Diary of a Small Business Owner (3/20/20) - Who Likes Roller Coasters?

Diary of a Small Business Owner (3/20/20) - Who Likes Roller Coasters?

They say you have to have a stomach for this, and I know what they mean

Last night I didn't write in my diary. I was tired. So I watched TV with my wife and went to bed. I figured today would be a long day. My business parter and co-founder Rob was back in town and we needed to catch up. Since every day's (hour's?) headlines can have deep implications for our business, I needed to be ready for whatever news came out. Stomach of steel, right?

But it's not quite like that - or maybe not as predictable as that. Sure; sometimes you know when a crappy meeting is coming (letting an employee go, apologizing to a client, sharing disappointing financial news) and you can gather up whatever gumption you need and grind your way through it. But other times (like now, our new normal) you don't know where the hits are coming from, or if they're coming at all. You're in for a roller coaster ride, baby. So hang on.

Last fall my daughter and I went to Six Flags. She wanted to ride some fast and tall roller coasters and since Opryland is RIP we headed to Atlanta, strapped in and went up and down and up and down and up and down. Normally I'm fine with those thrill rides but that day I felt nauseous. Maybe I wasn't ready for the jolting and jostling. But I survived.

Today was a roller coaster day. Here are the highlights:

  • Denied for business loan (DOWN)
  • Permission to apply for smaller amount (UP)
  • New puzzle product added online (UP)
  • Worst-case scenario planning call (which keeps getting worse and worse) (DOWN)
  • Call with reporter from Nashville Business Journal about this here diary (UP)
  • Slow morning of online sales (DOWN)
  • Employee worry (DOWN)
  • At least four viable leads from the promotion of our new work-from-home care packages (UP)
  • Contingency planning and financial modeling work (DOWN)
  • New client closed (and paid) for May gifts (yes; the world will be around then) (UP)
  • Moved some puzzles (UP)
  • Ate about two dozen miniature Reece's cups (PUSH)
  • Group call with other small business owners around the US (UP, even though it hasn't happened as of this publishing, it's always an UP)

And that's just today.

Back in the fall, I timed one of the rides my daughter and I went on. Nothing lasted more than 90 seconds. But the more my stomach did flips then, the longer it felt.

All of our stomachs are flipping out right now and with such unease we look at the clock to realize only a half-hour has gone by when we've felt nauseous for what feels like days. And worse yet is that we don't know when that feeling will end. 

The reporter asked me on my call today what I've learned in just 10 days. I'm no expert on crises or pandemics, but I told her these three things. Maybe they can be of use as you head into the weekend.

  1. Build a diversified customer base. It's not enough to just sell to one sector, industry, income class, or region. If you do and something affects them, it'll affect you, too.
  2. Build a flexible workforce. If you have someone who can only do one thing, they won't be very useful when they can't do that one thing because sales dry up, times get tough, or a pandemic hits. The more you can shift people to whatever work is available next, the more resilient your company is.
  3. Build a darker forecast. We've talked about "worst case scenarios" before, but never actually planned for them. We talked about the possibility of our store closing just two weeks ago but thought that reality would be further out. We should have though of the worst thing and then doubled it. You should, too.

Get some rest. You can't get off the roller coaster yet.


I began keeping this diary on Friday, March 13. You can read all of these posts by clicking here.