Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Small Business Class of 2020

Somewhere, in January or February of this year, there was a creator -a cook with a recipe, a builder with tools, a programmer with an idea - that decided that this year - 2020 - was the year to make the leap into the great unknown and start a business.

They had done their research.  They had consulted, gathered market research, prepared and revised and edited a business plan.  They had tested the market.  They had budgeted for a drop in income over a period of time.  Their friends and family were behind them.

They were committed.  And so, burning the careers of their former lives, they set off on their journey.

And then The Plague happened.  Originally perhaps, it was just a rumor, a minor concern - until it gathered life and energy and suddenly there were lock downs and layoffs.  Their business, if it needed foot traffic, was cut off.  Their business, if it needed patrons with money, no longer had the income.

That was okay.  They had planned for this - they had reserves.  They adapted and worked and persevered and slowly, over time, the lock downs started to lift.  There was a bright wedge of sunshine.

And then, social unrest.  If they were in a social unrest area, they were back into lock down.  If they were not in a social unrest area, they saw people begin to re-tighten their spending.

This is a drama that is slowly playing out over the country.  And not just for those that chose this year to start their business.  For established businesses as well have met the same situation - and they have the disadvantage of overhead and loans and declining revenues.  The layoffs have already started for them, and as we go, the closures will likely follow.

I have a soft spot in my heart for small business.  I know what it is like to own a business and fail in it, to lose everything you invested and then have to scramble to try to rebuild your life.   And thus - be it due to lock downs that stopped customers or destruction that destroyed the physical property - my heart aches for these small business owners.  They do not often have the deep pockets to rebuild - nor, given the psychic toll losing a business takes on you, will they want to.

My prediction - and it is only a prediction - is that the 2021 and following crop of new business is going to look much different than ever before.  Much less commercial retail based.  Much more local.  Much less debt free.  Much smaller.  Most likely, much more under the radar.

If small businesses decide to try at all.

This my fear:  Lost in all that is going on now is that the underpinnings of a robust economy - or even an economy that can recover - are being knocked down and destroyed one by one.  If - not when - we are finally allowed to come up for air, we are only going to find a world where business are gone and very little has come to replace them. 

And the burning questions of the day will simply become:  Can I work?   Can I eat?

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