Saturday, September 19, 2020

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 rob@chauffeurdriven.com for next issue’s question.

TOPIC: If Congress passes the proposed second round of PPP funding, would you apply? Beyond payroll, what would be on your wish list for use of the money? What did you like/dislike about the program?


Benchmark and Best PracticesThe first-round PPP loan was not only difficult to receive but wasn’t very beneficial to small businesses. It basically was used to keep employees on payroll and from filing for unemployment benefits. This was not an effective approach to an industry such as ours, or many other industries I am sure, due to the fact people were not able or willing to use certain services. I am hoping with the second round they will focus more on small businesses to help pay for payments such as insurances, car payments, and so on. If the second round PPP loan is more beneficial to our business and is easier to obtain, I will be willing to apply again.
Abdou Brahim, Owner/CEO
VA Executive Sedans in Virginia Beach, Va.


Benchmark and Best PracticesIf there is a second round of PPP, I would like to see asset retention covered. We didn’t like the “bait and switch” that seven weeks into the program they extended to 24 weeks. If you budgeted based upon the initial eight weeks and then bam, 24 weeks to spend, it is drastically different.
Kristie Carter, Co-owner
Aadvanced Limousines in Indianapolis, Ind.


Benchmark and Best Practices We were fortunate that the process of obtaining a PPP loan was not terribly difficult and we were funded at the very beginning; therefore, our funds were exhausted prior to the decision to extend the covered period. The forgiveness process has been the biggest challenge and we are currently receiving the recommendation to wait to apply for forgiveness as the process is expected to change again. We would certainly apply if another round was available. Aside from payroll, and the normal covered expenses from the initial program, most helpful would be for the funds to be used to service or even refinance existing debt.
Carlos Cortez, Owner
Cortez Transportation Company in Topeka, Kansas


Benchmark and Best PracticesWe are looking forward to second round, but, this time, with clear guidelines from day one. Many companies used it as a 1 percent loan, whereas we brought our six-person office team back and paid our chauffeurs and motorcoach operators to stay home to be compliant for eight weeks—but then the window to use the money and guidelines changed mid-stream. If a second round of PPP is not approved ASAP, we might have to furlough a second time as the pre-COVID workload has just not returned.
Clayton Dennard, Owner
Going Coastal Transportation in North Charleston, S.C.


Benchmark and Best PracticesWhile it is important to keep our staff on payroll—so they can pay their bills and stimulate the economy—the capital expenses of our industry need to be addressed in round two of the PPP. In order to stay afloat as our society regains confidence in both business and leisure travel, assistance is needed, more so now than ever, in paying our vehicle notes and other expenses for which 25 percent of the first round of the PPP was allowed. My wish would be to have those percentages reversed: 25 percent for bringing back employees and 75 percent to catch up with deferments and other expenses that were not allowed under the first round.

I would certainly apply for round two. We followed the rules in round one and almost all our funds will be forgiven. We have yet to decide on whether we are returning the remaining balance or keeping it and use it for cash flow—full well understanding it won’t be forgiven.

The most frustrating part of the PPP was all the changes and “clarifications” that continued to come out with the program. We received our funds, fairly early compared to most (thanks to Kelly Alderete’s efforts), on April 10 and at that time, we were told we needed to begin hiring our employees back within 10 days. We had no work—essentially, our eight weeks was just an extension of unemployment benefits. It would have been nice to relax the timing on the use of the funds. Secondly, we were all confused on a daily basis—being from Texas, I know what shooting at a moving target means.

I am confident that our industry will rebound—maybe not back to what we have experienced in the past, but rest assured, we are a resilient bunch of SOBs and this too shall pass. From our staff to yours, hang in there, keep your heads ups—#wewillsurvive.
Eric Devlin, President/Owner
Premier Transportation in Dallas, Texas


Benchmark and Best PracticesThe PPP loan program was a great help in a difficult time, but it brought with it a great deal of uncertainty regarding forgiveness and payback. If a new round of COVID stimulus, support, or disaster loans were made available, we would be very careful about payback terms. Disaster loan funds, SBA loan forgiveness, and PPP loan forgiveness all have overlap that prevent you from receiving credit if you participated in more than one of these programs. If you really want to help small businesses, SBA funds should be made available in the form of grants, not loans, that support payroll, facility, and operations including interest payments. It is not fair to Main Street/small business owners to put the onus of employee health care, paid time off, and salaries on our backs when the political gamesmanship of the pandemic has resulted in the current economic crisis.
Sean Duval, CEO
Golden Limousine International in Milan, Mich.


Benchmark and Best PracticesThe first PPP loan helped to retain employees, keep utilities paid, and let us defer payments on loans except interest. Now, to survive in a partial comeback of business, a second PPP loan is crucial to be able to make a comeback and be strong once again. With work slowly starting to come back, our company is generating money to cover payroll, but property and equipment loans, interest on deferred loans, and many other expenses are still a struggle and need to be paid. A second PPP loan with 60 percent for other expenses and 40 percent for payroll, would be extremely helpful to balance out company spending, expenses, and unexpected expenses. It is crucial for surviving a likely long and slow comeback.
Patrick Helvey, Owner/President
Executive Town Car & Limousine Service in Roanoke, Va.


Benchmark and Best PracticesI feel like I have gone to Harvard Business School on the topic of PPP. I logged more than 100 hours on dozens of with webinars and hundreds of various articles. Based on the new guidelines, 60 percent has to go to payroll and 40 percent business expenses. I would use the payroll portion more carefully based on the needs of the business. The business expenses are the easy part: rent, insurance, utilities, and maybe a portion on vehicle payments.

The original program was chaotic at best. We were in the first round of funding and were told the money had to be deployed within eight weeks. We entered the program in mid-April when things were still pretty much shut down. We ended up using the money to pay our chauffeurs to deliver meals to COVID-impacted families, elderly, and veterans. By the time they changed the rules to 24 weeks, we had already exhausted the money we received. It was helpful, but things could have been more efficient. Our last day of PPP funds was June 22.
Mark Kini, Founder & CEO
Boston Chauffeur in Beverly, Mass.


The big struggle with the initial funding of the PPP—which Congress has since amended—was the gamble of when you take the distribution of monies by trying to time the allocation of the money to when you will likely bring employees back. There was virtually no benefit to taking it and paying your employees to work from home or come in to clean vehicles, etc., especially when many of them were making more with the $600 bump to unemployment. This would have worked in the short term, but we cannot have them doing “loose end” work for the next six to eight months.

I think putting restrictions on where the money goes needs to open up a bit as well as the perimeters of when you can take the distribution. The PPP works great for offsetting negative cash flow (amping back up), but should allow those in industries that are lagging to get back to “normal” a longer grace period for pulling the money. Maybe a year? Perhaps there should be a rule when you get to a certain percentage of gross revenue, you have to setup the distribution of money to come in the next 10 days? In other words, if we get back to 60 percent or 70 percent, now you have to take it regardless of the length at which one could take it? I do not know if there is a perfect way to do this, but I believe the prior would help.
Scott Sweers, President
Luxxor Limousines in Des Moines, Iowa


Benchmark and Best PracticesActually, the PPP Loan was quite easy for us to apply and get quickly. Unfortunately, the money ran out so having another PPP would help get us through the rest of the year and first of next year. Besides payroll, we need the monies for building lease, insurance, utilities, etc. As you can appreciate, we are in a city where the economic impact has devastated many small businesses as Orlando depends on tourism, groups, and conventions for so much of its revenues. We are seeing businesses struggle to exist, and it is sad that many people do not take this pandemic seriously.

The best thing about the PPP is it will turn into a grant for companies that spent the money as intended. I do not see a downside to the program and will apply for the second round of PPP when and if it becomes available.
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!

Send an email to rob@chauffeurdriven.com you just might see your query answered in our next E-News.

[08.25.20]