What does today have in store?
This is one of the questions that you should not ask when things are going upside down. It is sort of like asking, “what else can go wrong?” And, typically life has a funny way of showing you exactly what else can go wrong. If we take a more literal approach to the question, what’s in store? Today we are faced with lines to enter the grocery store (not just waiting to check out), bare shelves for some, while other stores are packed full of merchandise with no one there to purchase.
I despise writing this. I hate the absolute vulnerability it shows as a business owner, but it is where we are today. This vulnerability is what I try to hide from my vendors, my customers, my staff and competitors, but instead of masking it today, I choose to write the story to let those same people know that they are not alone. I have done much reflection and thought through, is this a small business issue or a big business issue? The answer to this specific question is that it is neither big business or small business. Big businesses face just as many obstacles as small businesses: different levels, different devils. However, if the next question is how will it impact the small business, that could be more revealing. Big businesses may have the luxury of larger lines of credit, salaried executives and a more diverse portfolio that could spread threats. The key word here is may, some do not. Small businesses might have a small(ER) line of credit and credit credit bills, but both are typically tied to the individual that owns the business. If the business folds, the owner takes on these debts personally. If the business needs cash, it is the owner that does not take a paycheck or infuses cash directly through more personal loans. In the case of a family business (like mine), it may even be multiple people that do not take a paycheck. This issue may be too big for many small businesses to endure as they are not just closing shop for a couple weeks, many are left holding large amounts of already sunk costs that will never amount to revenue.
Let me take you back to March 1st. March 1st is the beginning of the new season. It is the day that we pull ourselves out of the slow drudge of January and February. While February might have had a peak here or there of potential, there is no comparing it to the great month of March. March starts with a week of Read Across America in which most schools celebrate with fun dress up days. We move into Spring Break, followed by Spring Craft Shows, then onto the start of baseball and softball seasons and conclude with basketball and March Madness. All of this means that we can pay rent, not just for March but for April, May, June, July and August. I am serious when I tell you that THIS is what March means to my small business. (It may also mean catching up for late payments in February!) You see, August starts school, and with school, all of the seasons become new once again: football, band, dance, you name it! I am not alone in this, there are so many businesses that were depending on these things right here.
But, March did not happen this year. March simply did not happen, and to be honest April and May aren’t looking so hot either. March began as it should. We heralded in the week of Reading as we celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday. But, as it started into the next Monday (celebrating Spring Break for most), things started falling apart. I actually started running numbers on Sunday as something was amiss. Stocks tanked on Monday. Trouble was definitely lurking. Tuesday was the day of the quiet before the storm. Orders were not coming in like they should. Then, Wednesday hit, and instead of orders coming in, orders were being cancelled. Large orders being cancelled on Thursday, and by Friday, we were left in awe of how did this happen as inventory remained on the shelves and numbers grew into the negatives.
And, here we are in the next week of our lives. More numbers run on Sunday, decisions to limit exposure in both the physical and economical aspects were made. On Monday, governments began mandating closures for an extended period of time.
Many have noted that loans are being made available to small businesses to assist. The issue is that the revenue will not be “made up” in order to make a loan a viable option. The seasons of spring markets, sports beginning and ending and even celebrations like prom and graduation are all but gone for spring 2020. To further exacerbate these items, contractors and many small business owners are self paid, meaning that they do not contribute to unemployment insurance. If there is no business, unemployment does not kick in for them. There is just nothing to bring home (except for the looming debt bills. *As of today, some legislation may give some relief to the independent contractor sector.)
How do we continue on?
First, all businesses will have to make adjustments. Some businesses that are not as affected by these times will have vendors and suppliers that will be affected by this. But some may have to make major adjustments. This may mean closing doors, etc. If you own your own business, do not make rash decisions regarding loans and contracts that you know you cannot make up. Second, I will use the term that I have come to use often, pivot. Is there a way to do something different for this time period we are experiencing? Is there a way to modify your market? Finally, if you cannot do the former, prepare yourself for what is to come. There are things we cannot change, such as seasons that no longer exist and government mandates. But, we can do things personally in order to prepare ourselves for the next steps. Go ahead and allow yourself to move past yesterday.
I write this because so many of my customers, my vendors, my friends and family are experiencing this right here. There is nothing worse than not being able to do something, make something, work towards that goal but you feel like you are moving further and further away from it as each day turns. You are not alone. And if you have one of those jobs that salaries have been extended, do us a favor and throw a little business our way. We will gladly take orders. We realize that we are not Amazon, we might not have a 24 hour turn around, but it means the world to us right now.