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André Fahrni
TSK vs Coronavirus Kampagne

The Virus BlogCorona-Blog

The journey of a small business through crazy times

André Fahrni
André Fahrni
CEO TSK Zurich

Wednesday, 8.04.2020

A report by Coni Schreiber, long-time part-time employee at TSK, currently on short-time work at home with her two daughters Lea and Lara.

On Friday 13 March 2020 (does Friday the 13th really bring bad luck...?) we anxiously followed the Federal Council's decision regarding the closure of schools. Then we knew, from Monday 16 March 2020 it was "homeschooling". What that would mean for us was not yet clear.

On Monday 16 March 2020, we waited anxiously for the next steps. Towards evening, we were informed that Lea in Year 7 secondary school could collect the school material herself on Tuesday morning between 11.00 and 11.20 am together with two other colleagues from the class. For Lara in grade 4 Realschule, the material would be placed in a paper bag in front of the house door.

Further instructions from the teachers then came by email at the beginning of each week.

Lea was able to work on all assignments via One Drive and then forward them directly to the relevant teachers. Lea is very conscientious and works independently. She would hide in her room and only come out when she had finished all the tasks.

Lara needed a little more support. The assignments from the different teachers had to be printed out. There were questions here and there, which I was fortunately able to answer. The results had to be sent to the teachers via WhatsApp pictures.

Lara was also very diligent and completed her assignments (with more or less motivation). 

On Wednesday 1 April (no joke!) Lara had her first video conference.

This was also new for us. Using the school iPad, she was able to talk in small groups with 6 students and two teachers for an hour about what might happen after the spring break and whether she would still have to do "homeschooling".

For me as a mother, these 3 weeks were very intensive.

It was important for me to plan a regular daily routine.

Before the kids got up, I went jogging. Then at 8 o'clock I had breakfast together and started with the schoolwork. Of course, the household also had to be kept in order. Cleaning, washing, shopping and then cooking so that there was something delicious on the table at 12 o'clock. We had a break until 2 pm and then another couple of hours of schoolwork. 

I am very proud of our children. Lea and Lara have mastered this new challenge with flying colours. 

Now we are enjoying the spring break and are looking forward to seeing what happens on 20 April.

Enjoy the spring and stay healthy.

Things that were important in these three weeks:

  • - Schoggi
  • - Printer cartridges
  • - Coffee (for the parents only, of course)
  • - Patience
  • - Strong nerves
  • - Screen time
  • - Sharpened pencil
  • - Paper, paper and more paper

Picture: Lea and Lara diving during the last holidays at TSK in Elba.

Saturday, 4.04.2020

An almost normal Saturday? On the way to work with Daniel Schmid

Like almost every Saturday, I get in the car at 7.45 am and drive to work. Normal as far as it goes. There is usually little traffic on Saturday mornings, but today there was none at all. At 8 o'clock I arrive at the shop. The car park is full, almost like in high summer when our motivated diving students arrive early for their diving course. Today it is our neighbours in the Lock Down and Home Office who are temporarily allowed to use our parking spaces. 
I unlock the shop, I am the first one. That happens on Saturday. But today I will be the only one. Instead of customers, I am now looking forward to my webinar participants. The lights stay off in the shop. 
My last webinar today is at 3.30 pm. I should be ready in time for the obligatory Saturday beer with my shop colleagues. That's not going to happen today. It's no fun on your own. We'll make up for it. Hopefully soon. 

Tuesday, 31.03.2020

The domino effect - thoughts on our group tours, by Olga Bingisser

We have been organising diving trips around the world for many years. For well-known reasons, some trips have now had to be cancelled and others are still on the programme for later in the year, of which we do not know at this stage whether they will take place. 

The Philippines trip is just one example. It is to explain the "domino effect" that is affecting the whole travel industry at the moment. 

On Sunday we would have flown to the Philippines with a group. Liveaboards with Sea Explorers Philippines have become legendary and are part of our standard programme. In 1992, a trip took us to this beautiful island paradise for the first time and we met Chris Heim and later Rolf Mühlemann, the owners of Sea Exploers Philippines. Since then we have organised about 30 safaris together. In the process, we not only developed a long-standing business relationship, but also a beautiful friendship.

Chris would greet us on Monday after our arrival in Dauin on Negros Island with a cool drink and give a little speech, always ending with the same sentence: "Dive with a Smile"...

From the idea of a trip to the info meeting with the participants, there is a lot to organise. With Dive&Travel we have a competent partner for this, and so all these steps are a lot of fun. The cancellations we have to deal with at the moment are less so.

One thinks that every participant would have cancellation insurance for this. That's right, there are insurances that pay out without any problems, so no one actually comes to any harm. The insurance companies don't either, because many travellers pay their premiums for years without ever making use of the benefits. That would actually be the principle of insurance. Unfortunately, there are also insurance companies that look for paragraphs and loopholes in the law to get out of it. They take the position that the organiser would have to bear the costs in this situation. 

And so the domino game begins:

If the insurance doesn't pay, the participant, if he can't reschedule the trip (which is the current solution approach in the travel industry at the moment as an alternative to insurance payment), probably wants us to pay him back. We would then have to claim our share back from Dive&Travel, they in turn would have to claim back from the airlines and finally Sea Explorers. Which is currently not going to happen. 

The small margins that are factored into such a trip would be lost and thus the work that went into planning it would not be paid for, not to mention the cost of cancellations and refund requests. 

What would happen: 
We would have to apply for more COVID-19 credits. These are not gifts from the state, but debts to be repaid. We would go into heavy debt to repay our customers for their travel that they could not take through no fault of their own. 

The airlines are virtually at a standstill through no fault of their own, are also applying for government aid in large sums and are unlikely to be able to make any repayments. Whether the airlines will be helped "a fonds perdu" remains to be seen. But these loans will also have to be repaid, and ultimately by the taxpayer. 

Sea Explorers cannot apply for state aid or short-time work. Such possibilities do not exist in the Philippines. They are on their own, through no fault of their own, and have to live off the reserves and just hope that the situation doesn't last too long. 

The dive guides Carlos, Denen and all of their names are out of work. With their earnings they support their families. Long story short, if we were to ask Sea Explorers for money back, a lot of people in the Philippines would end up without a livelihood.

One solution:
The most "social" thing, then, would be for our insurance companies to pay without complaint. We hope for that and also for the solidarity and patience of each individual.

So that we can continue to say "Dive with a Smile" together with our Filipino friends...

Statement Chris Heim, Founder Sea Explorers
Friday, 27.03.2020 by André Fahrni

Sweet poison?

The Federal Council promised "fast and uncomplicated help for small business" and kept its word. Within a few hours, the bridging loan was granted and transferred. But is that a good thing? From an entrepreneurial point of view, there are several answers. The conditions look tempting at first glance:

  • 0% interest
  • No administrative costs
  • Repayable over 60 months with an optional extension of a further 24 months

Soweit so gut. Doch all dies bedeutet nichts desto trotz, dass sich unsere Aktiengesellschaften verschulden. Verschulden zum Zweck, unverschuldete Umsatzeinbussen zu kompensieren und sich so hoffentlich soweit zu finanzieren, bis irgendwann (eventuell) wieder genügend Cashflow generiert wird, um laufende Kosten UND die Amortisierung dieser Schulden möglich wird.

Unser Credo war immer, absolut keine Schulden zu haben. Weder bei Banken noch bei Gesellschaftern noch bei anderen Stakeholder. Aus unserer Sicht gäbe es eine «gute» Art der Verschuldung. Jene, die Wachstum unterstützt. Beispielsweise zum Kauf einer Unternehmung oder zum Entwickeln eines Geschäftsfeldes.

However, the bridging loan is only money borrowed from the state to pre-finance costs that have arisen due to a decision by this very state. One way of looking at it is that the burden of this decision is being passed on by the state to thousands of SMEs. The financial aid is sweet poison.

What are the alternatives? One and thus the most drastic alternative is bankruptcy. As is the case for countless companies in the same margin area, it is not at all possible to compensate for a complete loss of sales lasting weeks and perhaps months with reserves. Many people would be surprised to see how little time (from about mid-February with a dramatic drop in sales to 19 April 20209) it takes to bring healthy firms to the brink of bankruptcy. So one could do without this money and liquidate the companies on cut-off date X without having generated additional debt.

Very well. Those who know us will guess that we have not opted for the latter option, of course.

We are convinced that our services are not only in demand, but also yield enough profit under normal circumstances to run a healthy, debt-free business. We are convinced that at whatever point in time, we will all return to our beloved hobbies. And we are convinced that after COVID-19 the world will change less drastically (at least not for the worse!) than it seems to be now.

We are already working on umpteen ideas for the time of the "new start" of life. We are ready, we are motivated and as long as it is possible we are there for you customers, our employees and our suppliers! In this sense #comesoondiving
Thursday, 26.03.2020

Today's "diary entry" comes from our apprentice Niccolo: 

If I'm honest, when Corona was first mentioned, I didn't think much about it. But when the first people in Switzerland became infected, the question of what the future would look like quickly arose.

Day by day, more people became infected and I soon realised that the situation was more serious than I had thought. We started using disinfectants and washing our hands as often as possible.

As it got worse, products like masks also had to be cleaned with disinfectant.

And then the news reached us that all schools in Switzerland would be closed.

In the beginning, everyone was under pressure. They had to find a way to teach from home as quickly as possible.

It didn't go badly. Even though a few students had problems logging in, everyone was able to solve their files and assignments.

"How bad can this virus get?" was a common question and about a week later we had the answer. All shops, except grocery shops, had to be closed. At first we were shocked, but we took advantage of the situation to clean up and redecorate the shop. Unfortunately, I received a call from Michael soon after, telling me that it would be too big a risk to come to work as I could only come by public transport. I never thought it would be possible for such a situation to happen. I am now working from home and hope that the situation will improve soon and everything will be like before.

Wednesday, 25.03.2020

Forge plans and try out new things. That was the motto for today.

First we met virtually at Zoom from our respective home offices. Most of us were freshly shaved, washed - and at least one of us had nicer SAXX underwear instead of a pretty face. George, the Romanian developer of our IT partner, had already logged out. According to well-informed sources, it was already time for the morning pint. In Zurich, we have many expats who would be happy to receive information in English. We are finally taking care of that. The online shop also deserves more love. Much more love. It will get it in the next week or two.

And since we're all already so concerned with digitalisation, this is the moment to try something out. Today is the first webinar on the subject of "Which is the right regulator for me? We'll let you know tomorrow how it went. Or you'd better come and see for yourself: 5.30 pm. 

We'll also let you know soon how you can win great prizes right from your home office. Just so much. Get your equipment into your living room!

Monday, 23.03.2020

It's amazing what all came out of the ground over the weekend. One portal in particular stood out in Bern: Bern delivers - a platform for shops that are open virtually.

Well, who needs a snorkel or a UV-Lycra shirt in times of "stay at home"! Probably no one, the sun exposure in the bathtub at home is still not serious in March. 

But wait, we actually have free capacity now and there are quite a few people in our neighbourhood who need help! So, without further ado, we decided to create a completely different offer. And lo and behold, the following unique offer can now be found on the platform: 


Shopping help for older people from the neighbourhood. Normally we are all about water & travelling. (Diving, swimming & snorkelling). Since we had to stop our business completely, we would like to help our neighbours! Elderly people who should no longer leave their homes can contact us so that we can help them with their shopping.

Friday, 20.03.2020 by André Fahrni

For some it is already a bit too much with the lock-down ;-) But see for yourself. Click!

Thursday, 19.03.2020 by André Fahrni

At the moment there are many encouraging signals from politics. Ten billion francs from the federal government for SMEs, 425 million francs in the canton of Zurich as a loan default guarantee. Fast, uncomplicated financial aid is promised.

But whether and how much of it will actually reach TSK? We cannot and do not want to rely on that. And indeed: Today the landlords of the properties of TSK Zurich and TSK Berne have independently announced that they will suspend the rent until the situation calms down. 

Once again, a relationship based on partnership pays off. And also through logic, respectively weighing up the options and what is more economical in the medium term. Vacancies and finding tenants vs. solving the situation together through no fault of their own. That is what our landlords have done. We (and our liquidity) are enormously grateful for that.

What else can be done? Yesterday we received a reply to our enquiry from the Office of Economic Affairs: Are diving courses, e.g. in 1:1, also affected by the closure? The answer: "Dear Mr. Fahrni , sorry, we can't give you any concrete advice - we think that e-learning is possible anyway, in the 1:1 ratio in connection with water I would probably be rather cautious."

So a clear "no" sounds different. But at TSK we are always cautious about courses anyway. So for us it's a clear "no" - no courses and close down in solidarity with the hairdresser next door. But of course, there are possibilities for e-learning to distract yourself or to keep the annoying teenagers at home busy. If this is an issue, let us know. We'll be happy to advise and book anything for you.

Wednesday, 18.03.2020 by André Fahrni

The first flurry of activity is over. Now things are already being implemented.

  • The top priority today is the course participants who should have started in the next few weeks. They will be informed.
  • Further discussions with Dive&Travel about the procedure for individual and group trips. However, our people at D&T are extremely underwater at the moment.
  • Coordination with staff and information on what is planned.
  • Crystal ball reading, how it will go on. Drinking beer...

Tuesday, 17.03.2020 by André Fahrni

Not entirely surprisingly, the time has come: the shop and diving school are closed. Meeting with the staff. Draw up an action plan. What are the most urgent/important steps? What can wait?

Goal No. 1: Maintain liquidity!

  • Apply for short-time work, check the formalities.
  • Cancel Temp. Staff work assignments, adjust work schedules immediately.
  • Discussions with suppliers and cancellation of all non-essential orders (merchandising, goods, etc.).
  • Talk with landlords

Preparation Communication to you:

  • What happens to courses (1st rough info)?
  • How do you receive ordered goods?
  • Which channels remain open for contact?
  • Which services are still possible (revisions, eLearning, etc.)?
  • Create communication plan for first week(s), foreseeable end and when closure is over.


  • Information gathering (difficult and situation changes almost hourly)
  • Define procedure with travel partner Dive&Travel
  • Communication to travel participants

Internal tasks:

  • What can be tackled now during the closure (CHANCE!)?
  • Record, schedule and assign tasks

Since yesterday, Tuesday, the TSK shops are closed. Boom! What slowly began to emerge weeks ago is now reality. A virus, outbreak in (apparently not) so distant China, has completely changed and taken over our lives.

Since World War 2, no event has triggered global repercussions on such a scale. We don't need to go into details here. Everyone knows them.

None of us has ever experienced anything comparable. So we are entering uncharted territory. Everything is open, everything uncertain. Nerve-wracking, scary but also exciting, thrilling and challenging.

You, our clients, have brought us to where we are. You have travelled with us, attended courses, followed our advice when buying equipment and trusted us. You have been loyal to us for many years.

That is why we have decided to take you with us on this adventurous journey in the form of a diary.
What does this mean for TSK? How do we deal with it? What steps are we taking? We will share with you openly and transparently. Hopefully until the happy end of this situation. Hopefully.

As soon as there is an update on the blog, we will post it on FB.

zwei Kinder am Tauchen
Ladenlokal mit vollem Parklplatz
Chris Heim auf einem seiner Auslegerboote, Sea Explorers Philippinen
TSK Corona Blog Selfie