#RealTalk: Small Businesses are Not Okay

I was on a Zoom call with a friend on Tuesday morning and he asked, “How’s your small business doing?”

The only response I could muster was, “It’s brutal right now.”

I went on to explain…

Our clients aren’t paying their bills, because they can’t afford to or they literally don’t have the physical ability to process the payment while working remote.  That has a ripple effect across everything we do as a business AND everyone we do business with.  That means we have no cash coming in to pay our bills because every last dollar we currently have is reserved to pay our people; We want to do everything we can to keep our people and keep paying them.   We’ve applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (no word yet) and a number of grants to help fill the gap.  I’ve taken a pay cut.  Our owner has too. 

Contracts and proposals are getting pushed out from March/April to August, September – and maybe even 2021.  Our pipeline of future business has dried up for the next 4-6 months and all of our business development efforts feel like they are now an upside down dumpster fire.  No one is talking about future business, everyone is just trying to survive.  As a result, every conversation is stalled or dead in the water because no one knows when we’re all going to be able to get “back to business” again.  The next 6 months are a daily “question mark”.

At this point, “it’s brutal” might be an understatement.

I’m a anxious.  I’m stressed.  I’m feverishly working to try to make magic happen while simultaneously paralyzed by fear, sadness, grief, stress, and anxiety.  I’ve worked for small businesses most of my career.  I’ve been an executive leader of small businesses for the last seven. This is the most terrifying and potentially business-ending experience a small business will ever face.  As a leader, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably ever will.

Small businesses are not okay.  We are not okay.  This is the #realtalk.

In the next 90-days we will see small businesses close forever.  You will see leaders shutter up lifelong dreams, family legacies, and livelihoods after they’ve done everything possible to try and help it survive.  That’s the new reality.

Like my last blog (I Am Not Okay), I don’t have any intelligent business advice or some new grant no one knew to apply for.  I don’t have a work-around for the cumbersome and frustrating PPP process either (I wish I did).  I only have me, a small-business leader standing here with her hand waving in the air saying:

This is really really hard.  I lay awake at night worrying about my people, my job, the company.  I worry and wonder every day if we’ll survive.  I grieve the loss of the meaningful work we’re doing. 

I, then, go deep into the rabbit hole of “what ifs”, too.  What if we have to close?  What will our employees do?  What will our clients do?  What will I do?  How will I find a job in this market?  How will I support my family? Will I find something just as meaningful? 

I work myself into such a ball of anxiety, fear, and stress – that I find myself incapable of doing anything but starting blankly at my computer not knowing what to do next.

I’m guessing some of you feel that way, too.

I hope that helps you feel less alone in this.  If it gives you a way to express what you are feeling, good. If it just lets me stand in solidarity with you as another small business leader and owner – someone who knows how difficult and painful this truly is – I will.   If I can help you or support you or listen to you, please just ask.

Until then, I send you a fist bump and a virtual hug with a heart hopeful to see you when we’re on the other side of this.