Running our small business in 2020: with a pandemic!
So, 2020, I didn’t see THAT coming. 👊🏻 

Some of you that know me, know that I “do” worrying well. Like, really well. I’ve been refining my skills for close to 40 years. My parents joke that they first knew I was the “the world’s greatest worry wart” when I worried about my slippery slide “sleeping outside” when I was two years old. Legend has it that I wouldn’t sleep until it was safely inside. 🤷🏼‍♀️ So, if anyone was going to worry about the piano falling from the sky, it was me. But, this, a virus that brings the world to a standstill? I didn’t see “that” coming!

I’m not going to lie, this week has been brutal, and not just because the reality sank in that I have to homeschool four kids. That concerns me. A lot. But, it’s not high on my priority list right now. We’re healthy. Our kids are healthy. Our families are healthy. We have food. We have money in our account. We still have a livelihood, albeit for the moment anyway. We’re the lucky ones. I know that there are so, so many other people out there who aren’t so fortunate.

This virus is devastating. It’s terrifying. It’s a virus that has taken away loved ones. It’s a virus that has taken away so many livelihoods. It’s a virus that is raging out of control and creating so many unknowns. It’s a virus that is going to have an effect for a long, long time - not just on our health, and health system, but also on our economy, and, our lives as we know it.

Sure, it’s not all bad news. We’re all just being forced to take a big step back and have a long hard look at ourselves. We’re getting to spend time with our loved ones that we normally wouldn’t. We’re being reminded of what is really important in life, like life itself. We’re having conversations we might have been putting off because they were awkward or uncomfortable. We’re reaching out to people and telling them that we love them and care for them, just because. We’re having the chance to teach our kids some important life lessons when they ask questions about things we hadn’t considered talking about. So, if I have to look for the silver lining in all of this, I can see one. But, this doesn’t take away the paralysing fear of wondering what’s next?

Owning a small business is tough. We’re no stranger to that. We’ve been on this rollercoaster for 16 years now. We set up our first business as two bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 24 year olds, armed with a copy of “Business for Dummies”. We had no idea, but, we always had a “worst case” scenario that we were willing to settle for.

In 2004, although we were young, we had four degrees between us, and both being qualified health professionals (a Podiatrist and Registered Nurse), knew we could make a go of starting a small business, because our worst case scenario (of closing up shop and finding work elsewhere) wasn’t daunting.

We chose a small town to start out, and knew that we only needed to see a minimum of two patients a day to cover our costs. We had no kids and figured we could live off baked beans.

Additionally, if careers in health were hard to come by, we now knew that we were both pretty handy trades-people, after completing our first shop fitout by ourselves - designing, constructing, plastering, painting...we did it all (except the electrical part, of course). So, my plastering and painting skills left a little to be desired, but thankfully one of us has more patience than the other. What I lack in patience, I more than compensate for in perseverance. I’m not one to stop until a job is done.

And, so, with some handwritten notes on scraps of paper, an optimistic outlook, many, many trips to Bunnings (funded by a small loan from family), we had somewhere to start. We somehow navigated our way through councils regulations, signed our first commercial lease, bought as much medical stock as we could afford from a catalogue and convinced the bank that, although we had no trading history, we would definitely be able to repay the cost of an autoclave - which was worth more than our life savings, and the car that we currently drove! Thanks for taking the chance on us bank - we came good on that promise!

We worked hard. There was plenty of blood, plenty of sweat and plenty of tears, (and maybe some cursing too, if I have to be honest 🤪). We turned our dream into a reality, opening our first small business, aged 24 years.

Thankfully, we did our math correctly - our shop fitout didn’t fall down and the customers coming though the door exceeded our expectations. We were off!

Fast forward 16 years and here we are, with our current thriving practice, packed to the brim with stock, in an idyllic city location, with plenty of staff. We’ve learnt a lot over the years. We’ve balanced risk with thoughtful consideration, and made decisions based on that.

We’ve survived the GFC. We’ve survived staffing instability. We’ve survived an ailing retail market. We’re not ones to step away from a challenge, so we’ve even done all this while raising four expensive, but loveable little liabilities! 😉

Will our business survive Covid-19? Of course it will. What will it look like? I don’t know. We’ll adapt. We’ll make changes. We’ll do things differently. We’ll do what we have to do. We’ll try to agree on the best course of action - although this is proving rather problematic at present. 🤨

We’ll take each day as it comes. We’ll roll with the punches. We’ll worry about things we can change (or at least try to). We’ll be good people. We’ll do the best we can with what we have. That’s all we can do.

We’ll also enjoy the time that we now get to spend with our children. We’ll enjoy the slower pace of life. We’ll try and be good at homeschooling our children. 🤓 No guarantees there! 🙄 I can tell you already that one of us will be better at this gig than the other. It won’t be me.

More importantly, what we can both do, is be good role models to our children. We can show them that we can be creative, adaptive and resilient and work together to come up with a solution, despite the fact that we don’t know all the answers, even as adults.

We’ll show them grit and perseverance, because, there are just so many unknowns, and, we have to just keep on going, even though the finish line keeps moving.

We’ll use this downtime to show our kids how to care for their fellow family members and friends. To think about people other than themselves. We’ll talk to them about what it feels like to be vulnerable, but let them know that they are loved, that people around them care for them, and that they’re never alone.

We’ll teach them to appreciate all that they already have and to be grateful for that. We’ll also show them to things can change in an instant. Sometimes what you have planned doesn’t quite work out the way you had anticipated, and that’s ok too.

I had planned on doing another marathon this year, but “this” wasn’t quite the one I had in mind. “This” one might take a little less physical strength, but a whole lot more mental resilience. Somehow that last 24km run that I did a few weeks ago (and found totally mentally and physically exhausting!) pales in comparison to being faced with the current, evolving situation that we’ve found ourselves in - physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.

I’d be lying if I said I was optimistic and brave. I’m not. I’m fragile and scared. I’ve cried many times this week. At ridiculous things. At ridiculous times. To be honest, I’ve hardly slept a wink this week. I’m extremely tired and confused.

It’s hard staying abreast of the new developments, the research, the data, the advice on what to do and the changing legislation that you have to adhere to...as well as implementing and enforcing this!

Not to mention trying to keep some normality for your kids, put some food on the table, keep them safe and healthy while also keeping a check on their mental health, and, of course, making sure they’re not glued to their devices when they are at home!

We also had a lot of cramming going on for high school exams this week! I’m now an expert on digital technology (although my inability to use certain functions on my iPhone would suggest otherwise), French (ok, I wasn’t much help here, despite having learnt French for five years) and grammar (well, we all know I’m a stickler for correct grammar, so that part was easy; although I did have to google more than I thought)! 🤣

Throw in some concern for extended family and friends, trying to keep up to date with daily (sometimes hourly!) notices from three schools 🤪 and trying to make sense of the Government’s business support packages, while little people demand your attention, and you’ve got a great recipe for overwhelm.

But, we’ve ridden this rollercoaster before, albeit it a less scary one. I wish I knew when it would end, but I don’t. So, we’re just going to sit tight and hold on. I’m worried that this rollercoaster might derail. My worry won’t change the outcome one bit, I know that. But, I still worry.

Worry about the small things right here and now, and worry about the longer term issues and repercussions. But, what will be, will be.

So, Covid-19, no, I didn’t see you coming. But, I know you won’t defeat us. You’ll change us, but you won’t break us. We’ll learn some lessons and we’ll move on.

A song that keeps running on repeat in my mind is REM’s, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). All week I’ve been telling myself that I’m not fine. I’m not fine with what’s going on right now. It’s sad. It’s concerning. It’s scary. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. It’s overwhelming. It’s consuming. It’s exhausting.

But, you know what? Today, after some more decent sleep last night, I woke up and told myself that I am fine. It is the end of the world as we know it (right now), but we will be fine. We’ll be more than fine. We’ll come out stronger, with new perspective and more clarity.

Until then, I’ll just take one day at a time. One foot in front of the other. The finish line isn’t anywhere to be seen, but that’s ok. I know I'm not alone. We’re all running the same race. We’re all here to cheer each other on, to motivate one another and to help each other up when they fall down. We can do this, together.

Stay safe. Look after one another. Be kind, always.

Comments

4 comments

Jane Holmes

Jane Holmes

Thank you for your thoughts in this uncertain time.
So good to know your family is doing well.
I think we all feel the same way. So much is unknown.
Take care and we all will get there.
The other Jane

Pauline

Pauline

Thanks Rachel – beautiful, raw, real! I’ve felt sad all week – the growing list of covid cases, job losses for family and friends, watching my beautiful business fade before my eyes and my son’s dream of working in the states and travelling the world shot to pieces. Like you I’m trying to see the positives. We are safe, we are well; there are so many doing it a lot tougher than us. We will come out the other side. How that will look, I’m not quite sure, and like you I’m worried, but I feel hopeful that with love and support from each other, family and friends and the community who have been showing kindness in the most beautiful and unexpected ways, we’ll be ok. X

Renae

Renae

Rachel, thank you for penning this amazing blog. For me, this is something I really needed to hear. Especially while we are largely cut off from our extended family and friends, it can be reassuring to hear that we don’t know what’s coming and we don’t have the answers, but others are in the same boat and worrying the same worries.
We’ll come out if this different, but we will come out of this. And I think you are right, it will take creativity!
Take care and hang in there 🤛

Tony L

Tony L

That’s a great read Rach … nice to hear others thoughts in this strange time.
One thing I do know is that you’ll get through this challenge, you are one of the best teams I’ve ever seen!
I’m writing this lying in my hammock sipping on a G & T …. hopefully can have one with you guys in the not too distant future!

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