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September 20, 2020

8/5/2020 10:59:00 AM
Businesses step up at tough time

I'm willing to bet that you're sick of COVID-19. I know I am.
I decidedly have COVID Fatigue. Indulge me, though, as I write about COVID and your small business community.
Most small business owners feel like they are the caretakers of their communities. Maybe it's because we're in touch with so many people.
We see you in our businesses, at school, at church, in other local stores. We know your struggles as we help you solve problems, find products you're looking for, or help you find the perfect gift.
We hear you, see you
As we help you meet your needs, we hear you and we see you. We are a part of each other's stories.
When COVID first actively hit the scene in March, small business owners all over the country went through the same moral struggle. The choices that are best for my business, may not be best for my employees. The choices that are best for my employees might not be best for my customers. What's best for my customers may not be best for my community. What's best for my community may not be best for my business.
We had a lot of sleepless nights. We would talk into the night trying to decide what was the best course of action, only to have our plan blown apart by noon the next day due to a government change, new information or customer demand.
Should we close our doors to keep ourselves and staff safe? What about the people who need appliance repair or new appliances? How long will we be shut down if we close? How do we keep everyone safe? Are customers doing what they need to do to keep us safe? What if we're a carrier and don't know it? How do we handle the showroom? How clean is clean enough? Questions abound.
But no one had the answers.
We did our best
We are essential workers. So, we did the best we could.
We sent our staff home with pay and ran with a skeleton crew of just our immediate family. We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more for good measure.
Were we fearful? Oh, my, yes. I have rheumatoid arthritis which tends to blow my lungs up with the slightest irritation, so the thought of a virus earmarked by breathing issues was absolutely terrifying for me.
But, small business owners must be in their stores. So, not only do we want to keep our community safe and healthy, we have to keep ourselves healthy.
Like so many other essential workers, we continued to provide service in the safest way possible. We would pivot as needed, often changing mid-stride to meet a customer's needs safely.
There has been no certainty. There has been no relief from the stresses. It has not been easy.
COVID has shown your small business community stepping up for you like never before. Look around, many of these small businesses could have just closed their doors and gone home, safely tucked away. But, that is not who they are. They showed up to keep things going for you. So, please, keep showing up for them.
Shutdowns and restrictions have been challenging. You couldn't shop in your favorite local stores, but you could shop on Amazon.
You couldn't go into the local gift shop, but you could go to Walmart with 500 of your closest friends. The restrictions had no rhyme or reason.
The safety factor
While people increasingly turn to internet shopping for "safety," your small businesses slog on. Are you safer getting a package from a COVID plagued distribution center than going into a store locally?
The COVID experience is like getting caught on a cruise ship during a hurricane.
It is terrifying for everyone. The "passengers" have been able to go to their staterooms. They can still detect the storm, maybe see it through a limited porthole, but they are very protected.
The "crew," however, is out on the deck in the heart of the storm. They do all the things needed to keep the ship safe and afloat. They've settled into a routine where they respect the storm, but they know they can handle it. Their fear is diminished.
Over time, other passengers, for want or for need, begin to emerge. They are understandably terrified as they first reenter the storm.
The perspectives are very different, even though they are in the same storm.
So, please, try to consider how someone else has weathered their storm. Give more grace than necessary. To quote author Brad Meltzer, "everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always."
Tami McMenimen and her husband, Rob, own Smith Appliance Service in Windom.

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