Many of us will long remember the first time the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our lives. Nothing was left untouched: school closures, sudden layoffs, radically altered work schedules. It was a lot to deal with.
Pan American’s clients and residents come from many walks of life, and all of them have confronted unprecedented challenges over the last year and a half. We asked Pan American President Rick Hoegler to share his thoughts on weathering the crisis from a business perspective.
“This is What’s Going Down”
“At the beginning, we didn’t have a lot of data,” Rick says from his Tustin-based office in late summer. “All we knew was, this is what’s going down.”
Foremost to Rick was making his employees feel safe. Like most employers, Rick redeployed his staff to home-based offices, ensuring they had what they needed to work comfortably. Cleaning efforts also increased to prepare for a returning executive team, establishing social distancing guidelines and protective equipment like masks and gloves, and incorporating temperature checks and hand sanitizer stations into the office routine.
“We did everything we could to make a safe, comfortable environment for our employees,” Rick says.
Managing Properties During a Pandemic
Pan American had more than employees to consider. With residents at over 130 properties, Pan American prioritized minimizing exposure by switching to virtual tours for potential residents and adopting a more virtual approach to communication with current residents whenever possible. “We were constantly monitoring our residents, reaching out to those who seemed to be struggling, doing what we could to help them,” Rick says.
But keeping a safe distance wasn’t always in reach. Residents spending more time at home resulted in an influx of maintenance needs. Pan American primarily responded with video calls and dispatched technicians when necessary while working hard to maintain safety protocols.
“Yes, there was some COVID exposure, but everyone pulled through,” Rick says. “But it wasn’t easy. We lost money. We were under an eviction moratorium. And despite federal rent relief laws, some people didn’t pay rent. But we pressed on.”
The company took out a loan under the Treasury Department’s Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) program, which provided job security for the team at a time when cash flows were a problem. “We wanted to reward their loyalty,” Rick says.
Pan American also maintained public communication, posting content on its website and sending out informational newsletters.
“At the end of the day, it was a huge disruption,” Rick says. “But we did what we could, and I feel good about it. I’m just grateful we were able to come through this and keep our employees safe and employed.”
As people have returned to the workplace, Rick continues to put his employees’ comfort and safety first. Protocols remain in place at headquarters, but employees have the option to return. “Here at Pan American, we want everyone to know they have a choice. If people are comfortable working in the office, we welcome them. If not, they can continue to work from home. The work is getting done.”
The Power of Positive Thinking
It’s now mid-September, and the Delta variant is gripping the headlines and stoking people’s fears. But Rick maintains the same positivity that saw him through the preceding year and a half.
As a man of faith, he is driven by a strong sense of ethics and morals, believing in the positivity behind the proverb Beauty from Ashes, which implies there’s beauty and greatness amid great suffering. He also reveals a personal reason for being positive–he and his entire family came down with COVID several weeks earlier.
“It was like the flu on steroids,” he says, clearing his throat, and some vestiges of it remain. Everyone got through it without needing advanced medical attention, while team at Pan American stepped while he recovered. “We were given a second chance,” he says. “I’m still here. We’re all still here.”
He recalls a friend whose family debated whether or not to schedule a trip to Disneyland in the near future. “She said–are we going to start making memories now, or are we going to keep putting them on hold?”
He believes it’s time to start making memories again. “Let’s take the bull by the horns, lock arms together and move forward.”
Property Management Advice
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