Do you hear what I hear?
Sometimes I wonder if I am in the same room as everyone else. Like in the Charlie Brown cartoons when the teacher is talking, and all we hear is "wah wah wah, wah, wah." I wonder what Linus is hearing that we can't, or if he hears anything at all.
In my corporate planning life, 2020 was the year of arrival. But in those boardrooms, nobody every said - there could be a global pandemic that would kill millions of people and cripple the world economy.
And yet here we are, so far from where we thought we would be, in a new land, learning a new language: pandemic, corona, covid, reset, theory, medical urgency, number of deaths, number of cases, bubble, social distancing, number of people recovered, conspiracy . . . These are the words of 2020.
Words matter. They form the conversation both with each other and ourselves. They can be fatiguing, terrifying, informative, uplifting . . . and words lead to action. 2020 is the year that we all went home to wash our hands. When we donned our masks, and tried not to touch our faces. It is the year for many people who lost their family members. It is the year that crippled life as we knew it.
It's been a while since I posted here. I have been thinking out loud in my Instagram feeds this year. February 19 was my last post here. I was talking about the direction of the world as I saw out of my retail window. I saw a community disappearing from our sidewalks, shopping and living online, severed from each other. I saw that the only way this trajectory could be changed was if the world was turned upside down for time. My plan was to move to a by-appointment model so that I could develop my consulting business.A lot has changed since that day. The world has changed since that day.
2019 was devastating year for our family. The economy was weakening, consumer spend dropping. My source of family income - my retail business - was being dramatically affected by the external world and as a small business owner, with limited resources, I chose not to reinvest or seek additional financing because I did not, and still do not, believe the economy is a safe risk, especially when I had literally everything to lose. As a small business owner, it's hard to separate the business from the owner because it's personal. Not being able to support one's family is personal. And unwinding a business is personal and very difficult to do. I did what I could do. I worked my business 7 days a week, online, and in real time. But it seemed that no one was listening and if they were they were not spending.
Gross Sales in 2019 were 50% below 2018.
I needed a job. Miraculously, a close friend (who started as a customer in 2016) referred me to an opportunity and by March 13, I was on my way to Manitoba to begin a new consulting job with all my possessions in my car. On the way there, the news of COVID19 broke. It was like we had stepped through a curtain into a different world. Amenities along the road were already closed to the public. As we drove, we listened to the news. To be honest, it all sounded like a Charlie Brown cartoon to me - wah, wah, wah . . . wah, wah. These were words I had never heard before. Feelings I had never felt before.
I got out of the car along the highway to stretch my legs, and looked up on the icy white prairie. There in the sound of silence, I wondered, should I keep going? Should I turn back? What is going to happen? Is this the end of the world as we know it?
In Regina, it was announced that all non essential businesses would be closed immediately. When I got to Winnipeg, doors were locked everywhere. I started my new job and by March 19, I was on my way home to work, I thought until April 1.
it's now November 16; eight months later, and I am still working from my home office. The second wave is upon us, as they told us it would be. My retail business was allowed to open May 19 with restrictions. I continued my plan to operate by appointment only, because there was no possible way to staff the store in what had become a pandemic-ally depressed economy and run it while working at a full time job.
So far, I am grateful that my family has been spared the physical effects of COVID-19 and the lockdown was in a strange way a gift to me because time stood still for a time, giving me the opportunity to rethink and change my course.
I work in the medical field now. I am learning a new language and working in a way that I have never worked before. I say this without exaggeration: it has saved my life.
My family thus far is healthy. Thankfully. But my small business is on life support, lingering as the "covid economy" weakens it day by day.
Gross sales are 50% below 2019 which was already not survivable. For those who were able to close their businesses in March, I would say they got out in time. For the rest of us, the weight of a poor economy in 2019 coupled with a covid economy in 2020 has placed immeasurable constraints on our businesses and as the second wave intensifies, and more restrictions are placed on society, small businesses will buckle. We hold our breath for the aftermath, as there has been no national or provincial plans to rebuild upon. And loans without an economy are not an answer.
With 2021 now just days away, it's hard to say what will happen, as I don't have a crystal ball. But the math is the math. And that will tell the story of what's to come.