By Ken Ryan
Unemployment has climbed to levels not seen since the Great Depression as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 43 million Americans having filed for unemployment since mid-March.
Layoffs and furloughs have been felt throughout the flooring industry as well, with some large companies even shutting down production for a week or two. At Dalton-based Foss Floors, however, it has been pretty much business as usual for its 250 employees, with plants running 24/7.
Rather than lose anyone, Kevin Nassar, executive vice president of operations, and A.J. Nassar, CEO, decided to give each employee a 5% raise as well as cover 100% of their health care insurance, with no out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays. In cases where an employee did not enroll in Foss’ health insurance, the company issued a bonus in line with what the insured workers were receiving.
The importance of taking care of your people
For Kevin Nassar, this was all about taking care of Foss’ family—it’s employees. After all, he said, it is these same employees who have lifted the company in good times and challenging ones. As he explained to FCNews, “My dad (A.J.) has run a lot of companies over his career and would often tell me, ‘You can’t do anything without your people.’ So, we wanted to keep our teams and take care of them.”
When the pandemic started in late March, ownership asked themselves: “What is the lifeblood of the company?” The answer was clear: “It is our workforce,” Kevin Nassar explained. “So, instead of shutting down, we took into account how hard we have worked, and that we need to take care of our people. We are a manufacturing company, a boots-on-the- ground kind of company, and we need them.”
Nassar said many of the spouses of Foss employees were laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, and therefore Foss management felt obligated to help. That is where the health care came into play. “In May and June we decided to cover their health insurance. Anyone who wasn’t enrolled we shot them a bonus to cover what we gave the others who had coverage. The coverage has now been extended through July.”
Employees appreciate the support
Nassar said the company’s employees have been overwhelming appreciative of the company’s gestures, with comments such as “You have no idea how much this means to us—my husband or wife has been out of work for two months with no hope [of returning to work] in sight.”
Nassar shared some other emails from employees:
“I’m so feeling the love right now! Seeing the people I work with on a regular basis are getting hazard pay for their risk, to covering our insurance deductions and options to sell back vacation and sick time for extra money, I feel truly blessed to be a part of the Foss Fam.”
“I’ve read so many horror stories about workers going on strike during these crazy times, and it’s scary to think that there are companies in this country who don’t give a damn about their people. How you react in these unprecedented times is what’s going to give us continued success in the long run. Thank you so much for everything.”
“Wow! We work for the absolute BEST! Thank you, Kevin and AJ!”
“This made me cry! This is why you have dedicated employees. The leaders you are! Thank you! Keep on, keeping on and be safe!”
“Thank you for being so kind to us. BIG MONEY IN MY POCKET. LOL.”
“This means a lot to a family like mine, where I am the only source of income and provide all of the medical coverage as well.This is very much needed assistance and appreciated.”
Business on the whole is on the rise
While Foss was giving raises to employees and extending health care benefits, its own revenue increased—in some cases doubling and tripling on the e-commerce side, which is geared to the big box stores and the DIY customer. When business spiked the first week, Nassar brushed it off as a fluke. But week after week the steady sales continued. “People were home and maybe they were getting to their ‘honey-do’ lists, and that’s why business increased. Whatever, it was shocking how good business was.”
During this period, Foss also turned attention to health care workers. It supplied PPE material for its customers who, in turn, used it to make masks and other materials to front-line workers. Nassar said Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing, spearheaded that initiative by working with his sales force.
“We feel very fortunate,” Nassar said, adding that new hires are joining the team. “We want to be the preferred employer around here. A lot of this is how you take care of them. We are a small guy in an area of giants [in Dalton] but we are small and mighty.”