The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed personal and professional operating environments alike. For Onex Inc., a furnace and refractory supplier to the forging and other heat-intensive industries, the pandemic forced a rethinking of ongoing operations that enabled the business to maintain its operations. Believing that the company would be stronger if it were employee-owned, it became an ESOP company in July.
March 2020 is a month few people in America will ever forget. Here in Pennsylvania, our world as manufacturers came to an abrupt halt on Thursday, March 19, when Governor Tom Wolf ordered the closure of all businesses on the following day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only exceptions were those businesses listed as “life-sustaining.”
That night, my phone started blowing up while our family was eating dinner. We don’t allow phones at the table, but I could hear mine buzzing incessantly in the other room. Worried something very serious had happened, I finally answered and discovered that our company had been listed as “non-life-sustaining” and was required to close by 8:00 p.m. Friday, the following day. Having heard the bad news, my leadership team was worried about our operations as well as future employment. To be honest, so was I.