For Minuteman Press franchise owner Rustum Fataar, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented both unique challenges and opportunities for his family business.
“At first, my largest concern was the well-being of my staff,” says Rustum, who owns two Minuteman Press printing and marketing centres in Kitchener and Cambridge, Ont.
Even before he knew that the Canadian government would provide incentives to retain employees, Rustum’s caring spirit led him to his first action. He protected jobs first and foremost. “We rode it out and stayed open because printing is an essential business. My employees were never without work, from the beginning.”
As the patriarch of a multi-unit family printing business at a time when calm was rare in the world, Rustum was able to draw from prior experience in tough times. So, when sons Mujeeb in Kitchener and Zayd in Cambridge approached with concern about the pandemic and cash flow, they were inspired. “The boys said, ‘Why don’t you seem concerned, Dad?’ and I told them that I was, but I had managed the 2008 recession and we would manage this, too. Not long after that, we got the biggest customer we ever had and went on to become very successful.”
Rustum’s hard work translates into both satisfied clients and sales. For his hard work over the years with building up both franchises, he has achieved stability. Of course, in 2020, life cannot be predicted, but good things happen to those who take the right actions when troubles seem insurmountable. The unfortunate disruptions in business connected to COVID-19 would not be ones that Minuteman Press clients would face alone, as both of Rustum’s sons followed his lead and developed new strategies to help other businesses at this time.
Their digital print and wide-format technologies were working at full-blast on behalf of two local economies under stress. “The boys were at each store, every day with a positive attitude and they insisted my wife and I stay home and safe. We maintained decent sales through being inventive and coming up with pandemic-era solutions like branded floor decals, producing enormous amounts at each centre. Also, we devised ways to create counter screens (sneeze guards), with branding optional. We saw no one else producing them at the time and now, they are in big demand.”
Meeting the big demand resulted in survival for small businesses, non-profits and individual events. This positively affected the quality of life for many people. “Everyone could pay their bills and this is a good feeling for all of us at Minuteman Press.”
Like many businesses, Rustum guided teams that were partly working from home, but all remained on full-salary. “As May went into June, the nature of our industry and the work we do is essential so we did not need government assistance anymore. We took only what was needed and once sales were good enough, we were strong enough without financial assistance. We stayed focused on our clients the entire time and while things aren’t as good as last year, we are satisfied things are getting better here.”
Rustum enjoys every victory. “As owners of a printing franchise when other businesses were shutting down, we didn’t have sleepless nights and it’s amazing, I know. We aren’t doing pre-pandemic sales numbers; but in some instances, we are doing more than before.”
“In Kitchener, we do a lot of printing for our police departments as the shift to quarantine did affect domestic violence so their duties to keep citizens safe shifted in different ways with more urgency. This increased their need for items like paperwork and signs.”
Restaurants and local shops are also coming back into brighter times, but with government guidelines, using printed tools that Rustum and his sons are providing every day. “Those who are just implementing the new rules are using our sneeze guards, health and safety signage and updated branding. We are following the same protocol with safety and comfort in the form of PPE at both our locations.”
Other businesses are now reopening.
Rustum says, “Naturally, our concern is for our neighbours in business who, perhaps, have not had the same flexibility we have had to endure this. We’ve grown to know them very well and together; we can feel the effects of the economy picking up more all the time.”
Fall is approaching and the needs of school districts are foremost on his mind. “We are preparing clear plastic boxes with three panels in preparation for the needs of children in school so they can safely learn at their desks as regulations allow. We designed them recently and saw another big company do something similar not too long after as there is great concern for student and faculty right now.”
“We are customizing our sneeze guards with schools’ names and mascots. We will be running them on our wide-format machines in-house.”
Both digital print and design centres have been open regular business hours without interruption by novel coronavirus. Yes, it is because printing businesses are essential but also something more.
When he was buying a franchise many years ago, he was warned by others. “I was told there was a honeymoon phase if you’re a franchise owner, but it doesn’t last. Well, if this is a honeymoon, the phase is lasting for 20 years now. It has been a difficult time, but we are helping our area pull together,” he says.
Good things keep coming to Ontario. “We aren’t out of the woods as a society yet, but every day both of my sons run our family business with a positive attitude and new ideas. We will always find and do what must be done for ourselves and our community to survive and then return to growth.”
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