Memorial Day & Small Business Observations

COVID-19 – 2020 Diary: Memorial Day & Small Business Observations

The Situation

You are a small business, you have survived the first 90 days of COVID, re-opened your doors, cash is tight or frankly, non-existent. To make it even worse, there are checklists to follow to stay open, employees and customers to worry about, and, oh by the way, I just cancelled my family summer vacation where once a year 15 to 20 of us hang out at one of those beautiful Maine lakes.

A couple of weeks ago, the Chamber advertised a forum for us to “share” our stories about the pandemic, the business community challenges and adapting. So, here are some initial thoughts…

The Thoughts: Two for this Week

#1 – Taking a “Nazi-like” approach to COVID Compliance

COVID compliance for a small business has changed almost every tone of our interactions. At some level and when talking to your neighbor, at first it can feel political, but if one looks at the fiber of a community like Skowhegan working together, there is a very real sense that unlike a large metropolitan area, a small community can get on the same page, transcend the politics, gather its resources and define a path. What a great leadership thought! At the Golden Globe Awards, Tom Hanks talked about his life and attributed his success to “knowing the text and having a head full of ideas”. Example of this message can be found all over this community ranging from a Maine Grains employee COVID compliant work plan (knowing the text) to the Bankery and the Charter School collaboration profiled on this week’s television news (a creative collaboration of resources).

Where do I see the “holes” in this small community message? It is in the long view and helping a small business that has been brave enough to weather the storm, close and deal with the economic hit and then re-open to understand the need for hyper vigilance around COVID and business operations. Perhaps there is a China connection that started the COVID crisis; maybe it is a Democratic plot to remove President Trump; or maybe the pandemic will just go away with the “summer temperatures”, but I have to ask myself why a business and its owners would take the business or personal risk? From a high-level perspective and on the other side of this crisis, there is the need to return to some type of normalcy. Dealing with lawsuits and lawyers; regulators or personal illness does not move us forward or validate the message “we are all in this together”.

Thought #2 – I lost my insurance. A Story about Consumers for Affordable Care!

This week I “met” over the phone Barbara Price from Consumers for Affordable Care. I was looking for coverage for a not uncommon Maine story where there are limited resources, no coverage in place, a pending healthcare need, and the inability to qualify for any coverage including Medicare. Barbara talked with me, followed up and encouraged me to continue calling if I needed help. So who is Barbara and CAHC?

Barbara works with a team from CAHC , a free and confidential non-profit with a mission “for Maine people to be heard, respected, and well-served in a health system that provides coverage, access and quality, affordable care to all”. If you, your family, or your employees need to deal with a COVID-19 loss of insurance this is one place to start. Based on my conversations this week, I suspect you will be well served both in the compassion brought to the discussion and the expertise. They understand the complexity, focus on individual situations and work to match the individual up with the best option.

The memory of COVID-19 and the pandemic is going to fade, but I also do not buy-into the idea that life will just return to “normal”. I am in the camp that discusses what “the new normal will look like” and “how do we get there”. I also understand, a vaccine will mitigate the threat, our understanding of safe practices will improve, but the economy and the challenges we all face as a “community” has a long and winding road to travel. The Skowhegan Chamber is right. Creating a written history giving each of us a chance to consider the impact of what has probably been one of the most “extraordinary times” in our lives is also an opportunity to show our kids something about community values supporting resilience and innovation. I am looking forward to the discussion from a number of perspectives, legal being only one of the focuses to consider.