The ins and outs, ups and downs of running a small business during extreme uncertainty.
Diary of a Small Business Owner
(4/27/20) - This Place Was Beautiful Once
Becoming an entrepreneur means you're betting on two things: 1) yourself and 2) the future.
We dream our store will be full and beautiful again. And you will come shop. And we will be here. And we will remember how a disease just made us pause; it didn't make us quit.
(4/02/20) - More of Who We Already Are
In a crisis, you can't pivot to be a generous or caring company if you haven't already been partnering with causes and caring for the least of these around you. A crisis, especially one like we're all in now, merely reveals the core of what was already at the heart of your business.
(3/28/20) - Sacrificing Margin on the Altar of Survival
Over the last two weeks we've been offering a 30% discount on all pantry and bath items so you can stay clean and well fed at home. We're doing this because it helps move inventory that we no longer have the chance to sell in person at our retail store as planned, helps keep the network of 100+ small businesses we source from working, and keeps our people busy. In other words, discounting is keeping us alive at the moment.
(3/23/20) - Deemed Essential
Of course, as someone who leans hard toward optimism I can't help but see a blank canvas. I think about one day, when the people come back, drinks in hand and money in pockets, they'll come in our full store to be greeted by a smiling face and shop for a perfect gift. They'll maybe overhear how things were that one spring when people couldn't shop in person and restaurants were empty. And in that moment they'll give thanks that we got past that stage of the virus and returned to a new normal. Their feeling of gratitude won't stop with silent acknowledgement but will manifest itself with gifts and notes and connection and relationships and we'll be ready for it.
(3/20/20) - Who Likes Roller Coasters?
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.
(3/18/20) - Train, then Trust
Leaders often think that most of their job is training, and certainly that is one of the main responsibilities. But more required of leaders is trust - trust in the people they lead and trust in the system they've developed to get work done and keep those they lead motivated. If you're constantly watching over people and telling them how to do things (what we call micromanaging), you're not trusting them. And therefore, you're not leading them.
(3/17/20) - What Pivot Looks Like
When Batch began, we were exclusively a e-commerce company. After a few months, we began selling corporate gifts. It wasn't until over a year into starting the company that we opened our retail store (which, as I mentioned, is often 75% of our monthly income this time of year).
(3/16/20) - Let the Hustle Begin
Our sales team remains motivated. Usually I'm the one who can pump them up at a moment's notice, but now they're pumping me up. Optimism isn't in short supply at Batch, and it feels good to know I'm not the exclusive owner of that. And honestly? I never was. I may be the head cheerleader, but all along there's been a team with megaphones and pompoms right beside me. Together we're just as loud as ever because we're all yelling, working, hustling, and striving.
(3/15/20) - The Store is Closed
Our team is going to hustle this week. Hustle and a high level of work ethic are not new ideas for our team. It'll be good to be busy, so we can keep our minds off of what we can't control by trying to shape our own future as uncertain as it is.
(3/14/20) - How Bad Can it Get?
I think a big reason people start small businesses is to be in control of something. You can avoid being laid off if you don't work for a big company that uses that tactic to juice a stock price or keep executives aloft in private jets. But control, even as a small business owner, is a myth when you confront something that you - or anyone else - hasn't ever seen. At that point, you can't hope to control what you can control. You just have to hang on.
(3/13/20) - It Just Got Real
I left my third meeting in the early afternoon and dared to go to the grocery store. Trying to forget about the exercise of preparing for the worst, I was hoping people scrambling for groceries would just be nice to each other. When we're all scared (but too proud to show it), being nice is a solid next move.