Rhonda Brewster was at lunch with a new hire when word first came down that business was about to change.
“They were announcing that the shelter-in-place was going to go into effect that night,” the president of Mosaic Global Transportation recalled. “And I remember seeing all the restaurant workers watching the TV, just thinking about what’s going to happen to them.”
That was in the middle of March, though Mosaic began feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic weeks prior, when a cascade of cancellations washed over the San Jose-based luxury transportation provider.
“It was the constant flow of emails and phone calls that I received — phone calls from our key customers, saying cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel,” said CEO Maurice Brewster, who runs the business with Rhonda, his wife. “It happened over a period of four days, I think. We went from a full board of trips to everything being canceled.”
The Brewster’s are preparing for the day Mosaic’s operations return to some semblance of “normal,” but with the understanding that what might be normal for the future is unlikely to be the same normal before Covid-19 came to our shores.
Rhonda Brewster, president:
The biggest challenge at this point is not really what’s happening in the next 30 days or even 60 days. It’s more, how does this affect the economy, business, the transportation sector in general, and how do we pivot in the most financially smart way?
We know that from an employee shuttle standpoint, it’s probably still going to be a staple in the Bay Area that there will be employee shuttles — but it’s only 25% of the people going back to working in an office or 50%. When it comes to people chartering buses to go places, we project that’s not going to come back for a long time.
It’s now about projections, and how you balance the survival mode with the “How do I invest in the future?” mode.
The stressful part is the unknown — we’ve been doing this for 18 years and we knew the rules of the road. We knew what it took to be successful. We’re going on assumptions, and life was kind of normal.
Now, we don’t know what that new normal is, and it seems like every day, every week, things change.
What will the demands be? It’s just the stress of trying to project and lead a company in uncertain times. No one really has the answers. You’re just trying to maneuver through and communicate the best you can when you don’t really have the answers.
Maurice Brewster, CEO:
The shuttle aspect of our business will come back before the charter aspect of our business — that means with a good portion of our employees, there’s still uncertainty.
There’s nothing they can do, we can do, the SBA can do, or our local bank can do to resolve that frustration, because it’s got to be the economy opening up first.
We’ve got a plan to sanitize all vehicles and do everything we need to do to make sure that the driver and the vehicle are sanitized. We’re even putting a plan together to offer masks and hand sanitizer for passengers.
We’re going to temperature-check our employees, we’re going to temperature-check our passengers. We’re going to make sure that they have masks on. We’re going to implement social distancing.
All of that stuff is good, but if you’re not willing to get on the bus with another person, it’s not going to happen.
The most exciting news is that close to half of our business will come back sometime in June. Of that half only, we’re still dealing with a scale of anywhere between 30% to 65% of the former volume. A good portion of our employees will be back at work.
The thing that we got pretty excited about was a huge bus order. When they found out how many people they could put on the bus, it was depressing, because they thought they could put a good 40 to 50 people on the bus. That big bus that normally has 54 seats is now cut in half, if not more, for social distancing.
But at least we got the phone call — that gives us a degree of hope, and gives us that light at the end of the tunnel that we need.
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Published in the Silicon Valley Business Journal.