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James Fratzke: [00:00:05] Hi, I'm James Fratzke, and this is Back to Business: COVID-19 & You, powered by Fratzke Media.
James Fratzke: [00:00:17] Hello, everyone, and welcome. On today's episode, I'm talking to Ben Gold, the president of QuickBridge, QuickBridge, help small to medium sized businesses obtain working capital loans. And in this interview, Ben gets really candid about some of the decisions that him and his team needed to make at QuickBridge, both with their workforce and also with their loans that they are giving to small to medium sized businesses. We'll get into it. But just keep in mind, there's a lot of great takeaways here for you and your business as we continue to work through this pandemic and get to this new normal that none of us are quite sure what it's going to look like. Without further ado, please enjoy my interview with Ben Gold. Ben Gold, welcome to the Back to Business podcast. How the heck are you?
Ben Gold: [00:01:07] Doing well. How are you?
James Fratzke: [00:01:09] I'm doing pretty good. Just trying to live my my best quarantine life here. Let's get started, because I think you're in a really interesting industry, which I want to talk about that I want to talk about loans and everything going on with small businesses right now. But I also think it's a really interesting conversation because as the president of QuickBridge, you're managing an office full of people, and it is this idea of of how you reacted to the stay at home orders.
James Fratzke: [00:01:41] How are you thinking about people coming into the office? Maybe give me a little bit of a rundown of what were some of the things that happened early on through this process?
Ben Gold: [00:01:52] Yeah, I'm a huge sports fan, specifically basketball. So a lot of my calendar runs around what's happening in the NBA.
Ben Gold: [00:02:01] So March 12th is the night that the NBA found out that Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, and they sent everybody home from that Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks game or something as that famous shot of like Mark Cuban being super shocked at its center. And the next morning was so is a Friday of Friday, March 13th, the next morning. I actually went to go visit a buddy at his office. And I remember thinking to myself, like, how do I handle this? I like to shake hands, like, just right. Just sit at the back of my mind, like, you know it was around it. It even leading up to that for a couple weeks. Leading up to that, you know, we were really encouraging and everyone in the office no high fives, no shaking hands, that type of stuff. If you go into the break room, make sure you wash your hands. I know. I remember wash my hands a lot the first couple weeks of March and our head of H.R.. She called me on Friday. And as I was driving into the office, she was like, hey, we really need to think about what are our work from home is going to look like. And we had earlier in the week had just kind of a really brief dialog about like, you know, with our I.T. team. Hey, if we did have to send everybody home, what does that look like? Where where are the holes? What would we be missing. So we at least had, like, started the conversation.
Ben Gold: [00:03:31] You know, maybe. But we hadn't done any kind of dry run or really tested anything or anything else. So, you know, again, kind of going back to Friday, I'm headed back into the office talking to our head of H.R.. She's the one who really was was the first to kind of bring it up, that it's it's a good idea to really start thinking about this. And we pick the conversation back up that afternoon and, you know, just sort of reading more and more about it. And at that time, you know, we were tracking as a country very similar to what Italy was tracking as like, I think a week or two prior. And in that day, there's a lot of news that was coming out. You know, obviously what had happened with the NBA the night before that was in the news, but then also just Italy in general and the death toll. You know, I think what they were doing as a country, we decided, you know, very shortly thereafter that day, that afternoon, that, you know what? Like, let's just take a pause for next week. Let's send everybody home. We'll do our best and get everybody set up for work from home. But if for whatever reason, we can't. And it just means that we have low productivity for a week. It's it's funny in hindsight that we're thinking about this as a week by week thing, then that's OK. You know, like like it's OK if the company doesn't perform well for a week. Right. Because for that reason, we had a choppy work from home transition.
Ben Gold: [00:05:01] And, you know, we as a company, one of our core tendencies is something for our culture is that, you know, we always say that we care. We care about the people that work with you, care about the customers that business does. And so, you know, how do we honestly say that we care about people if we're not willing to send them home? And, you know, if that means business doesn't run well for weeks, then so be it. So around three o'clock that day, because, you know, we've got a mix of about we at the time, we had about 110 people. And so there's a mix of, you know, some salaried people, some hourly people and people, the hourly folks coming at different times from there. So we wanted to make sure we got a message out before some of those folks started or started leaving for the weekend. So at three o'clock, we gather the entire company. And I remember which is not totally abnormal. You know, my style generals always instead of sending like mass emails, I prefer oral communication. So I guess it's common for me, instead of sending an e-mail to everybody to just be like, hey, can everybody just kind of gather or stand up from your desk, gather around a little bit? I've got a big announcement and I just kind of walk around every everybody hear me. But, you know, just like, hey, we don't have all the answers.
Ben Gold: [00:06:18] We don't know if we're doing the right thing or not. At that moment, California had not issued their state income. So you later. So there's was still life and controversies, right? Word. But it definitely in the office vibe like, do we have to like do we really have to work from home? But you know, I made the announcement like, hey, we're going to send everybody home. We have two I.T. support desk people at QuickBridge the absolute rock stars that, you know, very quickly they organized getting everybody to get their tower.
Ben Gold: [00:06:52] Their car. Their monitors into their car. They had created sort of like just like a really quick and dirty checklist of other stuff. And what we very quickly were able to do is at least for about 60 percent of the company we were able to that day over the weekend, get them sent home. And then our help desk people, you know, they were sort of the unsung heroes in all of this over the weekend. They really worked hard to make sure that everybody had the appropriate VPN access or that they could all do it securely. We kind of gave some just very basic loose rules of the road. And then we schedule an early webinar for Monday morning, Zoom, where everybody could just jump on a quick and we could just walk through. OK. You're working from home this week. That means there's expectation, all the other stuff.
Ben Gold: [00:07:40] And, you know, it went great. The other 40 percent of the company that we couldn't get over were for it, like an inbound sales group.
Ben Gold: [00:07:50] And the thing that we had trouble with was our phone system is not a cloud based phone system, which at the time when we did it was the right decision. Fast forward. You know, obviously, that I didn't have the foresight to know how ubiquitous the cloud would become. You know, it. Fast forward to needing to quickly pivot off of phone and like inbound Q lines and making sure the calls get routed to all the right places was not easy to do remotely. So that took some time, fortunately, because we were sort of an early mover in the work from home. We had connected with our phone vendor. We had a consulting company that, you know, helped us with with these types of projects specific to the phone system. Any time we wanted to reroute stuff. And we contacted them Friday that day very quickly. And they, you know, we signed or whatever the thing is, you got to sign to get the project started and no joke like an hour after we sign or thing. I think they have like eight other companies call and then like we can add, like twelve of the companies call. And so had we not moved quickly, we probably would have been like an additional week or so just in terms of their ability to assist our business and getting to work from home.
Ben Gold: [00:09:10] So we had the rest of the team home by that Wednesday. And, you know, it actually went great. And I think by and large, you know, our our team really appreciated the fact that, you know, we we got them home and, you know, it was it was fine.
Ben Gold: [00:09:31] And everybody adjusted. Yeah. At the end of that first week, I remember part of what I mean, I you know, we did like a full company, Zoom, which is the most awkward thing to ever do when you have to be like the primary speaker to one hundred people. And they're like, you know, obviously like just a little tiles across the screen and, you know, there's no feedback. You can't tell. You don't know where to focus. That was a tough adjustment. But, you know, everybody handled a really well. We just we you know, we're really fortunate. We have a really good team of managers and they really took initiative all along the way. It's just a constant communication team. And if somebody for whatever reason, you know, wasn't able to the Internet connection or home setup or something like that, then, you know, we just worked with that person as best we could. It went fine. I think, like everybody understood why we're doing it. So we all we all work together to make it happen. I could have been happier with that work from home transition, which was good. One other caveat. We always at QuickBridge had some roles that were worked from home. You know, over time we have just had employees that we loved and, you know, had been with us for a long time and for whatever reason, had a spouse or some life event occur and they had to move. And instead of losing those people, we we had actually just over the years had a number of folks that we relocated and we just sort of work from home for them. So work from home in general was just was not super foreign to us. And fortunately, we're not producing a widget. So for us, it's really just the ability to communicate with each other and the ability to log into our different systems to check statuses of things and move things along. So we were able to navigate it pretty well.
James Fratzke: [00:11:32] No, it sounds I get and I like how you started that. You know, I know you personally and I know you're a basketball guy, so that makes sense.
James Fratzke: [00:11:39] You know, I'm more of a football guy less than basketball guy, but I was out to dinner for my brother's birthday that day, March 12th happens to be his birthday. And, yeah, they you know, we are at a yard. Reverend, there's the screens and there's breaking news. NBA season is suspended. But you like watching. The fans are like, you know, and you can tell like they cut to shots where it was like a kid's first game or something that he's really distraught about it. And I do think that was for a lot of people that moment. I like how this might be more serious than maybe we were thinking it could be. But it sounds like you guys moved quickly. And, you know, that's really impressive. So I kind of want to fast forward a little bit like today, as you know, we're getting into these different phases and different states are starting to reopen. Is the office back open yet? Yes. No. What does that transition look like?
Ben Gold: [00:12:33] So, you know, it's just kind of go back a little bit. So a week later, right after we go work from home state, California issues their state home order New York and all of a sudden, you know, big states and as a small business lender are the density of our portfolios or follows the population density. Right. So 20 percent of our portfolio is in California. You know, you've got probably twelve to fifteen percent of the portfolio at any given time in New York.
Ben Gold: [00:12:59] There's a large portion of portfolio in Florida. Texas is like some of these bigger states.
Ben Gold: [00:13:05] And as the states started doing stay-at-home orders, we started to get a little bit freaked out about the state of land in these states, because at that time, it's we knew it was going to have a big impact on the local economies in those areas, especially the small businesses that we serve. It was just impossible to know how much of an impact. So we actually stopped lending the very next week. So we go home on the 13th. Then by the 20, if we make the decision with our parent company him, what's on our decision to make unilaterally made a decision with our parent company to stop lending on March 20th.
Ben Gold: [00:13:42] So which, you know, when you're a business that does lending and all of a sudden you stop doing business, it really changes everything. So, you know, all of a sudden it's like, well, what do we do? Right. And what do we tell our people and at that time was just like, well, just tell everybody just, you know, they're home. Just hang out, just clock in in the morning and be available. But we're not lending money. So it just kind of hang out. And, you know, that's easy to maintain for a couple weeks. You know, it's now been almost two months and a little more complicated. We're still not lending. We've done some small deals here and there for really long time customers that are in a business. One of our favorite deals is a guy that makes tortilla chips. He's in Texas.
Ben Gold: [00:14:32] And I don't know about you, but I've eaten a lot of tortilla chips.
James Fratzke: [00:14:36] I say, tell me you're getting some free tortilla chips.
Ben Gold: [00:14:38] Yes. So his business is booming. And so we have some deals, but they're few and far between. I mean, between our company and our our parent company.
Ben Gold: [00:14:53] I mean, gosh, last year we funded close to 200 million dollars in loans and our parent company did, you know, close to six hundred million dollars loans. We do small loans. We're talking twenty five thousand thirty thousand loans. Thirty thousand loans.
Ben Gold: [00:15:09] So it's a lot of small businesses that we have in our portfolio, in the combined companies. And, you know, if there's like some onesy twosy type stuff. So you have two companies that go from funding, you know, a thousand deals or more than a thousand deals in a month to both companies funding for four or five. And it's it's a totally different vibe in terms of everything else. So in terms of like work from home. And also we we haven't had the urgency to go back into office because we're not operating.
Ben Gold: [00:15:45] So, you know, it's it's actually easier message for us, especially now that I think people are more into their routine of working from home, even if in our case are not necessarily working. They're just available if something random pops up. But we you know, yeah, it's been it's been different because not only home, but we're not actually doing our normal jobs. We also went through a pretty big layoff. So that the week after the stay-at-home orders and we had decided not to lend. We laid off and our parent company also laid off half the company. So, you know, I did, you know, lay off over 50 people over Zoom, which was obviously a really difficult experience for those being laid off. But just in general, not not at all something that, you know, you want to have to do with people you care about.
James Fratzke: [00:16:54] So and you're not prepared for it. There's no way you could have possibly imagined that. Here's the at least that that piece of solace I'll give to you. You're not the only one in that position. You know, as you know, part of my my history is I come from Disney. A lot of folks at Disney are either losing their jobs or on furlough right now. A lot of folks that probably thought that there were some job security there, you know, but all of a sudden things changed. And in ways that you can't predict and, you know, there's only a few ways to react to it in your in your case. There's all these different industries that have been impacted. And in your case, obviously, if you stop doing the one thing that your business does.
Ben Gold: [00:17:39] And then to take a step further, you know, once we are back in know whatever that means, right. In terms of, you know, businesses operating again and, you know, able to even come back into office or not come out of office.
Ben Gold: [00:17:54] But at least we get to a point where we're comfortable coming back online to lend money again because, you know, things have stabilized a little bit. The capacity to lend for our two companies, our parent company and ourselves is going to be very different. And that's what really prompted the layoffs. And so even with potential, you know, and our parent company, got a PPP loan. So which we can discuss as well. But, yeah, even with that, you know, knowing that on the other side of this thing, there wouldn't be enough capacity for us to learn that the company would only be able to learn so much every month, whereas before we basically lend a unlimited amount because the impact of what the shutdown has done to this secondary markets and credit markets and all sorts of other stuff. It limits the ability of companies like ours to tap those markets for liquidity, to be able to provide that liquidity out to small businesses. So without us being able to access that money. We can't lend it out. So even we already lend again. We're only going to be able to lend so much.
Ben Gold: [00:19:05] Whereas before it was like, you know, whatever we can generate that meets our credit criteria and the customer wants to do business with us. Hey, great. Sign them up. Now it's going to be like, hey, we have to cap it. Can't do any more than than what we have available to us from a cash position. So, you know, unfortunately, that means we don't need as many people. And we actually did lay off right before the PPP stuff legislation was finalized. But wouldn't it make a difference anyways? It would be disingenuous to try to hang on to people for any period of time knowing that they were gonna be laid off regardless. And later on.
Ben Gold: [00:19:50] So, it was definitely a wild first few weeks of, like, getting used to working from, us all being home. Not sure what's going on, you know. And then the layoffs and trying to figure out what the business might look like at the other side of this thing, you know, March, March was brutal.
James Fratzke: [00:20:09] Yeah. It sounds like you started with QuickBridge at the very beginning. You were one of the the founding team members and. You've obviously, obviously watched it grow from four people, two to one hundred people over the course of several years. Was this the hardest six week period? You know, March to mid April that you've ever had as president? At QuickBridge?
Ben Gold: [00:20:35] Yes, no doubt. But we started the business in March of 2011, so a little over nine years ago. And at that time, you know, it was the economy was not doing well. Right.
Ben Gold: [00:20:49] So we enjoyed a very robust run. Right. Sort of like nine year old run of, you know, great economic expansion, small business health and, you know, a healthy American consumer and all that other stuff.
Ben Gold: [00:21:06] So it's been a great run. We for not anything to do with a macro level stuff, but due to some more market conditions, our company had a great time. So we we were very fast growing in the beginning. You know, I think we've talked about that before.
Ben Gold: [00:21:22] And then from 11 to 15, we were very fast growing. It's awesome. 2016. Some things change in our space that we we weren't quick enough to adjust to really negatively impacted our ability to originate. So we started going down like 2016 and 17 in terms of originations growth, which was quite a shift because culturally we were the company that was sort of that sort of startup mentality or fast growing every month was setting the records, we're so smart. To like all of a sudden things change. It's like, wait, maybe we're not as smart as we thought we were. This is a lot harder than we realize. You know, we thought, you know, like everybody else that, you know, it's always funny when you're putting together, like backs or something like that or you're trying to forecast the future. And like, everybody's got like this hockey stick growth that just, you know, eventually turns into linear growth in perpetuity. And that's just not how things work, you know, like it never gets easier to acquire customers. There's always more competition. You know, it's all those things that you don't contemplate starting. So we had a bit of a rough patch at that time, but nothing compared to this. I mean, you know, at least then, you know, we're still in the office, right?
Ben Gold: [00:22:35] You can still have meetings and talk to people and do stuff. Now, it's just like it's all a lot more difficult. And, you know, I never had to lay off half the company. Like, that's like a totally different ball of wax.
Ben Gold: [00:22:49] And you're just the general fear that people have of like, hey. Am I next in terms of jobs? Is the company safe? All those things that you're trying to work through. And, you know, by and large, I think like, you know, to your point, everybody understands because they read the news that other companies are kind of going through the same thing. And so, you know, there's a lot of people that got laid off that reach back out to me. They were just like, hey, you know, they were so kind with thire words and everything else. And it just it's just brutal. Like you're like. You know, I appreciate you thinking of us during this time. But you know, I like, I feel terrible that, you know, we weren't better prepared for something like this.
Ben Gold: [00:23:35] But at the same time, it's like, how do you prepare? This is easily the toughest, you know, two month stretch of my career.
Ben Gold: [00:23:50] You know, I just feel fortunate to be at a stage in my career where it's like this will be an amazing learning experience. And it really cool that down the road something that like I think all of us have learned a lot from, you know, I still have plenty of time to to you know, I don't know, like make up for things that probably should have been done earlier on. Better set ourselves up for for, you know, any type of crazy event. So.
James Fratzke: [00:24:21] All right. I want to take a quick break and pass it over to our Head of Client Strategy here at Fratzke Media. Lisa, Lisa. Take it away.
Lisa Fratzke: [00:24:29] Thank you, James.
Lisa Fratzke: [00:24:30] I'm really excited to talk to this audience today because we've been talking to a lot of our clients at Fratzke Media and truly believe that now more than ever, it's important for mid-sized businesses to connect with their customers online. I think we've all seen that COVID-19, has had widespread impacts on companies, our employees and our economy. We fundamentally believe, Fratzke Media, that the rebound will be digital. If you don't know where to start and you want to make digital your competitive edge, we can help. Visit Fratzkemedia.com to schedule your free consultation. Our digital marketing experts specialize in helping mid-sized businesses like you leapfrog the competition. We look forward to talking to you soon.
James Fratzke: [00:25:12] Thanks, Lisa. All right. Let's get back into it.
James Fratzke: [00:25:16] You mentioned doing the PPP loan. And I think, you know, right now as this goes live, that they won't be giving out any new paint. I think they've stopped their second round. But if something were to happen where they were to to release another round of PPP loans, I think the question for a lot of business owners was to PPP or not to PPP, you know, that the tradeoff. What was that process that you guys went through to ultimately say, OK. We think that this is something that we should go through the process on?
Ben Gold: [00:25:50] Yeah, I mean, in the beginning, if you recall, it was like everybody should sign up for this. And it's almost like your duty. You have access to this money to do it because we need to keep liquidity flowing into the system. Right. We need to keep people employed as best as possible. And it seemed like in the moment that that was the best opportunity to do it.
Ben Gold: [00:26:14] Now, you know, the way the money works is the SBA just guarantees these loans through SBA approved lending lender banks. Right.
Ben Gold: [00:26:28] So if I'm a bank and I have a program where the SBA will back these loans, if the customer defaults on the loan, then the SBA will give me the money to cover my loss. So as the bank, it's a no risk loan persay. Right. Now, the upside is nominal because if the loan doesn't get forgiven or whatever the portion is or forgiven converts into an actual loan is a very low interest rate. And the bank has expenses associated with processing loans. Right. They are a people at the service loan. There's stuff that the banks have to do. So from the bank's perspective and where, you know, the sort of like floor early on in the program was is the bank was incentivized based off of like they would get almost a fee to do the loan.
Ben Gold: [00:27:19] Right? I think they did like five percent or something like that, if they could loan the government would spot them that.
Ben Gold: [00:27:25] So for our parent company, which is a big company and also a big customer of their bank, it's all the things that you read about that's like all the things that are wrong with with the way that the thing is set up. But it's really the way the system is set up and what was incentivized to occur. I don't blame our parent company needed the money in order to continue to maintain expenses while we had shut down. Right. So I don't blame them for taking the money I think was the right decision for them. I don't blame the bank for wanting to protect one of their largest customers with which they have a giant line of credit with.
Ben Gold: [00:27:58] It's like, hey, if these guys go out of business. Right. Which we weren't at risk of doing, but if these guys go out of business right, like we're out a whole bunch of money.
Ben Gold: [00:28:08] So, yeah, if we could float them some, you know, a few million dollars to help cover their overhead for the next few months while they wait to get back on line and figure out what had you chosen.
Ben Gold: [00:28:19] Oh yeah, we're gonna do it right away. Oh, and on top of that, you're also government going to give me a percentage of doing a large loan.
Ben Gold: [00:28:26] OK, cool then. For sure. So it didn't surprise me at all that in the first round of PPP that banks kind of went through their list of VIP customers. That's like, OK, who are the ones that we need to really make sure we protect A that particular solvency so that if we have other loans or lines of credit with them, they don't default on those. And that B on the other side of the saying, we don't lose that relationship. Right. Because, you know, the banks care also about if you're like, hey, man, I applied for a PPP loan with you. You said no. So I had to go down the street to this other bank and guess who's going to get my business on the other side of this thing? It's now that the new bank. So there's a lot of competing forces when you involve banks as the primary arbiter of who's getting funding and who isn't. In the second round. You know, there were some other considerations made. And those that are in the bank that I've talked to and just from what I've read online, it does seem like it was more geared towards smaller businesses, that type of stuff. You know, I read Mark Cuban on Twitter had a great idea that, you know, it probably should have been a lottery. But I think more than anything, it's like look like if the intention is to get money to people, then you should have just gone. Andrew Yang style. And just like the people, like just to the people, like, you can't force companies, even if we had gotten the PPP money before we decided to do layoffs. We still need to do layoffs. So you can't force companies to keep people that they don't need. Like, we just wouldn't have needed that many people. We can't land at the same capacity demand before. So before we could do 200 million next year, we're going to 100 million. So we only need half the people. Even if everything is going great. So, you know, I get what it was supposed to do.
Ben Gold: [00:30:09] And I do think there's a lot of value in and I'm sure it helped a lot of businesses. I know a lot of money went out. There's more data on it this morning. But, you know, it's challenging when you try to put together something very quickly. And I'm not sure that, like the you know, the team that was putting together legislation for it have done a lot of receiving of SBA loans in the past.
Ben Gold: [00:30:38] We understand know all the unintended consequences of what was to occur. So sure, it's tough, you know. It is what it is. So here, you know, here we are. So. Right.
James Fratzke: [00:30:50] Ben, we talked about the number of employees being cut in half what does reopening look like for QuickBridge.
Ben Gold: [00:30:59] I mean, we're still waiting for sort of all clear and making sure we feel comfortable putting people back to work in the office environment.
Ben Gold: [00:31:09] But the way you're going to think about it or talking about it internally is, you know, we do have half the staff at the same size offices, so we have about 17000 square feet right now.
Ben Gold: [00:31:22] Again, we've been set up previously to work from home activities, and now we're more comfortable two months into it.
Ben Gold: [00:31:30] But I think the way we really think about it is, look, there are people depending on their circumstance that maybe really want to go into the office, right?
Ben Gold: [00:31:37] And so we've been contemplating accepting maybe 15 to 20 volunteers. All right. Who raise their hands, and want to do it. Where are they sat? We have a decent mix of offices. And then we already have large workstations our cubicles are six feet by six feet. So it would be pretty easy for us to strategically position people around the office and then just make sure that you know, face coverings when they get up from their desks and you know have to go to the bathroom or something like that. Totally shut down the break room.
Ben Gold: [00:32:14] So, you know, maybe you supplying bottled water or something like that. Put it out at everybody's desk that wanted to come to the office, but we're really just doing our best to be thoughtful around eliminating the all the communal aspects that normally we would accommodate at QuickBridge.
Ben Gold: [00:32:33] We had a pretty robust breakroom with free cold brew and the coffee machine and water and fridges, vending machines. All that good stuff. Shutting that down completely. Making sure all of doors are open so that people aren't touching door handles.
Ben Gold: [00:32:48] And doing our best to make sure that it somebody doesn't have a mask, we're able to provide one.
Ben Gold: [00:32:54] We we'e going to go so far as to do temperature gauges.
Ben Gold: [00:32:59] I think for us, it's like, just just in general, it's like. Like what what are things that we say we're going to do something what are things that we can actually follow through with or enforce. And we felt pretty comfortable about that.
Ben Gold: [00:33:13] Limiting the number of people, increasing the amount of space, getting rid of all the communal aspects, face coverings. And then you know fortunately we're an Irvine company building so in terms of like getting to that place clean, you know, that's a pretty easy thing for us to solve, for my company to make sure that there's a thorough cleaning. And then even if you want to take so so far as splitting up, let's say you do have 20 people that volunteered. Maybe even splitting those into groups of 10 and, you know, doing two different shifts and having a little bit of time. And so we felt like when we're ready to do that. We got to get some options to do it responsibly, and to keep that physical distance.
James Fratzke: [00:33:53] Yeah. Well, you touched on something there that's interesting, too, as I think a lot of folks now that have opened up the floodgate for remote working there was that, you know, tendency of no, I need to have you in the office I need to see you working. But I mean, if efficiencies go up things like that, I think there's going to be a pendulum swing where businesses go well do I need all this space? And certainly if your workforce is a little bit less, you might say, well, let's cut it in half as we can move people closer together?
James Fratzke: [00:34:28] But it looks like the precautions you guys are making are pretty first class in a sense. Like let's think the water. That's the thing that's so interesting with people that are listening right now it's like how can your business think about reopening in the responsible way and it's all those little intangibles that we don't even think about. You know, like the break room. OK, well, that's why thing that's where people get water.
James Fratzke: [00:34:52] Well, how do we make sure that people are supplied with that? So it's just a lot of moving parts.
Ben Gold: [00:35:08] Or you could do, let's say it's only 10 people at a time and we run into lunch time or we have breakfast. Right. Could we do, through DoorDash or UberEats or a delivery company, provide some contactless delivery where we do do some sort of food setup.
Ben Gold: [00:35:15] Those are all things that we've been thinking about because, you know, the more they can keep people from getting close to each other or congregating or needing to get up to go like walk around, do stuff I think we limit the amount of interaction that there is.
Ben Gold: [00:35:30] Well, are we defeating the purpose of being in the office? All that good stuff. So you know it's still a work in progress for sure.
Ben Gold: [00:35:39] I think to go back to the point you were making. The way I think about the future of the office, especially for companies like ours, that don't produce the physical widgets, the space is more of a luxury than a necessity, is that being able to go into an office may be one of those things that's more of a perk.
Ben Gold: [00:35:59] Right. Like, hey. Yeah. By and large you can do your work from home and we have the expectation that you'll be able to do that effectively and as suggested. But hey, if you need to come into the office or something like that to get away from the family for a week, you know, or for a couple of days or something like. You know we're happy to provide that to you and to do that. The hard part for that is, you know, as you think about like does sombody have their own space and those types of things?
Ben Gold: [00:36:33] So all the things that you know. We'll think about what it's like the future of the design.
Ben Gold: [00:36:40] There's definitely going to be a lot more, at least from my perspective. And even as I think about the future work, when I talk about it with my wife or my family generally, like they're expecting me to be home a lot more and I'm expecting to be home a lot more.
Ben Gold: [00:36:54] And I've already cut down a lot of my travel anyways because I've found it to be superfluous, but I plan on traveling almost never for business. Right.
Ben Gold: [00:37:03] I really only want to focus travel for time with family or leisure. So we'll see how this goes. But yeah.
James Fratzke: [00:37:16] I think you touched on a few interesting things there.
James Fratzke: [00:37:18] I think the way we think about things are totally going to change that business meeting that I got to go across the country to talk to a client in New York or something like that.
James Fratzke: [00:37:28] Let's just Zoom it.
James Fratzke: [00:37:30] Well, I want to end on this note. I just want to get your perspective, because you have this unique perspective of loaning to small businesses. And as they go through this process, what do you think the landscape looks like as far as opening up? You know, you have landlords that are saying, hey, I don't care that you were closed for the last two months. You know, we still want you to pay. You have maybe different ways that they're thinking about doing their business because their capacity is going to be down to twenty five percent. All these, again, consequences that we're gonna have to deal with for the next six, seven, who knows how many months. What do you think the rebound looks like? What are some things that people need to be looking towards?
Ben Gold: [00:38:18] So, I mean, the only thing in my, like, adult lifetime that I can compare this to is that, you know, the Great Recession.
Ben Gold: [00:38:26] And the one that I think is important keep in mind is that the stock market crashed in September 2008. The housing market didn't bottom out until late 2011. And so it takes time to work through a lot of these things. I mean, Pier One Imports yesterday said that they're shutting down all their retail stores. And obviously that's been a big part of the news of like anchor tenants, shopping centers leaving their retail stores and the impact that's going to have on commercial real estate. But all these things take time to kind of work through. Right. You know, just because you start making mortgage payments doesn't mean you get a foreclosure issued to your home or your business right away. It takes time. And so I think the recovery is going to be a lot slower than what anybody is anticipating. As a small business lender, you know, the way we think about it, is once we are ready to lend again. A customer that we would normally, traditionially, maybe give a larger loan amount of 50 to 100 thousand dollars. We'll scale that way down and maybe get them 15-20 thousand dollars. Right. Because also the capacity for them to do businesses is less right. Just think about it in a restaurant. Sure. There are restaurants that have been able to pivot and those that have drive throughs you know, are doing better than those that are primarily dine in. But, you know, a lot of like fine dining establishments that, you know, just think like, assuming they survive this when they reopen. Right. What does that restaurant look like? It's going to be a tenth of the capacity or what it was before. Right. There's still a lot of fixed overhead and all that other stuff. And so that business is similar to like QuickBridge just won't have the same capacity to do business that they had before. And all of that will lead to a slow recovery as we kind of get back to the new normal in and the hope is that once there's a vaccine and, you know, hopefully there's not enough there's not a ton of pushback or conspiracy theories about the impact of that.
Ben Gold: [00:40:30] And, you know, we think we can we can get a little bit back to normal, but it's going to take time. I mean, even the states that reopen, I mean, the data that's coming out from like Open Table or some of the other data that tracks people's movements, you know. Georgia and Texas had other stuff on the news, but like people, you know, partying or doing stuff on the streets.
Ben Gold: [00:40:49] But I don't think that reflects the vast majority of people in these states that are are able to go back out of their house and go reopen.
Ben Gold: [00:40:59] Yeah, I think people are still hesitant to go do that stuff. And, you know, it depends on your individual perspective. But obviously, Lowe's and Target, Wal-Mart and I forget the other one, they had a conference call this morning, absolute crushed, you know, crushing earnings and really projecting for a solid year.
Ben Gold: [00:41:22] So, yeah, I mean, like who gets beat up and all this stuff. It's like this small mom and pop stuff, you know, the hard type of customer, except for those that, you know, create new businesses and are able to pivot. So, you know, in one hand, like, I'm excited for what the next 10 years looks like. It was gonna be a great pivot in terms of work from home, flexibility and all the other applications and stuff like that that you've grown accustomed to.
Ben Gold: [00:41:51] You know, the meal delivery and all the other new conveniences that you've now been taking advantage of being home. Also think about, like just the retail experience in general. Right. Like, right now you have capacity from Best Buy or anywhere else. Right. And you just pull up. You tell them you're there they come out your car, they drop the thing, they drop the merchandise off in the trunk and leave like. That's just how it should be, you know, like. Right. Yeah. Like, sure. You know, maybe even go into a store if you really, really need to. But like, by and large. Yeah. You know, why can't we just like, adjust to some of these new norms and stuff like that. So I think, you know, over time it'll be fine. But I'd be hesitant to declare that right away as soon as it's safe to go back out. But there's this massive recovery that curves, so.
James Fratzke: [00:42:43] Right. Yeah. I mean, I think that's really great perspective. There are some of these innovations like pulling up to Target and they just come out and bring it to you like, wow, this is how I'm doing it now. So I think there's going to be things that certainly of survive past this time. I'm interested to see how that the restaurant business goes. I was talking to Wing Lam, one of the co-founders of Wahoo's, the other day. And, you know, he says his capacity, he did 80 percent dine in, 20 percent takeout. Now it's just 20 percent. Was that mean his business is down 80 to 90 percent. So be interesting to see what businesses like his do. Does he gear more towards the takeout side of the business? Because even as things open, he's only going to be at twenty five percent capacity. So interesting to see what the rebound looks like and what's most digital things are that will that will help kind of shift us into a new era.
James Fratzke: [00:43:40] But with all that being said, Ben, I really appreciated our time today. It's always a pleasure to talk to you and pick your brain and get all your insights. Always a pleasure, Ben. We'll talk to you real soon. Thanks for talking to us today.
Ben Gold: [00:43:50] Thanks. Thank you.
James Fratzke: [00:43:52] I really appreciate Ben's candor when he was sharing some of the things that him and his leadership team went through at the beginning of this pandemic, in the middle of it, and what they're looking towards now as they're getting ready to potentially reopen the office. If you listen to this interview all the way through, which I'm assuming did cause now, you hear me at the end, if you didn't if you skipped to the end, then go back and relisten to it because. There were just hard decisions that Ben had to make, laying off half his staff, telling people to to work from home. But there's really no work to be done right now because the business that they're in, industry that they're in, has been impacted by COVID-19, probably similar to you and your business. So I just want to start by saying I really appreciate what Ben shared with us, because I think there were just so many great takeaways that you can take into your business. And it kind of reminded me of how we do things here at Fratzke Media. One of the first frameworks that we go with or go through with our clients and that we continue to go through with our clients, we come the four piece of transformation. It's really the foundation of your business, not just your marketing department, but your your business as a whole. And those four P's are people, platforms, processes, and partners. I can't help but see how some of the decisions that been made fit into some of those four P's and how we can be thinking about, as you listen to this podcast, how to take those four pieces transformation into your business. So always start with people, because that's the most important part of your foundation. And who do you have on the bus? And I really appreciate some of the things Ben was talking about as far as making sure that when you do get back to business, when you get back to opening, that you take care of your people, that you make things safe, you make them comfortable. And I think that's one of the interesting transformations and innovations that's coming out of this pandemic. It's forcing companies that otherwise wouldn't have thought about remote working. All of a sudden, it's the only option they have. And that brings us to process. What is your process for this new normal of remote working? What does it look like from a cybersecurity standpoint? How are you ensuring that your private information is staying private, that your employees have the opportunity to have clear communication with their teammates and with their customers? Think about that example that been shared about the phones not being on the cloud. And what was that process that they had to work through in order to allow their salespeople to get on the phone? Let's talk about partners. Who are you partnering up with in this transformation? He talked about working with a consultant, again with that cloud phone situation that they were in. Do you have the expertize that you need to move into that digital transformation that's going to be so important? Because here at Fratzke Media, we really believe that the rebound is going to be digital. Do you have the partners that you need in order to take you to that next level? If not, now is a great time to start looking for those people that can fill in the gaps from the knowledge that you and your team have to the knowledge you need to excel and to make digital marketing your competitive edge in this new normal. And of course, the last one is, is platforms. What platforms are you leveraging right at the end of our conversation? Ben had talked about some of the conveniences and some of the things coming out of this pandemic that he thinks are here to stay. You know, large companies that have a lot of retail space maybe going to just online selling. How about the convenience of some those delivery apps that we're seeing pop up? People can go do grocery shopping on your behalf. How about if you're like me or you're like been using the Target app or the Best Buy app to make your order online pull up and a team member puts it right in your car. You don't have to go inside anymore. And so start thinking about those platforms that that might be important for you moving into this new normal. If you have any questions about the four P's, are you want to dive into them a little bit more? Don't hesitate to reach out to us at Fratzkemedia.com, and we would love to go through that with you and your team. Well, with that, folks. That concludes our time today. Thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate the time that you've shared with us. I look forward to sharing some more time with you very soon. Until next time. Have a great day.
James Fratzke: [00:48:56] Everyone, one last thing before you leave. Make sure you go to whatever platform you're listening to, the Back to Business podcast on and leave us a positive review. Every rating and review really helps us grow the show and make sure you share it with people in your professional network so we can help other people like you and your midsize business get back to business.
As the world recovers from COVID-19, we believe the rebound will be digital. In each episode of the Back to Business: COVID-19 & You Podcast, we interview leaders of mid-size businesses to define best practices and next steps companies should be taking to thrive in the new normal. If you are a mid-size business navigating COVID-19 setbacks, and don’t know where to start or need help defining your strategy, this podcast is for you.
James Fratzke is a Co-Founder and Head of Client Success at Fratzke Media. His passion for storytelling comes from his time at the Walt Disney Company where he and his team executed record-breaking media events. He has helped tell the stories of major brands like Dollar Tree, Advance Auto Parts, and Jelly Belly.
When you bank with Infinity Bank, you are not banking with a faceless corporation. You are banking with industry leaders who want to know you and your business well. They are here to serve and partner with you to help you achieve all of your financial goals and dreams. To learn more visit www.goinfinitybank.com or call (657) 223-1000 today.
At Fratzke Media, our paths cross with some amazing people. Learn more about their habits, insights and stories behind their success.
QuickBridge provides small businesses with loans and expert financial guidance, and had to quickly adapt when the coronavirus pandemic hit. After news of the NBA shutdown, Ben Gold moved his company to work-from-home, and ultimately stopped all lending. When the economy reopens, QuickBridge will have to consider the capacity of the economy and businesses, and stricter loan limits. Facing a difficult couple months, Ben talks about layoffs, what rebounding looks like for QuickBridge, and adjusting to new norms. Learn all this and more in this episode of Back to Business: COVID-19 & You.
The 4 Ps (People, Process, Partners and Platforms) is a framework we use at Fratzke Media to set the foundation for our client’s digital transformation. In talking with Ben, we found that Quickbridge’s response to the coronavirus pandemic hit on each of the 4 Ps.
COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate, but it’s also affected internal operations as well. Mid-size businesses need to be thinking about the safety of their customers and their employees. Like Ben mentioned, how can they be a company that says they care if they can’t keep their employees safe? He had his employees work-from-home quickly, even before there was a set protocol, because his employees come first.
The New York Times writes that during this time, employees have found greater job satisfaction working remotely, and it can lead to higher productivity and less sickness. Some workers have highlighted their appreciation of compassionate management. In times of uncertainty, it’s important to ensure your employees feel like they’re a priority.
Every company’s process has changed in the wake of coronavirus. For QuickBridge, Ben needed to quickly establish a work-from-home process, which was something that the company never needed to do before. They had to get different departments functioning from home, which was more challenging for some teams than others. Their sales team wasn’t on a cloud phone system, so the transition for the team was a little more complicated.
QuickBridge’s transition is just one example of change as a result of COVID-19. Ben’s candor about the entire transition showed how flexible he has been during this entire process. Flexibility is needed at a time like this, and can help companies operate smoothly in the coming months.
At times like this, it’s important for businesses to rely on each other, especially with so much change occurring. It’s the perfect time to find business partners right for you. In QuickBridge’s case, Ben needed to bring in outside help to assist with the phone service transition for their sales team. It’s not something they could’ve done alone, and with the help of the right partner, they were able to get their sales team up and running from home.
With the push for digital, companies are dealing with many transitions and emerging consumer trends. Now is the perfect time to find partners to guide you during your transition and help you optimize your mid-size business to meet the needs of your customers and employees. Making that investment now can help you business survive and even thrive in the new normal.
Rebounding from COVID-19 requires optimizing all platforms. With online selling, delivery apps, and more on the rise, it is changing the way customers are shopping. Are you properly leveraging all of your platforms to get optimal results?
BDO’s article about the rise of the digital economy mentions platformication, which focuses on the adaptation of different industries to utilize their digital platforms. This takeaway is the perfect companion to our third “P”, Partners. If digital and digital marketing aren’t in your wheelhouse, finding someone to help you is crucial for the future.
QuickBridge was founded in 2011 to fund small businesses unable to easily access working capital. The company set out to make funding easier, but also to provide guidance and support. Through commitment and innovation, Ben grew QuickBridge to one of the country’s leading alternative lending working capital providers for small and medium-sized businesses.