Optimism Amid Chaos
Optimism Amid Chaos
For the past two weeks, I've been more than busy sifting through information about COVID-19, talking with business owners that are stressed and frustrated but trying to remain calm for the sake of sanity. I've watched webinars, read countless articles, gone to Zoom meetings, and answered as many questions as I can with the knowledge I have at the moment. I’m sure you’ve been doing the same.
These are difficult times and the hardest part is waiting for the processes for funding to be worked out. I find myself in a unique position of hearing the frustration on both sides--the businesses and the lending organizations. What I do know is that no one wants businesses to fail, people to go hungry, or people to lose their lease. Also what I do know is that panic and decisions made in panic never result in positive outcomes. "What's positive about this?" you may ask, and rightly so. I am not in your shoes but I've been there.
In 2006 one of our employees at our restaurant was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. We were in our fourth year of ownership of one of the largest independent restaurants in Asheville. Our net overhead per diem was $7,500. We had operating capital in the bank, we had an emergency plan. We had done everything we were supposed to do to prepare for the unexpected.
I was managing on that Saturday night when the employee came through the back door looking as green as a Veggie Tales character. Arms stretched out and with an authoritative finger pointed in the direction from which he came I stated, "Turn right back around and go home! You are not working in my restaurant looking like that!"
I went about my work and didn't give it much thought. Until Monday came around and the phone rang. It was the Health Department letting us know that "our employee" who hadn't even worked an actual shift yet, had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and that we would need to close the restaurant down, have everyone immunized and make public notification of the situation to the news. We, of course, jumped into action, scheduled a whole staff immunization time with the Health Department, called WLOS and Asheville Citizen-Times and sent them a press release. We were doing everything we could to quell the fears of our staff and the public, abide by the Health Department guidelines but we also had to accept what we couldn't control.
We couldn't undo what had been done. It didn't matter to the public that the employee had not worked a day in the restaurant. They didn't want to go anywhere near an eating establishment that was associated with the dreaded Hep C! We couldn't blame them. The truth of the matter was whether one thinks that it is fair or not was and still is irrelevant. We had to move forward based on what the facts were. Part of our research during this crisis was to reach out to other area restaurants that had been through this same thing, and there were a few. Most had corporate backing or were much smaller businesses with much lower operating costs. We went from doing 75 lunches a day to 0 and 150-300 dinners a night down to 10! The consensus on recovery time from an incident such as this was five (5) years. We had numbers to crunch and hard decisions to make.
Based on our situation, we closed the restaurant. I won't say it wasn't hard, frustrating, and heartbreaking. But it wasn't the end of our story. The decision came with a sense of peace because we didn't make it based on our feelings but based on the facts of our situation. And the biggest takeaway was not what we could have done better, but that through tragedy, there is opportunity. Opportunity to seek out and find what can be done and to do it diligently. Opportunity to learn to let go of- and not be caged or hindered by-what we can't control. Opportunity to learn to handle pressure and think on your feet. Opportunity to expand your horizons beyond what you've always done, or the way you've always done something. Opportunity to explore possibilities.
I share this story not to discount the situation for your businesses or advise you what to do. But to let you know that it is possible to find optimism amid chaos, and opportunity amid tragedy.
So, while the Federal Government and banks figure out how this assistance is going to be rolled out, Click below to read: