You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at email@example.com for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: What steps are you taking to be proactive about the next potential deferral period with lenders, bankers, or insurance? Have there been any lessons learned from your experience?
We've found that most banks and lenders know the problems we're facing and have tried to work well with everyone. We were disappointed when two of our lenders only offered a 90-day deferral with no extension. I won't use them in the future for loans. I've also been surprised how hard some insurance companies have been to work with, as most fleets aren't moving and can't pay big premiums at this time. This situation has shown who wants your long-term business and who doesn't really care about relationships. Fortunately, we've had great experience with Madison Capital, ABS Bus, and United Leasing.
Gary Day, Founder & CEO
American Limousines in Baltimore, Md.
We have been proactive and have found that, overall, our industry partners have been terrific about working with us on deferrals. A few that have been very good partners have been National Interstate Insurance, Grech Motors, and TEMSA, among others. We know this has been a challenging time for everyone in our industry, but having these great partners is appreciated and we will support them long past COVID.
Kim J. Dolniak, President
BEST Transportation in St. Louis, Mo.
We are fortunate our lender is a locally owned financial institution and agreed to interest-only payments for six months. They have already told us they will continue to work with us. We will likely begin further discussions with them within the next 30 days to determine if they are willing to extend the interest-only option or even allow a deferral. Unfortunately, our insurance just renewed at the beginning of July and our carrier is not willing to suspend coverage unless we have 75+ percent of the fleet out of service. As we are a small company with 11 vehicles and only have one of each of our offerings, we were not able to continue with any suspended coverage. They were flexible enough to allow us to make monthly payments without a 25 percent down payment this year.
Tami Gudenkauf, Office Manager
Cortez Transportation Company in Topeka, Kansas
Kudos to Edson Financial who reached out without us needing to at all. Otherwise, we are being proactive and talking to all banks and lenders, providing them financials, particularly the burn rate. That is the projection of how long your cash will last you at your current usage as well as how you project your sales. They will want two burn rates: with deferments and without them. Don't limit your thinking to just lenders and landlords. Amex and Visa will each defer 90 days or longer, as will your copy machine service, phones, radios, etc. Look at every bill you have and then look at them again. When you ask, I’ve found that people are more than willing to help.
George Jacobs, CEO
Windy City Limousine & Bus in Chicago, Ill.
Financially, our goal throughout this pandemic has been to avoid bringing on any additional debt. While some of the government's assistance plans look attractive now, we felt that the added debt and loan payments would only create issues down the road. The approach we have taken is to streamline our operation and lean on the banking relationships we have built over the years, which has allowed us some flexibility.
Tom Olson, Owner
Stellar Limousine in Sioux Falls, S.D.
We have pushed off as much as we can during these times. The company has also made the decision to pay our loans and prioritize the vendors. We do not know what is ahead of us so minimizing all other costs has been a priority. It has been interesting to see who has been willing to work with us and which companies are being aggressive. How the vendors work with us now will determine our relationship in the future, because some things you never forget.
Gus Ortis, CEO
Executive Transportation in Minneapolis, Minn.
American banks are better than those from most other countries. They understand the situation and are willing to help you. As we have passed the 90 days, we've requested and received an additional 90 days from Wells Fargo and TCF. First Source Bank is the only one asking to pay the interest payment only. Our insurance payments have been reduced, since about 80 percent of the fleet is suspended. The one lesson learned is to have a good and current relationship with your bank. That is one thing we wish we had at the start of COVID, so our PPP loans could have been handled quickly. But, at the end of the day, it all worked out.
Jess Sandhu, Director of Operations
A&A Limousine & Bus Service in Kenmore, Wash.
We've been calling our lenders every 3 to 4 weeks just to stay in touch. We've been blessed with some incredible lenders, including Jose Padilla with Edson Financial/Grech, Carl Restivo with United Leasing, and Ed Felix with Ascentium Capital. They've all gone over and above trying to help us out. They are the definition of true partners.
Ron Stein, Founder & CEO
Exclusive Sedan Service Worldwide in Van Nuys, Calif.
We have already reached out to our leasing companies and most have allowed another three months of payment deferrals. Only one leasing company is tagging the interest for the six-month deferral onto the contract; the rest are just adding the payments onto the end of the lease term. In Orlando, we are looking at minimal business until 2021. We are seeing cancellations coming in now through November as the COVID-19 numbers increase in our state. With insurance renewal coming in August, many vehicles will not be added as they sit parked inside our warehouse. Building lease payments for us have been reduced by 50 percent through August. We are just looking month by month as to what our next steps will be until we can get through this pandemic.
Barbara White, CFO & Co-owner
VIP Transportation Group in Orlando, Fla.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
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