“Pricing power is important in business. You want your business to have the flexibility to raise prices as needed, especially with regard to inflation.” “In business, all expense projections and all revenue projections must account for inflation.”
–Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr, CEO of Mayflower-Plymouth
As we start our new fiscal year, we are faced with continuing inflation. At times, staying within budget and dealing with the challenges of excessive increases across the board seems overwhelming. We see these increases on all fronts which directly affect TCDLA’s staffing, planning, and services provided to members.
An example is a shortage of paper. The Voice for the Defense Magazine’s cost to print has doubled since last fiscal year. Our printer was trying to purchase as much paper as allowed and was hit with “limited quantities.” We use several printers for our brochures and publications, and they are facing the same challenges. This is the message from another one of our vendors: “Due to paper shortages and supply chain issues, some paper stocks will not be available for the time being. Turn times will vary per job; the average turn time is 5‑7 days. Please advise if you need by certain dates, and we will do our best to accommodate.” As consumers we see these same types of challenges everywhere we see signs in the grocery store for popular items “limited quantity two – save some for your neighbor.”
Do not panic; we will still print our Voice for the Defense Magazine. We know this is a member benefit and we are not considering taking it away. We will continue to look at other printers and temporary paperweight changes to get us through this period.
Another increase in cost is food – we all have seen a rise in food at restaurants and grocery stores. Hotels are no different and are facing the same increases which are passed on to us. Often there are still shortages. Hotels who customarily provided banquet orders for events several weeks in advance are now waiting until the week before or even the day before the event. Hotel contracts that were previously signed years in advance are being put on hold in hopes that prices will decrease. Another challenge with the hotels is dealing with new staff not knowing the required layout or A/V needs. We find ourselves explaining and scheduling a pre‑conference meeting a week before the event only to find out the hotel employee we had been in communications with is no longer employed with the hotel. All of these scenarios cause additional stress for everyone involved. The hotel staffing industry no longer has the same loyalty and relationships that we’ve built over time. Most of the time the new hotel contact worries more about the bottom line than our relationship, and there is no room for negotiation. The notion of creating repeat business is no longer an incentive for the new hotel contacts. The audio‑visual companies have doubled or even tripled their prices, and hotels are using third‑party companies because they cannot find staff or have staff that is knowledgeable in A/V.
Many associations are facing these issues and looking at increasing rates; we are focused on providing education and services during these difficult times and looking at other ways to tighten our budgets without price increases to our members.
Staffing and the great resignation continue to take a toll among small and large businesses. I see some of my favorite stores in the mall or restaurants closed with a sign “no employees, come back tomorrow.” So, what is the great resignation? It started at the beginning of 2021; employees had a feel of what it was like to be at home and reevaluate everything revolving around the workforce – this resulted in employees voluntarily resigning from long‑term positions. Some reasons for resignation related to wages, increased cost of living, job dissatisfaction, options to try different fields, work remotely, safety concerns of the pandemic, personal values not aligning with position, and unwillingness to give up family/personal time for work. The days of loyalty to a company for 20+ years and hard work ethic to stay late and come in on the weekends is disappearing.
Working remotely has caused lots of influx.
Employers are no longer competing with companies in their local area – they are competing nationally due to the availability of remote work. During this time, employees and employers have had to adapt to what is needed at the moment. During the great resignation, people go back and forth to different work atmospheres to see what they prefer. Some find they need a social connection and want to come to the office. Being at home with roommates or other distractions is not successful for them. Others prefer to be in solitude or have the flexibility of a work/remote schedule. Employers find tracking the employee’s time hard, and trust is needed. Communication is also vital for tasks and deadlines. The pros and cons for both can go on and on.
TCDLA is not immune to this; putting on over 50 live seminars requires in‑person travel for all staff. In order to remain competitive, we also have to look at ways to retain our employees. Turnover is time‑consuming; training a new employee takes over a year due to all the various tasks completed routinely. Investing in employees you hope will stay takes away from the trainer’s time to complete their tasks, putting everyone behind. We do this with the understanding that it will be disastrous if we do not invest the time necessary for training in the long run. Mental health and wellness also have a considerable impact, which we must stay on top of and address.
Employers who have no option except to offer in‑ person work are faced with having to increase salaries, close business when not staffed, or close completely. Travis County Commissioners Court recently voted to raise the minimum wage to $20 for Travis County employees in hopes of retaining and hiring entry‑level staff.
In order to help us mitigate challenges and plan accordingly, we have implemented a project management task software to track and keep up with numerous deadlines. We have written procedures for every job function, task and process for each duty in the event we have someone leave. We have changed our email to outlook exchange which allows everyone to access anywhere. Staff are set up with laptops to have access remotely. After much trial and error, we have changed to a new zoom phone system that has given us much more options than a regular phone. Faxes are received via email. These are some of the things we have changed. If we can assist with any of the items mentioned above, feel free to reach out. At the end of the day, it is necessary to adapt and embrace change (which is difficult at times for me) and to find a balance that meets everyone’s needs to be successful and productive.