Today was a bad day.
Today I had to have incredibly difficult conversations with 6 people I adore. Further to the layoffs, I was forced to undertake in the fall, today I had to lay off 6 more absolutely amazing people from our Sport & Social Group / JAM team and I’m left feeling angry and sad. Neither I nor anyone on my team made bad decisions putting us in this position – rather our various level’s of government’s decisions in how to handle this pandemic have put us in this position.
Wal-mart, Costco, Target are all posting massive gains in 2020, banks are paying bonuses, many big corporations – that received the wage subsidy – are paying dividends and have CEOs receiving six-figure bonuses, and no elected government officials have had their salaries reduced. Yet small business after small business in the hardest-hit industries like sports, hospitality, health and wellness, travel, and entertainment are going bankrupt, entrepreneurs are losing their life savings and life’s work, and loyal dedicated employees – amazing teammates like mine – are losing their jobs. This is not right.
The Sport & Social Group delivers a service that is a physical and mental health benefit to our society – keeping hundreds of thousands of adults playing recreational sports annually. Today marks the start of the 11th month that we have been mandated to not operate and generate revenues – yet our overhead costs like office rent, auto leases, insurance, communications, and payroll still continue to need to be paid for. How will we rebuild and offer our services again if we don’t keep many of our great teammates on the payroll? We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Most people are unaware that our federal government’s wage subsidy program is not even remotely sufficient to cover all the payroll costs let alone all the overhead costs when a business is mandated to stop operations and not generate revenues. The CRA’s constant changes to the subsidy program have been consistently last minute and poorly explained, making it nearly impossible for small businesses to effectively plan. Unbeknownst to me or my team, when the CRA changed the wage subsidy program to new percentages in September – they didn’t publicly announce one critical change. From April through August they had been providing 75% of an individual’s pre-pandemic salary (to a capped amount) regardless if you topped an employee up to 100% of their salary or not. Effective in September they changed the program only providing 65-75% of what was paid out to an employee vs 65-75% of their salary. Thus if like us, you had only been paying out the wage subsidy amount – suddenly we were receiving far less in subsidy than we had anticipated. The CRA did not post this change on the web page titled “CEWS – What the changes are”, as they’ve done every other month, (in fact it still is not listed), and when we finally realized the change in December right before the holidays – we had the shocking realization that we had been losing tens of thousands of dollars a month more than what we had already thought we were losing.
These teammates that I had to say goodbye to today are people whom I care about deeply – they are fantastic humans who’ve been innovating and working hard with us as we’ve pivoted to create JAM (our new remote events service) – they have been loyal and dedicated to chasing our vision of getting 1 million people playing. They and we – have been trying to do everything right – cutting costs where possible and trying to pivot to generate revenues in new ways. And while our pivot to JAM has been amazing, as we’ve found a new way to stay true to our core purpose of ‘connecting people through play’ – it simply is not enough. Our overhead expenses are too high – our government subsidies are not sufficient. So today I had to say thank you and good-bye to 6 more of my friends. This is simply not right.