Robert Vogl, CEO of Four Wheel Campers, shares how his company complied with state and local stay-at-home orders and their detailed action plan for reopening once the orders are lifted. Four Wheel Campers is ready to run.
This week we had the opportunity to talk with Robert Vogl, President of Four Wheel Campers, about the company’s response to imposed state and local coronavirus stay-at-home orders.
Robert not only shares his insights into the temporary shut-down process but also reveals his team’s experience with the federal Paycheck Protection Plan and their detailed re-opening guidelines for when stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Four Wheel Campers may be temporarily shut-down, but they are fully stocked and ready to run.
Is everyone at Four Wheel Campers healthy and safe?
Yes, everyone at Four Wheel Campers is healthy. We are fortunate that our county is agricultural with a relatively low population to the square acreage. Our county also shut down early and the infection rate here is low.
Many members of our team are actually asking to come into work because they are bored and feel badly that they are getting paid and not working.
How is Four Wheel Campers doing through this situation?
Before coronavirus, we were in as about as good of shape as could be. We had a significant amount of capital and a 24-week backlog of orders. We have campers to build for the next five months, even if we don’t get another order.
The flip-side is that our backlog is getting extended by the coronavirus shut-down. Our customers are going to have to wait longer to get their campers. There’s not much we can do about it until we start our company back up.
Assuming all employees come back and the hiring landscape improves, delivery times may go down. We will be looking to hire more people once coronavirus passes.
Tell us how Four Wheel Campers temporarily shut down to comply with California’s coronavirus shut-down orders. What was that process like?
Around mid-March, six San Francisco Bay Area counties issued shelter-in-place orders. At 12 noon on March 18th, our county also issued a shelter-in-place order.
The next day we had an all-hands on deck meeting to discuss how we would temporarily shut down. Simultaneously, Gavin Newson, Governor of California, during his own press conference, issued a state-wide shelter-in-place order until further notice.
From that moment we had to very quickly figure out which portions of our business needed to continue to operate including payroll and receiving materials still in transit.
In the days leading up to the shutdown, we ordered as many raw materials as possible. We want to make sure we are fully stocked when we reopen. We are assuming that other states – including those of our suppliers – may not open at the same time.
Have any members of your team been able to work from home?
Yes, our sales, service, engineers and office team are all working from home. Lucky for us, the work and investment we made into our IT system over the past three years allowed our office team to seamlessly work remotely.
The big hit was to production. We shut down Four Wheel Campers on March 20th. Our plant manager and supervisor have been in from 8:00am to 12 noon every day to supervise the delivery of parts, but the rest of the production team is at home.
Were you able to take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?
That’s a good story. When the state-wide shelter-in-place order came in, our first priority was to our employees. We wanted to do the least impactful thing financially for our team. We also wanted to continue to give them health care benefits. If ever there was a time people needed health care, it’s during this coronavirus outbreak.
Four Wheel Campers committed to keeping our employees paid for the first few weeks. In the meantime, we applied for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Through our team at Salt Creek Capital and their connections, we had a direct pipeline to figure out the PPP and SBA rules and paperwork. We put our loan application in by 12:10am Friday morning and got into the queue with our regional bank.
We had to redo the loan application seven times to adapt to rapidly changing criteria. Then the SBA made up some of their own rules and interpreted others.
Things changed by the hour and our controller was pulling her hair out trying to figure out what was required. It took our senior management team about 10 days of work to get it completely straightened out. It was non-stop until about a week ago.
The end result is that we were in the queue early and received our PPP funding last Wednesday, April 15th. Through the CARES Act and our own efforts, we have been able to keep our employees paid through the end of May. All of our employees are getting 100-percent of their compensation and have their health care benefits in place.
That’s fantastic! What’s your plan once the stay-at-home orders are lifted?
We will start Four Wheel Campers back up when California and our county lets us start back up. I don’t know when that will be. We have to stay ready. As Dr. Fauci says, “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”
In the meantime, we have put a detailed plan together – guidelines on what Four Wheel Campers is going to look like when we reopen. We have also given employees suggestions on how they can get to work safely and protect themselves. Once or twice a week we communicate with our employees and give them updates. We also stay in touch with our dealers.
Once we get back, everyone who enters the building will get their temperature taken in the morning. We will record that. Since there is variance between the no-touch thermometer devices, and variances in normal body temperatures, the same people will get tested on the same devices every morning.
My normal body temperature is 97.6-degrees. If I have a 98.6-degree temperature, I might be running a fever. We are going to keep a log of the temperature data and send anyone with a suspected fever home.
In the factory, we will have face masks and hand sanitizer. We had to make our own hand sanitizer because we couldn’t find any. We will have hand sanitizer all over the plant, and on the production carts. We will encourage everyone to wash their hands often and keep a safe social distance of at least six feet apart.
Our upholstery department is making six face masks for each employee. That way everyone has one face mask for every day of the week, and the face masks can be washed.
If people find they are not able to adequately maintain safe spacing, we can add more shifts. I hope that’s not necessary, but it’s an option.
Our team has been told to not gather around each other, and to avoid each other on the shop floor. We started that before the shutdown, and we will continue to follow that.
We have a multi-page plan. I’m happy to share it with your readers and the greater RV industry. It’s what we have to do to protect our employees and make sure we do not have a relapse of the virus.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and plans with us. Is there anything else you’d like people to know about how Four Wheel Campers is handling coronavirus?
This situation is much bigger than Four Wheel Campers. As a business leader, there are times when you have to step back and look at the bigger picture. Shutting down did not help our business, but we need to put society in front of our business interests in times like this.
As far as I’m concerned, anything we can do that helps to lower the stress on our employees is incumbent upon us, as their employer. Our employees do not need to worry about their jobs. Their health care remains in place. We are doing what we think is right for Four Wheel Campers and our community.
In the near future, people aren’t going to be traveling internationally unless they have to. The travel and hospitality industries are going to have a very hard time.
However, people are still going to want to get away and travel. Truck campers allow you to do that. For that reason, I believe our product category will do well once the coronavirus is over.
Truck Camper Magazine wants to thank Robert Vogl and the Four Wheel Campers team for sharing their repoening plan and coronavirus strategies. Thank you Four Wheel Campers!