For the first time in history, time is at a complete standstill. Or, to put it more specifically, we have almost reached the point where the whole developed world is on a government-mandated lockdown.
For the individual, this is inconvenient, scary and anxiety triggering. But for the business owner, this is catastrophic.
Some of us can’t take action towards goals in our business even if we want to. Most of the business world has been forced to shut down or pause in the face of a greater evil – the global pandemic of COVID-19.
As the CEO of Fulcrum – a company that’s mission is to help entrepreneurs live, learn and launch innovative solutions that build a better world, my heart is hurting right now. It’s hurting because of the knowledge of all the entrepreneurs who have given their blood, sweat and tears to their business… A business that might die with this pandemic.
My hope in writing this is that it will serve as an acknowledgement to what all business owners, big and small, are going through during this time. But also that it will serve as a vision for a path forward.
Uncharted territories for every player involved:
No one is escaping the dramatic effects of this. Some of us may be feeling it more than others, but even businesses and people who seem unshakable, are being shaken. This is truly a worldwide pandemic and economic crisis.
The sooner you face and acknowledge the truth, the sooner you can start to process it and create solutions to move past it.
I live in Yakima, Washington. We’re about three hours east of Seattle – near the main US COVID-19 outbreak started according to our current knowledge. Yakima County has just over 250,000 people.
Over the past year and a half, our community has been building and growing an innovation transformation for our city through the Fulcrum platform. For years, small businesses and entrepreneurs weren’t fully embraced in this community. A lot of young people felt like they had to leave in order to find a community that encouraged their potential in a meaningful way. But, we were finally starting to see a shift in that.
Fulcrum has also allowed me to have my pulse on the small businesses and entrepreneurs in our valley. We were making so much progress, and then this hit. And all of the business boom that we were seeing came to a screeching halt. For a small community like we are, who has tried so hard to get out of generational ruts and thought-patterns, this is devastating.
I’ve talked to people over the age of 85, and they’ve all said that in the course of their life (including wartime) they’ve never seen anything like this.
We are in uncharted territories folks. Think of this like the wild west… where anything and everything goes because no structure has been put into place to limit it yet.
How businesses and entrepreneurs everywhere have been impacted:
On March 17, 2020, all Yakima businesses except for those deemed essential, were forced to shut down. Several businesses (the majority) had to let go of their staff.
There are many examples of the impact this mandate created but one that stands out in particular is Yakima’s top, thriving hair salon, Belu. Kristeen and Jim Wade had been building their salon empire for over 14 years. And in one week, it all came crumbling down.
Unfortunately, after hearing the news of having to shut down, the only chance they had of surviving as a business in the long-run was to let go of all 20 of their employees immediately. Doing this created a viral back-lashing story on Facebook. Several people didn’t understand why this action was taken instead of paying all 20 employees sick leave for two weeks during the shutdown. But a lot of Yakima business owners and people with an entrepreneurial mindset understood the impossible feat of paying all your employees sick leave at the same time while your business was closed down and not bringing in any income.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that all sides of the party (consumers, employees, business owners and entrepreneurs) seek first to understand the actions business owners are having to take in order to have a chance at survival during this time.
US unemployment in 2020 is projected to go from it’s 3.5% in February to over 30% by the end of the year because small business owners are facing the tsunami of their life.
How we will survive:
I’ve shared a lot of negative stuff. And honestly, I went back through and cut out half of what I had originally written because let’s be real, there’s WAY too much of that on the internet already. So, let’s focus on how we can survive this.
How we survive is by adding as much value as we can to those around us. We are all in this together, meaning together, we can unite and support one another.
Cities all over the US are creating social movements to support small businesses. In Yakima, we created a hashtag called #shopsmallyakima to encourage our community to continue to order take-out from small businesses to help them through this time.
Business owners are also being extremely transparent about their current state of affairs.
Karissa Brandhangen, the new owner of NUYU Juice Bar and Renu Hot Yoga, even authentically came to her community in a Facebook post asking for extra support during these times. I admire her strength and resilience as the owner of two brick-and-mortar businesses.
Here are a few other ways you can support those around you during COVID-19:
- If you find yourself in a more abundant position then others (aka, you have more than $400 in your bank account) this is your time to shine baby. You are the minority American here. Order take-out from a local restaurant and help them stay open.
- Shelter at home as much as possible! There’s a lot you can do from your computer or phone to support people and this will help flatten the virus curve. This is critical.
- If you are a business and can afford to give resources to support our medical staff or the community, do it! Food, child care, lodging, etc. We need to take care of our front line workers.
- Call your grandparents and make sure they have the support they need to be safe right now.
These are just a few ideas. Each of us are abundant in some type of resource that we can use to help support others. Think about what that is, and take action on it!
How we will thrive:
First, process this whole situation for yourself. Sit in the truth of what’s really happening. You must make peace with the current reality before you can effectively move forward. If you don’t, you will keep getting stuck in this negative thought-loop fed by social media, youtube and political news.
You know how it goes, we’re constantly checking for updates, shutting off your screen, feeling anxiety rise, and then turning them on again because that distracts us from what we’re feeling. Don’t worry, in the past two weeks, we’ve all been there. Although it’s important to stay informed, create some healthy boundaries for yourself in this.
Okay, onto how we thrive. This part makes me stoked. Because guess what?! Something, someone, who knows what… just pressed the “reset” button on the whole world.
What this means is if you have ever felt behind or at the bottom, you get a second chance. A big one.
Everyone is going to be starting from ground 0 to a certain extent once the dust settles.
The world isn’t ending, it’s just changing. The better you can position yourself to tune in to the changes, the more opportunity will reveal itself to you during this time.
What have you ALWAYS wanted to do? What lifestyle have you always wanted to live? Did you love what you were doing for work and for life before this pandemic hit?
Life has given you a second chance. Don’t screw it up because you’re not willing to change your ways and thought patterns to meet it.
As Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher once said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
I highly encourage you to take a lot of space (because you can!) right now and really rethink your life. In your wildest dreams, what do you want? When the dust has settled, you can rebuild yourself into a new you.
How we can do this TOGETHER:
In summary, never have we seen how every industry, consumer, entrepreneur and business is so connected. We’re an ecosystem in which it takes every aspect to operate.
We’re all in this together.
Band together. Unite. Realize how we are all connected. This is a forced holiday. Take time to think, space to create and let the magic happen and flow.
Stick together, world. We as humans, are one of the most resilient creatures to walk this planet.
P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on this article. You can reach out to me on Instagram if you would like!
Chelann Watt is CEO of Fulcrum Yakima