Since this COVID-19 pandemic is something none of us have experienced in our lifetime, my initial response was concern for family, KEP employees, and the impact to our business overall.
As we learned more about the virus and what we needed to do to safeguard employees, we scrambled to acquire no-touch thermometers, face masks, and hand sanitizer. We developed a comprehensive pandemic plan and looked at how we could operate if the virus severely impacted our operations. Fortunately at this juncture, we have not had to implement many of those measures. It was a good exercise for our organization to work on the pandemic plan and gives me confidence we can respond appropriately when needed. We addressed the need for social distancing in our facilities and by moving certain salary positions off-site to work from their homes. Our Administrative Assistant, Lee Ann Mace, handles taking the temperatures of office personnel and visitors upon their arrival at the Kent office along with disinfecting surfaces in the common areas twice a day. Our president, Bob Oborn, has done a great job of regularly communicating to our employees to keep them informed of what we are doing as a business and what we are doing to keep them safe. Our Leadership team has effectively communicated remotely during this time as we continue to meet while social distancing.
For the Accounting and IT Department, we moved our Cost Accountant (Ed Gordan) and IT Manager (Dan Febres) off-site in March. I personally worked from home for a period of time during the critical time for Ohio as my wife has a heart condition and I didn’t want to put her at risk. I am very proud of our Accounting Manager (Mary Wills), Staff Accountant (Julie Pike), Order Entry/Billing Specialist (Tammy Tomello), and Administrative Assistant (Lee Ann Mace) as they have diligently worked from the office each day during this pandemic while exercising all the necessary precautions.
In regards to the overall business of KEP, safeguarding our cash flow became a top priority. We needed to prioritize our spending and look at items we could push out into the future. There was so much uncertainty with our customers. Some customers increased their business significantly with us while others shut down for a couple months. We had to show patience in collecting the accounts receivable from our customers as this was a new reality we were all dealing with although we needed to continue to safeguard our assets and maintain our leverage where needed. We took advantage of our insurance carriers that were extending premium payments due dates. We also worked with our largest supplier to get extended payment terms with them on a temporary basis. In addition, we took advantage of a depressed natural gas market to purchase future contracts at lower than expected pricing.
Overall, I am extremely proud of how our organization has responded to this pandemic although it puts into perspective how such an event can put you in a position where you don’t have control over areas of your business as well as you would like. The key is being proactive instead of reactive.
Senior Vice President, Finance and Administration
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