It’s the simple things that are making the biggest difference in this time of uncertainty.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, simple gestures such as handshakes and hugs have been forced to take a back seat as social distancing has taken center stage.
Additionally, never has there been quite an emphasis in being as hygienic as possible, whether it be washing hands, wearing gloves or even just keeping work spaces wiped down.
For Matt Long, the general manager at Signature Flight Support located inside the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, providing those cleaning materials was the one thing he knew he could do to help his staff feel safe everyday they come into work.
“I wear many hats as a general manager, but in this scenario, my complete focus turned to taking care of my team and of our employees and finding out what we can do within the community to support,” Mr. Long told the News-Press.
Despite the current pandemic, Signature Flight Support, the largest fixed-base operator in the world with more than 200 locations, is still considered an essential service.
Since 1997, Signature’s main duty has been providing support to all general aviation customers, which includes any aircraft operation outside of the commercial airlines.
Mr. Long knew it would be the simple things that would make his staff feel safe.
He has provided his 19-person crew with countless cleaning and disinfecting supplies to make sure their station is properly wiped down. He also provided N-95 masks and gloves.
He has made sure to put into place countless safety precautions to make sure everyone is social distancing and overall staying safe.
Most recently, he even provided his staff with washable fabric masks.
“My personal priority is to make sure that team members are taken care of and they feel comfortable coming to work every day,” Mr. Long said.
For 15 years, Mr. Long has worked at the Santa Barbara Signature location. In that time, he has come to love this community, saying that both this job and Santa Barbara showed him “what community means to me.”
As a result, he decided to become more involved, joining the Goleta Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in 2018.
“For a few years managing this location was my only focus, I never imagined doing more than just that but in my work with the chamber and getting involved in some of the events I came to recognize how important that work was and it was just very fulfilling for me,” Mr. Long said.
In lockstep, Signature has also supported the Santa Barbara community in many ways — including during times of crisis.
During the Montecito mudslides, Signature’s facility was utilized as a trauma facility, meaning that all people who were airlifted out of Montecito came to Signature.
“We are used to responding in crisis situations and we are proud to have done so and been able to help the community during those tough times,” Mr. Long said.
As of right now, Signature has not been able to provide the same type of support considering there really is no need for aviation support at this moment, but that hasn’t stopped Mr. Long from having his staff volunteer.
Usually, Signature is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but because COVID-19 has hurt the traveling industry, their hours have been cut back a bit — airline travel in Santa Barbara is down 95%, according to Mr. Long.
With the extra downtime, Mr. Long has signed up his staff to volunteer at different places around Santa Barbara, whether it be food banks or the Girls and Boys Club.
“We are heavily involved in a lot of events the Chamber puts on, it’s something I am passionate about, and I just thought this is a great opportunity to give back to the community and I’d love to see every business do the same,” Mr. Long said.
“So many of us are in shock mode, but there is plenty of need out there. This isn’t a requirement, this is just something we want to do.”
That giving back nature that resides inside Mr. Long is what led to him being proactive in helping his own staff first.
And his team is truly appreciative of the small acts of kindness.
“I have seen all different types of media talking about how some employees talk about their companies and their immediate supervisor not doing enough to provide them with personal protection equipment and other things like simple disinfecting products,” Victoria Hajek, a Signature employee, told the News-Press.
“As I saw that everyday, it made me think about how lucky we are, even before all this, to have a boss that is so proactive.”
For Mr. Long, he said he was humbled when he heard the kind words his staff had to say about him.
“I am a very proud manager and I am proud of our team and I am just happy and content that they felt they could say those things,” Mr. Long said.
Mr. Long takes pride in that he has not had to lay off any of his staff. Despite hours being cut, he is still able to employ his full staff.
“It’s just something I am very proud of and I am proud of this company for being able to do,” Mr. Long said.
While no one knows when this social distancing will end — albeit a few days or a few weeks — Mr. Long says it is the small things that will continue to make a big impact.
“I don’t take things for granted, I never have. I am just excited to be able to come to work every day and work with this staff. I think it’s easy to see a lot of negativity in the media and get scared, but I know my team and I could still make an impact in this community and so can anyone else,” Mr. Long said.