Few people have positive memories of the year 2020. Many lost loved ones, while the loss of livelihoods, brought about by the various lockdown periods, had a devastating effect on the world economy. However, for the staff of Donford Approved Repair Centre, 2020 was even more devastating. On 10 September 2020, many staff members watched in shock and disbelief as their business was devastated by fire.
Whereas the origin of the fire could not be determined with certainty, the effect on the staff was clear to see. To a large extent, we are all defined by our professions, and our place of work is seen by many as the one constant in a world of turmoil. In the months leading up to the fire, all 26 staff members made a joint decision to work on short time, to mitigate the effect of the lockdown periods. By the time the fire broke out, activity levels had recovered to about 80% of pre-Covid levels. In an instant, it seemed as if all the hard work had been in vain.
The extent of the damage made it clear that it would be months before the business could reopen. As a result, staff were placed on leave until a decision could be made on how jobs would be protected in a period where the business would generate no income. A proposal for interim remuneration was submitted to the directors of the Donford Group, and this proposal was accepted with effect from 1 October 2020.
The gargantuan process of compiling information and quotations for the various insurance claims started shortly after the fire, and this was completed by middle December 2020.
By January 2021, the process of rebuilding the premises started, and by February 2021, the ordering of the new equipment commenced. Finally, on 28 April 2021, 15 of the original staff members were reunited in a partially completed building with many of the equipment installations still outstanding. Through lots of hard work and dedication, production commenced less than two weeks later.
There were so many lessons learnt from this horrific experience. Every staff member has a renewed appreciation of how privileged we are to have the opportunity to work. Over the eight months that we were closed, we also realised how our service delivery culture had created an unbelievably loyal customer base. So many people opted rather to wait until we reopen than to have their vehicles repaired elsewhere. By the time we opened, one of the biggest rental vehicle companies in the country had three vehicles on our premises.
For some of us, the eight months from the time the business closed until it reopened was the most challenging period of our lives. The foundation was taken from under our feet, not only the floor. But 18 Mynhardt Street has always housed much more than a business. It houses a strong family of people who know how to work hard and deliver exceptional service. With the phenomenal assistance of our shareholders, this family took on all the challenges that 2020 dished out and won.