Georgi Jossivof | Patrick Hageman | Nathan Wheeler | Mohammed Tungara | Mike Masters | Manny Johnson | Lisa Seyller | Larry Forand | Janet Paulsen | Jacob Lilley | Heidi Macedo | Gary Lang | Felix Ramos | Eric Nossal | Dan Miller | Alberto Enriques
Georgi Jossifov (CEO)
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 here at home in the US, we have continued to inform you about our activities and measures that we have implemented at our facilities to safeguard deliveries, to ensure inventories and to minimize the risk of exposure to our employees. In our conversation with many we are content to hear that you have implemented measures and are actively supporting your local communities. In many ways the distancing has been a physical one, certainly not social, as we talk even more just using various technologies, hence we have optimized the action to “Physical distancing”.
As this unprecedented situation certainly is not like business as usual, and we wanted to do something else, we decided that this special edition of our newsletter shall bring you closer to the stories from the WIKUS team as they reflect their personal views, experiences and impressions from the past weeks. You may find similarities and differences across the continent, the point of view, the expertise, nonetheless one thing is for sure we are all in this together and will pull through this together with you.
Before you go on and read these stories from the team, I ask you to identify what you want to optimize in your cutting process and then to talk to your Wikus team. With the broadest range of saw blades in the industry, we have the right solution for you. Certainly, new customers and partners are welcome, let us spoil you with the full Wikus buying experience.
Patrick Hageman (Service Technician)
Since the COVID-19 Quarantine, life has changed significantly for all of us, although some things have remained the same. In terms of how this has affected me, I have been traveling much less and spending more time with my family at our home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
We have seen the community around us change, people are social distancing and wearing masks and other personal protective gear while out. It somewhat feels like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. A simple trip to the grocery store or gas station is no longer that. Tape on the floor marking 6-foot distances between customers and sneeze shields protecting the store employees makes it feel restricted and regulated. Doctor’s visits and playdates for my wife and children are now being done virtually. The same is being done in our industry, as most companies have a strict no visitor policy in effect.
The things that have remained the same include, my 3 sons still fighting and arguing, eating constantly, and I myself continuing to get grey hairs.
Over long holidays I have spent extended periods of time at home, but always had a schedule I could return to. Now with the restrictions in place I have switched over to a home office role instead of a travelling service technician. I’m an introvert, I enjoy my time alone, but this is on a whole different level. I am looking forward to getting back out on the road and seeing some familiar faces.
Nathan Wheeler (Regional Sales Manager)
Hello from the central territory.
I hope everyone is happy, healthy and staying safe. I’m not sure how many days we have been under quarantine at this point. However, I am sure none of us would have ever thought this would be our new reality.
All generations have their moment. All generations are forged in the fires of diversity. So here we are, in our moment. What will be our story? I believe we will overcome and we will make it through this. I believe we must hold close those people and things we love. For as we’ve always known, they are what truly matter.
In the past few weeks, I have seen things I don’t normally see. I’ve seen families and people growing stronger. Eating together, taking walks together, and sharing their lives truly for the first time. I have seen the community and business come together to help the elderly and those in need. I am seeing qualities emerge in people that I thought had been lost to this generation I see us growing stronger and closer together in this time. I hope when all of this is over, we remember to slow down and remember to hold on to what is truly important.
How have I been filling my down time? I have been playing more guitar, exercising, working in my garden, reading more, finishing the projects around my house. I have done the things my busy life would not permit. I challenge you all to use this time do something you will be proud of when this is all over. This time will pass, we will overcome this. For this is not our end, this is our new beginning.
I look forward to seeing you all in the near future!
Mohammed Tungara (Regional Sales Manager)
It’s the morning of Thursday April 9th and I’ve just gotten out of bed, wait or is today Friday? “Hey Alexa, what day is it?” Turns out today it actually is Friday, occasionally forgetting what day it is seems to be one negative side effect of this extended quarantine but if looking at the glass half full it’s been a long while since I’ve gotten this many good nights sleep in a row.
Personally, this quarantine period has been about perspective whether it’s watching how different news outlets go about reporting or talking to different family members and friends. The people who seem to be holding up the best are the people who try to look at things through a positive lens. This can be difficult in such a negative climate but try to find what brings you joy and embrace it like you’ve got nothing else to do because let’s be honest… For example, I LOVE basketball and I was too young to really enjoy and appreciate Michael Jordan’s game. So fast forward 10 hrs and a countless number of highlights plus documentaries I can now claim to be a Jordan historian.
As it relates to work, Wikus has spent a great deal of time and effort in the past to set up our current technology infrastructure which has allowed us to easily transition to a more virtual world. It has given me the opportunity to get more organized which has led to some pretty cool finds like a 2012 college paper on Buffalo Wild Wings’ business plan even though I had not been to one until after college in 2013. Our customers have also started to adjust with more requests to send online material, troubleshooting problems over the phone, as well as setting up virtual meetings. All of this can seem like a burden for most people but if looking at the glass half full, less windshield/travel time means a lot more time for EVERYTHING else.
Mike Masters (CTO)
Stuck in the woods of New England
Like many others, my past few weeks have been spent in the home office. Besides the daily tasks which have included customers and distributors needing cutting recommendations, rescheduling product test dates, providing a spreadsheet or discussing an application, I have been able to organize and consolidate the desk that I sit at and prioritize my list of projects and tasks to hit the road running when things are back to normal.
With other team members in their home offices, the time has allowed me to gather needed cutting data that’s been collected from various testing they have done. I’ve had time to get a jump start putting together a presentation for the upcoming CTO meeting which will be held via Webex the first week of May.
I have taken time to browse through old papers, notes and any past leads that need to be revisited. Browsing the Web for new leads and visiting competitor sites to keep myself updated on anything new on the horizon.
I have had more time to familiarize myself with our Salesforce program, joining in on our video training sessions. With each session it becomes easier to understand and listening to everyone’s input on various ways of data entry and lead generation shows what a useful tool it will be to us all going forward.
I find I am as busy today as I normally am apart from travel and will be glad to get back out on the road.
I am here to help so give me a call.
Manny Johnson (Production Manager)
I remember first hearing snippets about the Corona Virus and its spread to the U.S and wondering if this truly would have an effect on my own community and workplace. I was forced to reevaluate my position on this virus a few days later when I ran into a colleague in the office and he refused to shake my hand. From that point forward things moved very fast.
Within a couple of weeks our Addison plant was running with only essential personnel (on site) and we’d additionally divided up our production team into two shifts. We were fortunate: our management team had anticipated what was coming and we responded with aggressive action rather than waiting to see what develops. We doubled up on all our longer lead time inventory, PPE and consumables as a hedge against any of our suppliers shutting down or running out of critical supplies. The decisions and actions made early on enabled us to continue to meet the delivery and quality needs of our customers despite this pervasive pandemic.
We’ve all been forced to change the way we do our jobs because of this pandemic. Despite the discomfort of having to learn new ways of doing things, our team has made it work. From the initial planning through the execution, the daily communication and coordination from the people working from home has been great. Wikus has really stepped up to this challenge, as a team with everyone able to depend on each other to do what is necessary for success. It feels good to be part of a team that confronts and solves problems together so effectively.
Lisa Seyller (Administrative Assistant)
Covid-19 and Wikus – I feel thankful and blessed to part of this amazing company. With tremendous speed and calmness, the Wikus Management team made it possible to transition from the office to work from home. This is my first time working remotely. Some of the struggles include missing the day to day human interaction with my co-workers and the outside world, video calls are a great substitute though.
How my family of four starts the day amid Covid-19. My husband (a locomotive electrician for the Railroad) says goodbye each morning before he leaves for work. My home office is my dining room table, my son works from home in our office– we exchange a high five every morning on our way downstairs to work each day, and lastly my daughter, a 2020 Senior in High School adapts to E-learning from her room. Even my dogs are adjusting, wondering why we are all home now.
Through it all, I am able to keep my problem solving and organizations skills on-point, as we maintain the day to day business responsibilities and tasks running seamlessly, as if we were in the office.
As we move forward in these uncertain times, I am proud and humbled to be part of an organization that truly feels like a second family. Can’t wait to get back to the office, not sure I will ever complain about traffic to the office again.
Larry Forand (Regional Sales Manager)
In late December 2019 there were rumors about a possible virus originating in China. We have all heard these reports before and not much attention was paid to the possibilities.
By March we started having cases pop up in Pennsylvania. Wow that was quick. Let’s stock up on things now, who knows what’s going to happen. The stores were still in good supplies and even hand sanitizer was available. People are talking about COVID-19 daily with mixed opinions, some say it’s a flu and other say it is very serious. I guess we will find out.
You think about a family in a crisis. We talk to them often for reassurance things are okay. Today we are a very mobile society and tend to spread out all over the country. Not sure how our younger generation are dealing with the social distancing thing. Unfortunately, they are missing out on important things in their lives as we go down this road.
The world is seeing a leveling of new cases and the U.S. is no different. There is a slowing although we are nowhere near being out of the woods yet. Supplies are starting to come in to fill the voids, we understand better what we are up against and what to do with it. People are wanting to get back to work, calls are coming in again. Let’s hope by May we are on the road to recovery.
Janet Paulsen (Customer Service)
If someone would have told me a few months ago that we would be working from home I would have said that was impossible. I believed being in the office was the only way to perform our jobs efficiently. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working at Wikus Saw Technology, they will make the impossible possible! Our management team was able to build a proficient work from home model for the customer service department in a short period of time that has proven to be nearly seamless.
While transitioning from office to home didn’t come without unforeseen changes and challenges, including turning my dining room table into an office, our team has been able to deliver the same high-quality customer service our distributors have come to rely on. If a challenge arises, we can successfully work through it together to find a resolution.
Although these are uncertain times for everyone, we all have fears of when this will end or how will it affect our own families, one of my “unforeseens” of being home was watching it bring my family together. How we too have pulled together as a team to make being home 24/7 work (almost) seamlessly for us. And while we all keep reminding ourselves “this too shall pass”, one thing that will remain the same is our commitment to excellent customer service under any circumstance.
Jacob Lilley (Regional Sales Manager)
It’s no secret that the last month has been a challenging time for all of us. Even more so particularly those of us that reside where the Oil & Gas Industry makes up such a large portion of our local and regional economy and communities. Within just 6 days we went from a roaring economy to the bottom falling out of the Oil & Gas Market, as well as being put under quarantine to assist in stopping the rapid spread of COVID-19. Within 3 weeks the price of a barrel fell almost 60% from $50 per barrel (WTI Crude prices) to $22 per barrel.
Now that we’ve highlighted what caused our current state of affairs; I’d like to say that this time has allowed me to really become more innovative and resourceful with not only how we manage our time, but the methods of which we use to communicate. I can honestly say that before COVID-19, I had never in my entire professional career utilized FaceTime to communicate with peers or customers. However, the need for social interaction and to provide top notch customer service has challenged me to utilize tools that have always been available but weren’t options I’ve ever considered. I believe by being put in a situation where these alternative digital methods of communication have become commonplace, that the end result will be utilizing them more and more on a daily basis after the COVID-19 Pandemic is in the rearview mirror. This will improve time and territory management skills and possibly cut out unnecessary travel while being able to maintain a close relationship with the sales teams of our channel partners.
Furthermore, the scope of daily activities has completely flipped 180 degrees. While the status quo was visiting channel partners and making physical contacts and having in-person conversations most days of the week, that can no longer be the case. Fortunately, we should find out from Governor Abbott what his executive order for Texans getting back to work will be early this week, the week of April 13th. The challenge of limited physical contacts and appointments has driven a priority shift to building out a pipeline of prospective customers that will benefit from WiKUS’s quality product. Having the time to sit down and research qualified prospects has been so valuable. These prospects will experience an overall improvement in their financial positions by lowering their cost per cut in production, and I very much look forward to being able to improve their productivity. This pipeline will provide a tool to present to channel partners which will drive actionable tasks together in pursuit of new business opportunities.
Heidi Macedo (Inside Sales Coordinator)
Working from home during the Quarantine has expanded my capabilities to work under conditions I never imagined I’d ever encounter. Thanks to the quick thinking and prompt action of our Wikus Management and associates I have been able to carry on with the daily business requests and am fortunate to be one of the lucky ones that has maintained my employment status.
It was uneasy at first to get used to no longer going into the office, seeing my co-workers and going about my daily routine. But I’ve become more aware of the fact that our customers appreciate consistency and dependability that our staff maintains day after day, and they rely on the quality that our Wikus band saw blades offer. Our efforts are playing an important part in the ongoing role shared by all of the essential workers that must continue in the manufacturing industry. They must be supported as they continue to go out and face each day as it comes.
We strive to adapt to the daily news, ever-changing updates, and prepare as best as we can. We are caring for our customers, friends, and family by staying home, being available and preparing for the day we can return.
Gary Lang (Regional Sales Manager)
Aside from the oppressive “cabin fever” that has set in over the past few weeks, I would have to say that working in this unique way has really given me a new perspective. This experience is forcing me to be much more creative about using available technologies to be responsive to my customers, while not being able to be there in person. Using face to face technologies with our co-workers (and even customers) to address issues has sufficed in many cases. These practices will continue even after the crisis, and that is a significant benefit.
Being homebound also has made me take a more-disciplined approach to achieve my daily activities. Pre-crisis, adding value to my distributors and end users is obviously easier to achieve with the ability to be on site for a meeting or a blade test. When forced to remotely serve these customers’ needs, discipline is required to make sure these needs are met, even if achieving them requires a different approach. This change of thinking has not been automatic, however. It has taken a while to first, understand the crisis at hand, and contemplate the fact that it is affecting the entire globe, and then to secondly, figure out how to still provide value to both the company and my customers. I had never thought before that anything like what we are now experiencing, could actually happen, but here we are! Throughout this isolation, however, I have always felt with certainty that we will get over this and return to some form of normalcy. And that has helped my general outlook and demeanor.
Even though we all have to shelter in place, there is great satisfaction to be had in knowing that what we are doing specifically now will pay off when business activity resumes. Getting all of our outstanding projects and opportunities updated correctly in our CRM system, entering business leads and future opportunities to address will set us up well for when we can “hit the road’ again, yet do it more efficiently!
None of this is meant to diminish the overall frustration I feel (and, I am sure is felt by my co-workers and customers) of not being able to go about our “normal” daily lives and achieve results. That frustration of confinement is clearly present every day I wake up. The challenge therefore, is to remain disciplined, focus on achieving set goals for the day, and finally, being technologically-creative to stay “in-front” of our customers on a daily basis. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
Felix Ramos (Service Technician)
Well before all this Covid-19 madness, work was a little smoother. It has taken away my ability to get out into the work field and provide the best customer service to customers and distributors. It is also affecting me from gaining a better rapport with customers and distributors old and new. Covid- 19 has my family and myself worried due to the fact when I do get to go out and provide service to customers, that I do not end up getting exposed to the virus and bringing it home to anyone. Also while at home working due to the virus I do get to update paperwork more often.
Covid-19 has made it difficult by not being able to get more of a rapport with new customers, due to not having a one on one interaction with new customers and distributors like I was before Covid-19 came about. I personally prefer face-to-face interaction with customers and distributors because it gives them more of a positive vibe showing them that they can trust the knowledge that I provide them about the blades we sell and great customer service Wikus provides. Not being able to get an opportunity to get into the shops due to some of them being non essential due to Covid-19 also makes it difficult because I can not actually tour the shop and see what type of material or machines the company has to work with.
Another reason Covid-19 has made changes to work is that I am not able to advertise as much by driving the company vehicle as much as before, some may think that it’s not much but I used to receive inquiries about what type of blades Wikus sells. Due to the quarantine or lockdown order even border shut downs in some states, it has made it difficult to make visits to my customers and distributors in my other territories and provide service to them or even finding new companies to provide service to.
Working from home due to Covid-19 has put a strain on my family in some ways. When I do get out into the field to provide service to a customer or distributor, my family is worried that I can contract the virus from another person in one of the companies and possibly bring it home jeopardizing them and myself. I take all precautions before entering my home if I do have to leave for a service job. I’m also able to update any information that I am finding while I am looking online for new companies to reach out to.
Overall I remain positive not letting this virus discourage me from doing my job and stopping me from providing the best possible customer service I can to customers and distributors. I want them to know they can always count on Wikus to be here for them through any crises, even this pandemic we are facing. Always Precision at a Cutting Point!
Eric Nossal (Service Technician)
First and foremost, I want to thank everyone that has had to make the difficult decision to go out into this new and strange world to help keep things going. Everyone from the medical community, the first responders, the food supply chain, the truckers and all the essential business employees. Without them things would be much worse. My sincere gratitude.
It was not long ago when it was unusual to see a person wearing a surgical mask during every day normal life. We might have thought “I wonder what ailment that person has”. Now seeing someone without a mask might make us think, “What is wrong with them? Don’t they know what is going on?!”
I have always had the type of position that required me to work with my hands and have direct contact with the customers. These past few weeks have required us all to change our work habits. I have spent a lot of time in front of the computer learning the ins and outs of a new software system. It has been productive, but I am looking forward to getting back out on the road helping end users solve problems. I am often the “face” of Wikus to most customers. For the foreseeable future I might become the “mask” of Wikus.
The time will soon be upon us to dust off the fleet and hit the highways again. I am looking forward to seeing all my old friends, the hydraulic saws, the scissor saws, the miter saws, the hand fed saws and all the manual saws. I have missed you all.
Stay in, stay safe and stay healthy.
Dan Miller (Regional Sales Manager)
One might think that, when a regional sales employee works from his home office in any way, there would not be much difference working through this pandemic, just more desk time. The truth is that there is a total change in responsibility, time management and objectives. Gone are the main parts of the position; joint calls for new business, testing, and solving saw problems. In its place is planning what to do when we can get back to work and keeping in touch with our partners about their situations. A benefit of the last four weeks would be increased understanding of SalesForce.
Wikus is an essential industry and continues operation in Germany and USA to manufacture and weld blades. This can continue as long as our supply chain remains unbroken and the virus does not affect our plant’s employees. We are fortunate that most of our partners and end users are in the steel and wood industry and are also considered essential, open and buying blades. To my surprise, sales in the Southern Region U310 were strong in March, 2020, up 13% over 2019 March sales. So far April sales are also up as much over last year.
Our partners are facing difficult problems. One distributor in South Carolina had their biggest customer, a bearing manufacturer, temporarily shut down two plants, about 23% of their business. The virus had hit some of their employees and the manufacturer made the hard decision. Receivables go unpaid, consigned inventory goes unused and vending machines shut down. Like with us, it is difficult for them to develop any new business during this time. Distributor salesmen are making deliveries and dropping the supplies at their customers doors. They are planning, like us, for when this pandemic ends and they can get back to normal business practices.
Home life under stay-at-home order has changed the normal routine. My wife does not get a break from me like when I travel and effort has to be made to avoid conflict. Work time and home time must be divided with better effort made to communicate regularly. I need to acknowledge her efforts and her fears. I try to help clean and cook and show interest in her books and shows on television, keeping things light and positive.
It is fortunate for me that Wikus Saw made changes to our operations quickly when this hit and made the safety of our employees their first goal. Fortunate also that the company has a strong financial position keeping the payroll and benefits going.
Through these planning efforts during the COVID-19 temporary shutdown of economies, Wikus should be in great position for growth when the stay-at-home orders are removed.
Alberto Enriquez (National Sales Manager, Mexico)
Hello everyone, I am the commercial and technical manager of WIKUS in Mexico and I would like to share my personal experience after practically 4 weeks of isolation due to the health crisis that we have all been experiencing.
Unfortunately, we have not had a reliable and consistent source of information here, so at the beginning practically no one knew what to do or how to act and that was my case. In practical terms, the crisis began here on Monday, March 16 and mainly at the initiative of many civil
society groups. On the weekend of Saturday, March 14th and Sunday the 15th there were massive events in Mexico City. We had the Corona Capital Festival that presented the band Guns and Roses in front of nearly 100,000 people throughout the 3-day festival.
To add on Monday the 16th was a holiday here, so I did not have to leave my home and I could not see what the city looked like, it was then we were invited to voluntarily to stay at home and if possible, work from there.
In general terms, I started working from home since 2000, so with 20 years working from here, I have not noticed any major alterations to my office routine. Where I have seen a difference I think, is in food because this has been the longest period that I have stayed at home without doing any business trip in these 20 years.
I drive an average of 50,000 kilometers a year and take about 40 flights and spend around 80 nights a year in hotels so eating anything at any time anywhere has been my way of subsisting so now that I eat a fixed schedule with what my wife prepares for me (very healthy quasi vegan) has helped me lose 4 kilograms so far. Although I have cravings all day and all the restaurants are closed I must thank that I am going through this quarantine recovering a little of my figure back. Let’s see how far my weight goes if it is calculated at least we will spend another month here eating healthy.