In 2009, my mom and step dad started TSC Associates LLC, a firm that provides training and risk management for the hospitality industry. About a year later, I told them that I felt like I had something to bring to the table: ways to help expand the business because of my experience in the hospitality business. After high school, I attended culinary school. I spent 7 years managing restaurants and 4 years in food sales. Thus, they brought me on board TSC in 2016. The company originated in just the Dothan, Alabama area with a 60-mile radius and has now grown to 14 states.
When the coronavirus began to spread, I told the people around me to be more careful about what they touch and to wash their hands often— to treat the virus like a severe flu season. The type of training we do in TSC is in part to help prevent virus and bacteria spread within food services. Thus, I felt pretty knowledgeable and prepared to protect myself and my family.
As COVID-19 got worse throughout the country, we had to shut down our classes because they were all in person. Our business came to a halt and we told our 27 employees we would keep them working for as long as we could because we had no intention of furloughing anyone at the moment. Eventually, all of our employees expressed that they didn’t feel like it was safe for themselves or their families to continue coming to work. Since the pandemic started, we said that we wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they felt uncomfortable coming to work. It is much more important to take care of yourself and your family. From a business standpoint, it played out in our favor because we didn’t have to make cuts financially, as our financial situation got worse; they made that selection for us.
I do work a lot, and I love work. But sometimes, my mind is at the office when I’m at home with my wife and 16-month-old daughter. Recently, I have been able to spend more time with my daughter than I ever have before. Focusing on my relationship with my family and working on projects I have been wanting to do has helped me cope with the financial stress we’ve experienced in the past few months. During this time, I have even been able to escape to the family farm and do some things that I’ve been wanting to do for myself.
Honestly, now that we are open again, it has been a lot more stressful. We are trying to build everything back up from the ground and get our clients back. Most of our clients are restaurants, which have suffered tremendously from COVID-19. Therefore, they don’t have the personnel to send to our courses, they are scared to send them, or they don’t have the funding to send them. All of our employees have come back except for one, but that was her choice, not ours. Since we aren’t doing much business, I only work in the afternoons, while my wife works in the mornings.
When Pope Francis called for a universal prayer at noon on March 25, I invited everyone in the office to join in prayer if they wanted to. I’m the only catholic in the office, but we are all Christian. We all came and prayed together. It was a very uplifting moment— one that I will never forget.
Written by: Mary Blake Zeron