We started 2020 off on a very high note for the Little family. In January, our daughter, Rachel graduated from the LA Film School and our son, Ian got engaged (wedding planned for June 2021). The whole family flew to Los Angeles to spend a week celebrating, only to come home to Covid.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, our daughter was on a plane home, terrified of being quarantined alone in her small apartment in LA, a hot center already for Covid. We backed off performing installations as we quarantined with her for a few weeks, but our business was considered an essential business, so we knew we had to step up and get to work on helping at least some of the people of Northern VA that needed networking and AV services.
We quickly created a Covid plan, including mask and glove wearing, disinfecting and no contact billing. While we had contracts with customers, we accepted a delay in their installations if they chose to wait until they were comfortable to allow us into their homes. We also encouraged our customers to try a virtual service call, when applicable. While we were concerned for the business, by April we were back to scheduling site surveys, and scheduling a lot of them. Kids were finishing school at home and parents were working, so homeowners were discovering the limitations of their networking system and looking for solutions. We also had to deal with delays in getting materials as global manufacturing and distribution slowed down, so we got our orders in and hoped that materials would arrive in time for the installation date.
We worked tirelessly to help as many homeowners as possible over the Spring and Summer but the demand did become overwhelming to the point of having to turn away prospective business. Before writing this article, we counted over 75 prospective jobs that had to be turned away in the past 4 months, because we were booked 6-8 weeks out for both site surveys and installations. We created a wait list, returning to those who were willing to wait and scheduling once we got caught up. We try not to schedule more than 6 weeks out since so much can change in 6 weeks.
As you may know, we are a small business. Lew performs the site survey, writes the estimate and performs the installation with the aid of a single subcontractor. We have been operating this way since 2015, when we chose to restructure the business. Fortunately, back then we also had 3 outside subcontractors to assist on jobs, so it was a smooth transition. Over the years it has become increasingly difficult to find people in this area that we can count on as a subcontractor (we have tried), other than Daniel, our long time sub.
During the pandemic, we chose not to hire additional employees or even try out new subcontractors since we would be risking our customers’ health and our own. We can control our contact with others, but not that of others.
So, we continue to help those who can wait for our small team of highly skilled network installers. Given we barely have enough time for new installations, service calls are even more difficult to address. We still perform quite a few virtual service calls late in the day, and when we can squeeze in an on-site service call, we do so. Lew has also responded to an enormous number of emails from existing clients, trying to aid them in improving or fixing their own systems. Unfortunately, due to the amount of time that was given to these email responses and phone calls, we must now implement a new support policy. (see NEW policy below). We truly value our clients and repeat business, but responding to email and phone questions now that we’ve served over 1200 clients has become so time consuming that we just can’t do it for free anymore.
In the meantime, we want to apologize to all those who we could not serve in 2020 and hope that they were able to find another company to assist them, even pulling from out of state if needed. We also hope that some of these people will try us out again in 2021 when things settle down should they still have an interest in home networking or AV services.
We really look forward to getting back to normalcy in 2021, serving some of our past customers and of course adding new customers in the Northern VA area.
Have a wonderful Holiday season and we hope to see you in 2021.
Lew & Bonnie Little