople are not really out knocking on doors or cold-calling strangers. They weren’t doing that to begin with. Generally, the customer makes an inquiry, and then someone goes out and assesses the customer’s needs and puts together a quote for them. It’s never a matter of sales with us so much as a matter of service. Our salespeople are more like account managers, if you will.

 

FR: Has frugality played a role in your COVID-coping?

JD: Frugality is always at play. We just want to be wise stewards with our resources.

 

FR: Part of your duties are those of the office manager. What are some of the ways you find to be frugal in that capacity?

JD: I look at our supply chain at least twice a year--and quarterly if my workload permits it. Are we getting the best deal on toner, paper, equipment, that kind of thing. Even toilet paper. Some of it is just a matter of talking to our supply rep and saying, listen, I can get this for four bucks cheaper if I go to this other company. Then it’s in the rep’s court. Sometimes they’ll match the price for us, and sometimes they’ll tell us they can’t do it. Companies often have a tendency to treat the supply chain as a one-stop shopping experience, but I have always insisted that it’s better to roll up your sleeves and do the extra work.

 

FR: Have you noticed that this makes a difference?

JD: Absolutely. I track this kind of thing on spreadsheets, and I could show you the savings from doing this. It’s substantial. We’ve even started putting those savings into a credit union savings account for use down the line.

 

FR: That’s amazing. The best of luck to you and your colleagues.

JD: We like to think so! Thank you, and the best of luck to you and your readers as well.

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