Five weeks ago, while I was lounging comfortably on the white sands of Siesta Key visiting my beloved grandfather, my manager was sending me what seemed like moment to moment text messages about what was unfolding in her home country of France. I didn’t quite roll my eyes, but in full transparency, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and I am confident I said this to her.
This was the last week of February.
Twelve days later, two of my favorite yoga studios close by voluntarily closing their businesses. My initial knee jerk thought was, are they overreacting? I didn’t say this aloud, but I thought it. It was the week of March 11th . My team was looking for me to make a decision. After much discussion, we decided to take on the role of a respite from the outside mayhem.
We would sanitize, keep clients at reasonable distance, and clean clean clean. Clients needed us. They needed our business to wind down, to relieve stress from the outside world. We would be of service. Just like we always were in times of grief and sadness of what was going on out there.
Meanwhile, my dear friend from Madrid, began giving me her daily updates. News of Italy dominated the news. We marched forth. After all, if it were really that bad, wouldn’t the leadership of our country or our state be giving more clear and concise direction? One week later, as my 55th birthday fast approached, three weeks ago today, I went out with my girlfriends to day drink to drink our woes away. The news in Europe was dismal. California and Washington State was showing signs of demise. So we did what we do, soothed our worries with some local faire. That night, I went out to dinner with some clients, then out again for some dancing and more drinking. After all it was my birthday weekend.
On Saturday, I woke up with a terrible feeling that was more than too much wine. Information had changed overnight. It was March 14th. I reached out to my former breast surgeon who is also a great friend and asked her opinion. She forwarded me a letter written by a Boston doctor and I immediately did a 360 degree flip in my thinking.
We needed to close. But it shoud have been in hind site.
This was not mandated by anyone. This was the decision of collective leadership. Searching for more information, listening to my team, and taking action with the most difficult business choice of my life. It is not easy to close your business not just because of the loss, but of the economics of each woman I employ. Heart wrenching.
At the time, and it seems like a billion years ago now, we had decided to close for just two weeks. March 16th-March 28th. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the naivety of this with the now unfortunate wisdom of retrospect. I did a self imposed two week quarantine because of my Friday night shenanigans. I had already taken my son shopping for a two week supply of food, more because I wanted to spend time with him for my birthday weekend and since discussion of toilet paper shortages was starting to seep into our brainwaves, I did what most mothers I know would do- stock up.
Little did I know that just three weeks later, we would be living in what seems like Armageddon. I have watched my business and every other business in my community close, but as I reflect back on the week we closed, when I started my personal mission to tell every beauty business I knew in the country to #stayhome, I am happy that I was ahead of the curve. I am even happier that I got my team of twenty out of harms way. I am glad we didn’t expose our thousands of clients and vice versa. We did our part as responsible business owners.
Business ownership, when I first started, felt a bit like playing store. But with more and more experience, I realized the depth of seriousness business owning is. Money and economics are certainly a major part of owning your own business. This isn’t a hobby, but it has never been my personal driver. If I really cared about this as my main priority, I would be a better money manager. I have just never been directed by this. But the fact of the matter is, in order for your business to work, you must have cash. Closing ceases this unless you can come up with something creative fast.
I saw the challenges we faced as a country in our struggles with the need for economics. I saw people in the service industry not make the decision because of money and because they chose a different business model that would offer no protection to their “employees” or independent contractors, their decision to stay open was misguided. This has come back to hurt our economy more than we ever thought possible. At least in my situation, my team can collect unemployment because I have paid into it for over twenty years barely using it. This is responsible business ownership, yes expensive, but now as a country we can see the ramifications of under the table and 1099 business models. More on that later.
Information during this unusual time is free for the taking. Yes, it can be confusing, but if you read the paper, and watch the news even in the smallest snippets, you are informed. As business leaders, it is imperative that we stay informed and do not solely rely on our government to make business decisions for us. In this case we all had the information to make informed decisions the first week of March at a minimum. Yet here we are, with certain states seeming to just get the memo (Georgia, Florida, Alabama to name three, instantly) missing a window of opportunity to stave off this horrible disaster.
In my need to get fresh air, I have seen troves of people at parks and out and about not adhering to the recommendations causing our state Governor, powerhouse ball of Italian fire, Gina Raimondo to have to tell us like we are kindergartners to KNOCK IT OFF as she has tried to give her state residents the benefit of acting like grownups and adhering to the advice.
We have missed the window. We should have started self imposed quarantines the first week of March at least. We didn’t. Those extra two weeks are going to set us back for months if not quarters. I have spoken to the plethora of women I am privileged to know who continue to tell me that their kids are getting invited to gatherings while school is now virtual. These families are smart and educated proving that a college degree doesn’t always equal common sense.
I had a meeting with my team, as I have been trying to keep this all as communicative as possible, to begin getting them to wrap their head around at least a three month closure. The fact is, though, that with half the population not following the advice of our heath care organizations, we will be lucky to get back to our work in three months.
This is beyond staying home now. It is a stark realization that we have a country filled with people who are so distracted, that the thought of being “stuck” inside their homes for two weeks is worse than taking the risk and risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. Ou health care workers, our police and firefighters, our prison guards, our food bank volunteers and first responders need us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. This is not about an individual’s tolerance level of home confinement. This is chump change compared to the amount of people who will be forced to die at home, alone.
This shit is real and it is about time we come together as a country and make a decision collectively to STAYHOME. We are individual states with each of their own chiefs and cheiftresses, but for this global health and economic disaster we need to take charge of our own humanity, put on our grownup pants and not wait for anyone to make another decision for us. We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Lets take our call to action by the name of our country verbatim. Let’s unite and do the right thing. It is not forever, but it could be if we do not act UNITED. You have enough toilet paper by now.