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Vin Gulisano Mar 17, 2021 1:26:57 PM 9 min read

Our Response to COVID-19 | G&B Fulfillment

It was late February 2020, and my business partner Myles Bowman already knew what was coming.

I had no clue.

As Myles bumped elbows to greet new acquaintances at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, host of the North American International Toy Fair, I shook my head, thinking he was over-reacting.

Meanwhile, I was acting like a public health threat.

There I was, in what was soon to become the global epicenter of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, extending my palm time and time again, unaware of the real threat around me.

I greeted other trade show attendees who would take my hand, upholding my pre-COVID business etiquette and remaining unaware of the sideways glances. To Myles’s credit, he remained polite, even though he knew the world was on the brink of a huge health crisis.

Myles does a lot of business in China and was telling me about how serious COVID-19 was going to be, and how everyone placing large orders for toys at the convention was also wondering how/when they might receive them here in the U.S.—since most of the factories were preparing to shut down in China. This information did not appear to have made mainstream media very much yet.

Well, it turns out Myles was eight weeks ahead of most everything that unfolded in the coming months.

Vin and Myles at the North American International Toy Fair in New YorkFear of the Unknown 

In March, people here in the U.S. were just starting to hear more about the virus on the news, but it was still a world away. As things got worse, however, even I admit that I was fearful of the unknown. 

Myles and I thought the government was going to tell us to shut down. We were thinking, ‘If we can’t generate revenue, how long are we going to go? How will it affect our customers?’ We weren’t sure that we were an essential company. In fact, we sent all of our employees home on a Friday in March and said we’re closed for business until we received further health guidance. 

From there, we immediately started working with our legal support and HR personnel and realized that we didn’t have to be shut down—we were an “essential business!” We were able to send our people back, but not before putting a few safety policies in place. 

COVID-19’s Impact on G&B Fulfillment

In March, we ordered personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks for our employees in the warehouse, as well as latex gloves and hand sanitizer. It seemed so foreign to see our people wearing face masks at work, but as the months unfolded, everything we did early on became commonplace—not just at work, but at home and in our daily lives. 

Aside from putting in place additional safety measures (e.g., PPE and social distancing) in our 320,000 square-foot Southern California warehouse, we changed our shift structures to allow for fewer people in the building at any given time and increased our cleaning services to twice a day, with a significantly expanded scope. 

We also added a sanitation booth for employees for added protection to anyone entering the facility—with a temperature check and logging—and began multiple company-paid tests per week when they became available. 

Alt text: Vin standing in the G&B Fulfillment sanitation booth

Until this past month, we continued to reward employees with COVID-19 bonuses for good attendance and encourage office-based employees to work from home when possible. 

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve gained a lot of ground with our employees, having them see that we took their health and COVID-19 seriously from the get-go. It wasn’t just for show, either, just to keep the business open. We did things behind the scenes to help people personally, whatever we had to do because we recognize that they are our No. 1 asset. They’re the ones that get the job done. Without them, we’re not servicing our clients at all.

Supporting Our Customers in Response to COVID-19

During this unprecedented health emergency, we recognize that the work our customers do is more critical than ever. In turn, our customers recognize the need for quick, innovative and clear communication.

At first, there were levels of concern.

“Are you closing?”

“Are you able to ship my goods, or do I have to make another set of plans?”

These were the questions we were getting at the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve been giving clients regular and proactive email and telephone updates, and I think they’ve really come to appreciate that. Being proactive has enabled our customers to feel comfortable and not feel like they have to change the way they work with us.

We’ve been able to stay ahead of the curve and raise the bar on what we can do, which has raised the bar on our customers’ expectations. 

The questions went from, “Are you going to stay open?” to “Are you going to keep shipping on time?”

Adapting to the “New Normal”

Stay-at-home orders and social distancing altered consumer patterns almost overnight, leading to a change in what people buy and how they purchase and, as a result, how products are delivered. However, we’re in a unique position to still be able to provide supply chain solutions to their customers and carriers, and we’re thankful for that. 

The interesting reflection back on this past year was how we all viewed those early days of the pandemic, refusing to believe that things could get as bad as they eventually did. So much doom and gloom can come out of the press daily that you begin to believe that the stories you read or hear reported each day will never actually have an effect on you. 

From those early elbow bumps Myles was giving at the Toy Fair to today seems like a lifetime ago. As always, though, we adapted to our changing circumstances and figured out a way to become better partners for our customers and continue to maintain a safe and productive workplace for our employees.

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