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SWFL business owner: "seismic" worker changes are permanent

Posted at 8:39 AM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 22:55:01-05

NAPLES, Fla — David and Jerri Hoffmann didn’t write the book on small, family-owned business success. But in their Naples office, there is a 100-page book, that details every business they own. From wineries to small-town gas stations. From luxury commercial real estate to the Florida Everglades.

And they have never seen a business environment like this.

“I think common sense prevails,” David says. “And you think through it, from the employee's point of view and the company’s point of view. And you come up with a happy medium that works for everybody and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

We're sitting down with the Hoffmanns for a series of Fox 4 reports about what Southwest Florida small business owners are doing to keep their businesses going and their employees on the job through the supply chain and staff shortages. The series leads into the Resnick-Wynn Family Business Conference at Florida Gulf Coast University on March 4. Keynote speaker, Steve Forbes, and business owners like the Hoffmanns will give advice about how family-owned businesses can thrive in a changing world.

The Hoffmanns say the competition for workers right now has created a seismic shift. They’re about to close on a large apartment complex in Naples. It’s something they never dreamed of buying.

“Just the high cost of living in a resort area like Naples really prices people out of the marketplace,” David says. “So we thought, we have to do something that makes us more competitive in this war for talent if you will. So I think what we’re going to do is provide housing and nice housing.”

And he says it will be free. The hope is that the investment will pay off when workers stay on the job.

“In particular, we think we can continue to grow without the fear of thinking, we’re not going to have the workers to accommodate that growth,” David says.

The Hoffmanns believe the changes they’re making for workers will have to be permanent.

“We own office towers in other parts of the country and there’s only about a third of the office workers who have actually come back into the office,” David says. “And so you can accept that and let people work from home and work remotely, or you’ll probably lose that workforce. So you have to be accommodating to the challenges we have.”

“We had strong feelings about the vaccinations,” he says. “We have about 7,000 employees across the world and we had a call and I was on it, and I strongly encouraged everyone to get vaccinated. We had 50 people quit that day. So, I think it’s a different world. So you have to be flexible.”