We Have Been Here Before and We Will Get Through This Together

By Dan Judge

As most of you know, I have been around the industry for a while. Until this year’s tradeshow postponement, I have attended every ISA (or IDA or Triple Mill) convention since 1972. So, as the commercial says, “I’ve seen a thing or two.” We are in a period of unbelievable disruption from both a business perspective as well as a personal one.

I’m lucky enough to be able to live in Florida for the winter months, but as I write this, the beaches are closed. All golf courses are closed. Public parks, boating ramps and all public and private pools are closed. And in the news, I’m being told dozens of times a day that I’m “elderly!” I don’t feel elderly. I walk 2.5-3 miles a day and when I can, I golf two to three times a week.

But… I’m being careful. I have to. My two daughters remind me every time I talk to them. At our NetPlus huddle last week I told our staff that the country will get through this by both overcoming the virus and rebounding from the economic and financial jolts we are taking.

We have been here before.

When I came out of a supermarket with empty shelves last week, I wondered what it was like for my parents during World War II. Back then, they had ration books for everything from food to gasoline, which truly limited your purchases. And, if you needed a new tire for your car, forget about it. There weren’t any available. They got through it.

In addition to his job at our family mill supply house, my father drove a bus in his off hours. He drove Italian POW’s from stockades at Fort Niagara to the farms and orchards in Western New York, where they could provide the labor that was so badly needed.

After WWII, our company business grew. As the local manufacturing businesses took off postwar, so did their success.

I also think back to the tremendous disruption this country had in the late 1960’s. I came back from Vietnam in 1966 and found a country being torn apart with race riots and anti-war protests. But we eventually got through that painful time and business got back to normal.

I went to work for my father and cousin in 1969 at Ward Brothers Mill Supply Company and the business continued to grow.

In 1981, the economy crashed. We kept every employee. The officers took a pay cut, and we spent a lot of time painting, reorganizing and training. My cousin, Sam Ward, even hired a renowned local artist to come to our office to teach our employees how to make enameled art pieces.

We got through that recession stronger than we were before. And, two years later, we made a significant acquisition to increase the size of our company by 50%.

There have been other economic setbacks that we have had to overcome, too. The market crash of 1987, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the global financial crisis of 2007-2009. During that time, specifically 2008 through 2009, NetPlus member purchases dropped by 22%. But then they increased by 45% by 2010.

So, we have been here before.

In the short run, this health crisis and its potential economic impact is unprecedented. The shutdowns will be painful. But we will get through this as well, and we (and you) will be stronger.