Inheriting your father’s business
Tarah Woolgar was thinking about expanding her commercial and residential cleaning businesses when Covid-19 hit.
Today she's more focused on how to keep High Point Company and Maid in Bermuda going, and her 11 staff employed.
“My folks did go on unemployment for a short time, but we knew the island would open again,” she said. “We knew we would be needed for places that needed us to maintain disinfecting and hygiene, [but] we have been hit, like any other company. To what extent I have no idea until we are two or three months down the road.
“I haven't taken a salary since mid-March. It was important to me that [my staff] had funds and I could cover their health insurance. Now, during the first phase after lockdown, High Point has been able to reopen, in a limited way.
“Primarily we are making sure we are taking care of those retailers who are doing kerbside. We are making sure they are being cleaned.”
She inherited the businesses from her father, Larry Woolgar, after he died of a sudden heart attack last year.
Ms Woolgar was ill-prepared for the move. An only child, she was focused on her twin toddlers and her work as therapist.
“I never thought about inheriting it from him. We never even had a conversation about it. Almost as soon as he passed away, people started calling to ask if I was going to sell the business,” she said.
Her father didn't have a will or succession plan and there was no immediate way to access the accounts. Unsure what to do, Ms Woolgar sat down and talked with the staff.
“They all wanted to continue. I said, ‘OK, if we are going to do this, then we have to band together'. I ended up having all the staff give me client contacts. I was able to put together a letter to send to all of the clients explaining what was going on.
“We have amazing clients. They were so understanding. They wanted to keep their service and see people keep their jobs. We were able to make sure payroll happened, and make sure everything was straight.”
A friend who runs a financial management company helped steer her through and the Government helped her clear the red tape.
“I had to put grief on hold,” she said. “It was like starting a new company. Everything was in probate, but we already had the staff and the clients. It came organically to me. Maybe it's because I did listen to my father over the years, after all.”
High Point didn't have to change too much in the way it operated in order to reopen.
“Our staff are trained in proper disinfecting,” Ms Woolgar said. “We are used to doing high-traffic areas like public bathrooms, but we have to be much more detailed about making sure we are using the right product.
“We have to make sure we are using gloves and masks and we are practising social-distancing. We are making sure we are always six feet apart when we are cleaning an area. That can be challenging.”
She's concerned High Point will suffer from a “trickle-down effect” if companies it serves go out of business.
“My ultimate goal is to keep the company going and to keep the staff employed,” she said. “You don't have a company if you don't take care of your staff.”
She often wonders if her father would be pleased with all the work that she has done.
“I go back and forth on that question,” Ms Woolgar said.
“Ultimately, I think he would be. He really loved his company and customer service.”
• Contact High Point Company and Maid in Bermuda on Facebook, 292-5326 or firstname.lastname@example.org