Stories from the Front Lines: How Junk King Is Coping with Covid-19
As part of our ongoing special coverage of Covid-19 and its effects on franchising, we’re asking franchise leaders how Covid-19 is affecting their system, from the home office to franchisees to customers. We asked Michael Andreacchi, CEO and co-founder of Junk King, how he’s handling life under the pandemic. If you have a story to tell about what you’re doing to support your franchisees, please email us at email@example.com.
How has Covid-19 affected your brand?
As a brand, our biggest assets are our employees and customers, so as all of this affects them both on a personal level, it affects our brand overall as well. The underlying questions on my mind, and I’m sure everyone else’s, are how long is this going to last and how is it going to affect us in the short and long term? For example, a direct effect we have seen on our brand is our expected year-over-year growth. At the beginning of the year, we were expecting to grow 25% to 30% and were on track to achieve that. In March, we had the same revenue as last year, which is still great given the circumstances, but we didn’t see that growth in revenue we were expecting. Also, being headquartered in San Francisco, we ended up being a part of the first few states that issued a shelter-in-place order. As a result, it forced us to make decisions quickly and sooner than maybe other brands had to. Because of that, we have been able to be proactive with what we are doing from all aspects of the brand. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we’re all human and going through all of this together.
What are you doing to help your franchisees through this?
The biggest thing for us has been communication. We have been in constant communication about SBA loans and how to apply for them, adjusting royalty fees, helping them with cash flow, and with how to communicate with their customers, whether on social media or through email. A part of that is putting out a rigorous and extensive safety procedures outline since we are still open and operating. This includes guidelines on how many crew members should be on our trucks and what sanitation procedures each crew member must follow after every job. To help their businesses, we have been providing communication at a corporate level to make consumers aware that Junk King is still here and still operating. We continue to share messaging on our social channels that highlights the safety precautions we are taking, as well as how we are adjusting our business operations — virtual estimates, no-contact payment, and 100% touchless curbside junk removal. This same messaging has been consistent in our emails, blog posts as well as the landing page we have set up to address consumer questions.
On a corporate and local level, we are also thinking about how we can give back to the community during this time. We are reminding them that this is a difficult time for everyone, and it is important to show our solidarity with the community through the good times and bad. Tom McCabe from Junk King Tri-County has really been a great example of this. For the past few weeks, he partnered with his local food bank and has been using his Junk King trunk to make grocery deliveries to the elderly in his community.
It is also important to us to try to make life as normal as possible for our franchisees. We are working on setting up a system-wide cooking class through Zoom and hosting trivia nights. We want to give them a night at least once a week where they can take their mind off of everything else that is going on around them.
How are you supporting your corporate employees?
Similar to what we are doing with the franchise system, we are going to be including all of our corporate employees into the system-wide cooking class and trivia nights. It’s a team-building activity for everyone and helps keep motivation up as well. We are also lucky that we have a tight corporate staff. Also, about 60%to 70% of our call center staff already work from home, so there were already systems and processes in place to support the rest of the corporate team to work from home. Our team is always in constant communication with each other. We have team meeting three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) to keep each other updated with what is going on and continue to come up with fresh ideas we can implement now and down the road when things return to normal.
How are your franchisees supporting their employees?
The biggest thing right now is safety. Everything we and they are doing is to ensure the safety of each of our crew members. We have also been sharing information with them on the Paycheck Protection Program so they can continue to pay their crew members. Some franchisees are also adjusting their policies. For example, Charles Hagedorn at Junk King Boston has waived the 90-day vesting period on paid sick leave for new employees.
What are your franchisees doing for their customers?
As I mentioned, we have modified our services to provide a completely touchless junk removal experience for customers. That includes crew members wearing protective gear, virtual estimates, no-contact payment, and 100% touchless curbside junk removal. Our hope is that as people are spending more time at home and taking on spring cleaning or home projects, Junk King will be there to help offer a sense of relief to homeowners and business owners who want to safely get rid of their junk.
How do you see the future of your brand, operations, market, etc. post–Covid-19?
The silver lining is we are all going to be safer and much more aware of what we are doing. It is going to add another level of safety to employee handbooks and standards of cleanliness. We have already begun providing branded protective face masks to our crew members, and that will most likely be the new normal moving forward. From a brand perspective, there is going to be pent-up demand for our services. We saw a similar thing happen after the recession in 2008. In about 5 years from now, I anticipate that we will have fully recovered from this. Finally, giving back has always been important to us, especially as an eco-friendly junk removal company that recycles, reuses, and repurposes 60% of the items we pick up. After all of this, giving back and helping out the communities we are in to the best of our ability is going to be more important than ever.
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