This page is for sharing info to Marshall Music Employees
Check back often for more information.
July 2, 2020
Thank you for your patience with this most recent update. In a cruel twist of fate, it became necessary for me to singlehandedly complete our year-end serialized inventory. I cannot say that I miss climbing around and counting flutes. Here are a few updates regarding employee recalls and internal operations that I feel will be the most informative at this time.
With our most experienced techs back to work we are screaming through stock repairs. I would guess that we are now past fifty percent of the entire workload. Over-the-counter repairs are picking up significantly, but incoming summer repairs are way down. This situation leads us to wait a bit longer before recalling any additional techs or apprentices. It was my hope to have most of the team back by the end of June but the circumstances simply do not call for that. I will work with the repair managers and the store managers to make the call on additional staff at the end of next week. I will continue to recall folks based on experience.
Each of our branch stores has a second-in-command/assistant manager and those individuals will be asked to return on August 3rd. Our retail floors are remaining closed to customers for purposes of employee safety. This means the day-today tasks will remain minimal until we get closer to the start of school. At that time the assistants will be back, and we can begin preparations for the fall. Additional support staff will not be needed until we decide to open our doors to customers.
The current staff has accomplished nearly all of the instrument pickups from our schools. The road reps will be recalled once we begin training and discussions on our new recruiting and online rental procedures. Pete will be sharing specifics with the reps through a separate communication. We can expect them back in the saddle in early August.
Our new e-commerce site is finally up and available to all customers. The orders are starting to flow in, and we are excited about adding new products and promotions. The site will also revolutionize how we provide products to our directors. Also, we are rounding third base on the implementation of our new Teacherzone platform, a comprehensive, efficient, and modernized approach to teaching lessons online and managing schedules for classes. This will be a huge leap forward for us and a dramatic improvement over the Tritech module. If you are teaching with Marshall Music and haven’t responded to Sally’s TeacherZone update email (or didn’t receive Sally’s email) please reach out to her ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you are enjoying your summer but I fully acknowledge the annoyance and frustration many of you must feel over this entire situation and your inability to return more promptly. Please understand that our actions are driven by the need to survive what is still a completely uncertain future. I hope to see you soon. Sincerely, Jimmy
June 5, 2020
Per our roadmap plan we have begun the incremental reengagement of repair staff. Rental returns are flowing in at a modest rate and we anticipate some uptick in this flow during the next few weeks. Aside from a few hiccups our curbside return service has worked very well. I won’t get crazy and say that things are starting to feel normal, but it is encouraging to see our plans unfold without major issues.
Despite the recently lifted restrictions on retail stores we have no plans to adjust our roadmap at this time. Opening our stores to retail customers will bring additional challenges and will also draw energy away from our core effort, which is to retrieve, repair, and rent instruments through our online channel.
As you know, the summer is our slowest period for in-store traffic. There is some cash coming in the drawer, but I do not see this as a reason to alter plans or rush ourselves. Our new online store and online lesson platform will be a much more efficient source of revenue for Marshall Music. We may take in repairs over the counter here and there but again, our focus remains on rental and school customers.
Speaking of schools, I don’t have much to report on their future. A few of our director friends are talking about business as usual this fall but many more of them are completely in the dark. Although we are willing to take in summer repairs, we are hearing very little about the desire to have them picked up. In many areas access to school buildings is still restricted, even to teachers. Pete and I are working on plans to revolutionize recruiting, in hopes of operating more safely and efficiently in an uncertain environment. Stay tuned for updates on that endeavor.
May 21, 2020
Curbside service has gone very smoothly so far at all locations. Since Monday we have taken in a little over a hundred returns, in typical proportions between stores. Our customers have been very appreciative and patient. The store managers are doing a fine job balancing safety with customer service.
Pete and I have decided to offer pickup of school repairs starting June 1st . Initially, the store managers and the Lansing team will provide this service. At this point we do not have a lot of schools reaching out, but it is important that we communicate our availability to directors. Our top priority will still be to get our stock instruments fixed up and ready for the fall.
Early next week I will analyze the numbers for rental returns and existing repairs in order to make decisions on recalling repair staff. From there I will take steps to ensure that the shops are ready to fire back up and operate safely. The roadmap remains as valid as ever.
In other news, we have received our shipping supplies for the online store. Discussions will take place this week on the launch and how we will market the brand to our customers. Remote lessons are ongoing. We have adjusted our instrument master orders to reflect the anticipated decrease in rentals this fall. We are preparing for the new realities of school service and I am confident that our prudent approach will give us the best chance for success this year.
I wish everyone the best this week and I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend. Sincerely, Jimmy
April 28, 2020
Thank you for your patience with new communication. This certainly is an ever-changing situation, and it seems that circumstances change right about the time we come to a decision. The team here has spent the last week formulating plans on instrument returns, remote lesson payments, and possible store openings. The environment in which we will have to operate will be filled with new challenges, unanswered questions, and assumptions about customer behavior.
We are inching closer to resuming minimal operations. You have heard somewhat vague descriptions from me of what our plans will be for the spring and summer. In an effort to provide additional clarity Dan and I have developed an illustration/roadmap on our tentative plans for the next 6 months:
•Store Managers return to work
•Store Managers engage Assistant/SS Support and Repair Staff as needed
•Retrieve rental returns and resolve delinquent accounts
•Limited hours of operation for purposes of collecting rental returns, collecting school repairs, and processing over-the-counter repairs
•Complete development of online store
•SOM studios open during store hours and after hours as access allows; SOM activities can remain online/remote learning as needed
•Limited hours of operation continue
•School band/orchestra program outreach for fall planning
•Retrieve rental return and delinquent account instruments
•Stores collect school-owned instrument repairs
•Incrementally reengage repair staff as needed for rental return and school-owned instruments
•Receive and barcode new instruments
•Update online rental fulfillment process
•Expand hours of operation as schools reopen
•School Service Representatives --- hit the road!
•Reengage support staff as needed
•Guide all instrument rentals (including rental nights) to online fulfillment, and where practical, ship directly to customers
•Promote online accessory sales
•Support program lead recruiting and instrument fitting with existing staff
Also, I wanted to point out that over the past several weeks, the governor has been extending who qualifies for unemployment. Someone who may have been previously denied, might now qualify. She has extended it to low hours workers, and other groups. I wish you all the best and I hope that this week finds you well.
April 17, 2020
I am reaching out to express my concern for how each of you are doing and hope that you, your family and those close to you are all doing okay. In such dynamic and uncertain times, the transition from the urgently important topic of your health and safety and that of family and friends to a discussion of business planning is a difficult pivot. Nonetheless, I do have news to share and guidance on what planning is taking place on the path to some semblance of business as usual. Regrettably, the unknowns far outweigh the knowns.
What I can say is that we have a team working to keep critical operations on track. The office is staffed with Gina, Ann and Marcia. They are inundated with customer inquiries relating to payments, returns, repairs and hardships. Beyond this, we have Sally in HR, Joe in IT and our CFO Greg working to maintain critical functions. The ranks of still working are rounded out with Pete and Jimmy dealing with a flood of issues relating to the abrupt end to the school year and a sea of critical decisions to address. Beyond these seven we have Kyle, working toward going live with a more robust online portal for sales and rentals, as well as many amazing teachers finding creative ways to teach private lessons remotely.
As is the case with small businesses everywhere, our reliance on current revenue to meet current business expenses is the norm. Any disruption in sales can challenge the continued viability of a company. Our company is in a particularly tricky spot in that our primary conduit to much of what we do are schools that are closed for the school year. None of us can predict what recovery will look like but it is critical that the company have clearly delineated lanes of responsibility and authority. Today and going forward Jimmy, Pete and Greg are fully in charge of our recovery planning. Primary is our need to recover thousands of instruments across the state and prepare for some semblance of a fall rental season. They will figure out how to pay current obligations to suppliers, lenders, landlords and finance the return of vital personnel. This will require extreme caution in that we have so little idea of what to expect in the form of financial assistance and actual business prospects going forward. Furloughs for many of us will last much longer than the State mandated closure of our business.
It is a priority that we provide as much certainty and continuity to our furloughed personnel in this time of great uncertainty. To that end, the team is extending payment of your health insurance premiums through May 31st. We are committed to being transparent and direct. Decisions about how we survive will flow from hundreds of hard choices. One of those has to do with what we can and can’t afford to do. It will not be possible to return to business as usual. There will be layoffs. We will communicate directly with anyone who is in a position that seems unlikely to be called back. The news of furloughs transitioning to that of laid off is regrettable, but it is our obligation to be straightforward about continued employment prospects. The path to recovery will be long and difficult but I am confident that we have a leadership team that will give us a fighting chance.
April 8, 2020
Thank you for taking the time to check this message. Those of you who work closely with me know I am not really a fan of email communication but given the circumstances, I am happy to forgo in-person meetings as a way of keeping you up to speed. I hope you are finding these messages helpful. We have created a private website to store these messages in and will have directions to this site on the upcoming paystub in an effort to better reach employees who don’t have access to email. Type the following URL to reach the private site: marshallmusic.com/message
There are two important updates I want to share today. First, we are operating under the assumption that our shelter-in-place order will be extended and therefore there are no plans to reopen stores or call back employees on April 13th. There are other reasons related to our financial challenges and pending government aid programs, but what is important right now is to stay put. We will stay in touch and, believe me, I hope this ends sooner rather than later. Second, your paychecks this Friday will be mailed to you. This was mentioned in a previous handout/letter, but I want to make sure you understand not to come to the stores. Paychecks may take up to a week and a half to arrive at your address. This is due to delays USPS is experiencing. Remember, not all employees are receiving a check for the last pay period.
Besides payroll and rental payment issues, the team and I will be working this week on developing a more detailed recovery plan for the business. This is something that I will share with each of you as it comes together. There are a few definite priorities, but the timeline remains unknown. I understand that it must be difficult for so many of you who are concerned with the day-to-day functions of your jobs and the customer relationships you have worked so hard to maintain. Having no idea when you might be able to attend to these tasks is surely causing stress. That is why Dan Marshall and I are adamant that we provide any additional details that we can, and we will. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.
Good Morning Everyone,
I hope this week has gone well for you all, considering the challenges you must be facing. The COVID crisis continues to grow in our state and it seems that the relief we are hoping for might still be weeks away. That being said, the sun is out today and if each of you can find a moment of happiness it would bring me the same.
Today the Governor signed an executive order effectively closing schools for the remainder of the schoolyear. I think we all saw this coming but the reality has hit and the team here is busy planning on how to respond. We are reaching out to our directors and rental customers today with guidance on everything from building access to rental returns and beyond. Our hope is that we will soon learn what shape that situation will take and we can create a plan to execute the retrieval of our equipment. I will be honest, it won’t be easy. You can imagine the complications that will arise. Many of our rental customers are asking to return their accounts or defer payments, a situation that will further delay our recovery. Nevertheless, the team and I are working hard on effective solutions.
We have started the application process for a number of recently released federal aid packages. Greg has been aggressively pursuing all options and working with several of our banking partners to pursue the most expedient solution that will help us stay afloat. We have sought outside expertise from several of our consultants to make sure that we are following protocol to the T. Applications are going in for just about every program that is out there, SBA and otherwise. We are on top of this, guys. That being said, this is a process. Like any other process, there is the possibility for delays, denials, and a number of other complications. It is for that reason that at this moment I cannot give any details related to timelines and specific plans. You can count on additional updates from me as circumstances develop. As always, you have my commitment that I will do everything I can to support this business and its invaluable team of employees.
We have received information for you on a new government
program relevant to those of us participating in our 401(k)
profit sharing program. There are enhanced opportunities
for disbursement and increased flexibility on loan
repayment. I have attached the fact sheet.
Please contact Sally at email@example.com
with any questions.
I am aware that many of you are experiencing frustrations with your unemployment application process. Unfortunately, there is little we can do as your employer to help, especially given the extreme circumstances. The unemployment agency is experiencing an unprecedented number of applications and inquiries since the shelter-in-place order and has not been equipped to handle it. The agency is recommending applying during off hours (8pm-8am) and during specified days depending on your last name. Continue to be persistent in your application and inquiries; they will respond. I will not downplay the importance of these benefits to the livelihood of you and you families. Even more reason to forge ahead and get the assistance we need as a business, and to focus on recovery. That recovery may take time. It may be months or even years until we resume something that might feel “normal”. As the situation continues to develop and as our questions are answered, we can take steps to carefully reestablish standard procedures and staffing levels. Thank you for your time today and thank you for staying strong.
I hope that each of you and your family members are healthy and that you are finding ways to cope and remain positive. I will begin sending regular messages starting this week in order to keep you up to speed on how Marshall Music is responding to recent developments. My hope is that you will understand not only what the remaining team is doing to maintain the business in its minimal state, but also how we are reacting to the ever-changing regulations from the federal and local government. You will hear from me weekly if not biweekly until our situation returns to normal.
Last week our focus here was completing payroll and getting your checks ready for pickup and mail delivery. Also there were unemployment inquiries to attend to and a deluge of various HR-related issues on top of that. Please understand that we are doing our best to work through these inquiries with minimal staff. Please do not reach out to managers with questions. All inquiries should be directed to Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the passage of the federal CARES act we have much to consider. I understand that changes to your pay and unemployment benefits are extremely critical and the team and I will be working every day this week, developing options, until we reach a solution that helps to secure your future and the future of this company. With the schoolyear in question and the potential side-effects from this disruption to our business we will have to be very careful in how we put the pieces back together. Please know that the restoration of your employment and/or the establishment of your benefits is of the utmost importance to me and the others that remain. You can count on communication from me every step of the way. It is my job.
Dear Valued Employees,
To say these are challenging times would be an understatement. All of us have been affected in some way by the recent pandemic. The mental burden and underlying turmoil that has been created in our lives is in many ways, immeasurable. For many of you, what has transpired today at Marshall Music has only exacerbated the situation. For that I am deeply sorry.
The purpose of this letter is not to provide specific guidance for the days to come nor to use fancy words to describe your employment status. Despite the fact that we can all see the writing on the wall and despite the fact that we are all hyper-informed with how the world is being affected by COVID-19, I feel I do owe you an explanation of why we are taking the actions we are today.
Our lifeline is the business we do with schools. I know you have heard this many times, but I need to stress to you all that even slight disruptions to school operations can cause major problems with the health of our company. The recent decision to close schools is anything but slight. Our daily cash flow, our ability to pay employees, our ability to keep the lights on – all depend on regular business with schools and rental customers. The decisions we have made today I can assure you, have come out of absolute necessity.
Does this perspective give you any comfort? Probably not. You have been asked to change your shift, disrupt your family, you have been “furloughed”, you have been told to do more with less. Again. I can’t help but ask myself if there was something I should have done differently to prepare this business for a crisis. Perhaps some failure in leadership has contributed to the fragility of this company. Many would say that these are extreme circumstances, and no one person can take the blame. In this, I find no comfort.
It is my hope that the situation will be as temporary as possible. We don’t know what the future holds for schools in this state and we certainly do not know how severely our rentals and rental payments will be affected. It is for this reason that I cannot guarantee timelines, possible outcomes, or the idea that additional changes to employee status are off the table.
I only ask one thing. Please look at this current situation through a different lens. Please understand that this is not yet another of the same challenges we have faced over the years. Before the virus hit, we were set to have a banner year financially. We are on the cusp of evolving this business in a way that will bring in more revenue and reduce headaches. I am set to resume my role as President after 3 years of doing everything but. I just need you on the team.
For your commitment, your resilience, and your willingness to consider this letter, I thank you.