Calling all CEOs: Jamie Deering of Deering Banjos

We had the opportunity to speak with Jamie Deering, the CEO of Deering Banjos. She discussed the pandemic, and how best to respond as a business owner in Casa de Oro.

by Thom Hiatt and Bob Yarris

What is the best resource or website to locate and apply for federal and state small business funding or assistance? 

Personally, I have avoided the state for assistance. I have only gone to our long-time trusted bank for help with applying.

You know, I’ve heard a lot of not-so-great stories, and people applying directly through the Small Business Administration. You can do that, I mean, you should do it as direct as you can to the lender. So, the SBA website, if you’re going to get one of the loans that you don’t have to go through a bank, just go directly to the SBA website.

What happens when an employee refuses to have their temperature taken?

They don’t work. We can’t risk it. It’s part of the regulations. I would be very surprised if someone refused. If it’s because of the mouth thermometer, then maybe figure out an alternative. We have a temporal thermometer for the majority of our crew because it’s not invasive and it’s easy to keep clean in between people, and it’s quick!

For all the other people that come in at different times because they are partly working from home, I was able to issue them their own mouth thermometer. They take their temperature before entering the building and have to show it to a colleague, who initials next to the employee’s name and temperature in the log we created to keep a record of this.

If you have a small enough team, having each person have their own so they can take their temperature before they enter your building would be good.

The subject of having your temperature taken it’s really not an issue here. But if it is a problem at another business, maybe check the method that you’re using and possibly make it more comfortable. 

What do you do to help your staff and customers feel safe and secure about their health while they are at your business?

For anyone who’s back to work, we made sure to note the 6-feet distance, so they know their area. Whether it was a tape on the floor, or moving benches, or putting up signs, so they knew their space, and where they’re working with social distance. So you can visually see that they are at a safe distance from the others that they’re working with.

We also created a full document for them of what the protocols are and why. And that if they come across a scenario whether it’s with another person or in their working environment like the physical aspects, to bring it to our attention immediately — like stop what you’re doing, come tell us. It’s super important so we can resolve whatever is making them uncomfortable.

It’s really not been an issue, but we wanted to make sure everyone knew that we are 100% interested in it. They don’t have to be worried at all about bringing something to our attention.

How many employees do you have?

We have 42 staff members, currently 37 work onsite, 8 of which are able to work partly from home. 

What advice do you have for a small business in Casa de Oro, that’s preparing to reopen?

Really think through all this scenarios of your business, you know, whether it’s deliveries, your own staff, how they move around, what machines they have to use, or what what parts of the office they have to use. Try and sort out where people may get too close, because you really have to sit and think it through. You would be surprised. Many are not obvious. 

You may have to rearrange some of the flows of what you do on a daily basis — for instance we had to change a schedule in one area where some machines are now used in the afternoon, because they can’t be used at the same time as another set of machines.

So we had to rearrange the flow of how that area gets used, and it was doable. We just had to figure that out. So take the time to walk through, either mentally or physically, what your process is, to find those points that need to be adjusted physically.

What can a business do to prepare for a possible resurgence of coronavirus in the fall?

Economics. Your finances are number one. Build a set aside as best you can. Keep debt other than Covid 19 relief to a minimum. 

With the State of California, I don’t see another lockdown happening. I don’t think the state can economically afford it. Without businesses paying the taxes and other fees it cannot build up the funds to be able to pay unemployment. Last I heard we were several billion in the hole as a State due to the current lockdown.

I could see us going back to stricter social distancing and maybe curfews and things like that, but not business shut downs. To prepare, keep all your precautions in, keep your distance happening, stay healthy, eat well, exercise – even just by going for walks, get lots of sleep. As individuals doing all we can to stay healthy will help with this crisis.

Also, follow your local guidelines, because our guidelines here in San Diego have helped. Our numbers show that. Hopefully the state gives local authority to how we handle it, which is what’s been asked for by mayors and Dianne Jacob. You will be doing the right thing in keeping up with the local protocols.

What silver lining do you find in this overall experience of COVID-19? 

I’ve noticed within my own family, but also in talking to the staff here and with friends. We’ve all had a time to mentally breathe and take stock of our lives, and what’s important, and our values. I think we have strengthened as far as what’s truly important in our day-to-day lives, and spending more time together. 

A lot of people are learning new recipes and cooking at home, they’re doing yard work; They’ve improved their homes because they have the time. They’ve gotten better at playing music for those that have always wanted to spend more time at that. So, I’m seeing a lot of things that are very healthy for us, that we’ve expanded in our lives, and that is a huge silver lining.

If we can carry on like that, I think we’ll all be just that much happier as individuals and as a community going forward.

Learn more about Deering Banjos at