COVID-19 has uprooted people's version of "normal" worldwide. Sure, they teach you to be prepared, make sure you have savings, live within your means, protect yourself with insurance; but never once have I imagined this. I mean I guess it could be similar to envisioning my business being burned to ash in a fire or blown away by a tornado. However, in both of those instances, there are insurance funds, customers that you can relocate to a temporary location, and action items you can take to begin the rebuilding process. This is not a fire. It's not a tornado. It is a virus, that currently has bound the United States population to "shelter-in-place". We are not to leave home except for to purchase groceries or take a walk outside - as long as we maintain our "social distance" along the way. And, I get it. I do. This is an issue of public health. The 1,000 plus athletic kids and healthy, young parents that come in and out of my gym are generally not at risk. However, every single person they might come in contact with after, would be. Grandparents, friends with pre-existing conditions, whether family members or strangers, would be at risk if our doors remained open.
So, we have closed our doors. Not for a day, a weekend, or even a 14-day period. We have closed our doors for what will be a minimum of 38 days, likely longer.
We have suspended tuition payments and planned to begin the month of April with $0 in revenue. However, as we sent notice to our customers of our plans to halt tuition, we received several amazing emails and texts from our customers. Customers saying they would like to continue to pay tuition. And I am encouraging my staff that is continuing to get a paycheck to do the same.
Keep your memberships. Keep eating out on Friday nights. Supporting small businesses in this time of need is not going to be enough for them to break even or turn a profit, but it just might be enough for them to continue to exist when this is over.
1. Pay For Your Regular Memberships and Classes
Whether your kids take dance, gymnastics, or art classes, or you as an adult belong to CycleBar, iRise, or your local fitness center, if you can keep paying your membership, you are providing a portion of a pay check, rent payment, or utility payment that will help that business curb the losses they are bound to experience during the shutdown.
2. Write a Positive Review
A positive review is linked to the ability to acquire new customers. Sharing your passion for a small business you love will not only help them feel the love now but will also help when their business returns. Many potential customers look at reviews on Google and Yelp before making the initial phone call or inquiry to try out a new place. Take the time now to review a few of the places that you hope make a full recovery when this is over!
3. Interact on Social Media
Many small businesses are more active than ever on social media. Whether you tag a business that has inspired an at home video or show the delicious take out meal from a local restaurant that has been forced to only offer curbside pick up, you are helping grown the fan base for a company in need. Be sure to like, comment, and share, as many posts as you can!
4. Check In On Your People
Many small business owners are used to working long hours and being on-call 24/7. Transitioning from a lifestyle with a never ending to-do list to one that is stagnant is not just financially taxing, but emotionally as well. The combination of the financial stress, perceived lack of purpose, and the uncertainty of when you will be able to open again places small business owners at a high risk for anxiety and depression. I know that getting a phone call or text message from someone that asks how I am doing without the gym being open brings me to the verge of tears every time, but it also helps me recognize that I am not in this by myself. There are others out there in my corner rooting for my comeback.
5. Plan a Future Purchase
Does a favorite local business offer summer camp? Have a parent's night out? Is a new line of summer clothing getting ready to drop at a local boutique? Or fun summer decorations?!? If you can't purchase right now, make a plan to purchase in the future. When small businesses have the opportunity to re-open, they are going to need more support than ever! Maybe you could make a plan to shop local for birthdays or give local experiences for Christmas. Whatever your future plans, make small business a part of them!
This Too Shall Pass
While this is not something that we could have ever imagined, it is something that will eventually go away. All of us will learn something from this experience. Many of us will have positive take aways that propel us into our next phase of business. We will likely have some negative experiences that we will learn from. However, in the end, this will have been a small phase in the grand scheme of life. The kids will go back to school, adults will go back to work, and we will remember that time when we had "nothing" to do before we complain about our busy schedules!
Thank you to all of the small business supporters out there. Thank you also to the grocery stores, post office workers, Amazon drivers, and government officials that have continued to push forward through the pandemic and make sure that we are able to shelter in place with food, water, shelter, and Netflix.