How the hell are small businesses going to get through this?
Like many, I’ve been afraid to have think for myself, express my opinions or side with people who may secretly share the same thought process as myself. Why? Because at some point in this pandemic I realized that I am a small business owner who has to survive, and I cannot afford to turn off any potential customer or have my existing customers leave because they disagree with my opinions.
It’s been a terrifying ride. I went from being locked in my apartment after returning from a business trip in the US for two weeks, to being locked out of the country because I had to travel to the US to ensure that my business doesn’t fall apart.
My first lockdown was hard. I had never spent a day by myself in my life, let alone two solid weeks. I abided by the rules and never walked out of my door once, but mentally, I struggled. My staff were so concerned, they bought me a dog on day 4 of my lockdown.
On one side I am resilient and on the other side, I feel defeated. I’ve been in Sydney when Melbourne locked the borders with only hours to get back. Not long enough time to drive, but for the right price I was able to get the last flight out.
As I sat on that Qantas seat relieved to be on my way home, I had this bittersweet moment. What about all the people that couldn’t move that fast, or were in a conference or job that they didn’t get the warning? What happened to them? What about if they couldn’t afford the flight increase that Qantas and other airlines so readily took advantage of? What then?
Well, I now know. I have friends ‘locked out’ of their States, Cities, and homes due to COVID. One of my best friends has not been able to see their partner for 3 months, and it’s putting a strain on their relationship and mental health.
I cannot begin to phantom how some of these decisions have been made and why little or no thoughts have been made to small business owners.
Who is replacing the food that is thrown away in restaurants and cafes due to fast lockdown decisions? Who is paying for the inefficiencies that can result from people (especially those who have yet to learn their jobs) working from home?
I have been trying my best and sometimes your best is not enough. For 3 months I have been stuck in the US because of no flights coming back to Australia. I was bumped like the thousands of others. The added cost to my business to have me stay in hotels, eat out 3 meals a day, catch Ubers to and from every meeting – is a lot.
I don’t have businesses where the government is giving out money freely and quite frankly, if I cut the salaries or hours of any staff member to take advantage of any of the salary based grants, I would lose my employees.
You see, I actually have staff who want to work. They want to continue their careers and they want to learn. They are each struggling in their own way and they know the impact of them working from home is having on the business and their own lives.
It took less than 60 days from the first lot of lockdowns for my business to have a huge dump in clients, postponing their contacts for what was to be 6 months. Their businesses deeply affected by COVID.
Unlike retail marketing, where many wealthy business owners took advantage of JobKeeper and just used their separate entity online to funnel their huge sales and profits into, we did the right thing. We didn’t set up an online payment mechanism so that we could cheat the system and take taxpayers money, and we also ensured that our clients were supported and cared for, even if they were not able to pay their bills.
What I have noticed is that while some businesses came back on board, there are many that are too afraid. They have been affected by the dominos falling – as we are now experiencing. When people hold onto their payments, just in case, it creates a situation where there are a chain of companies and people not paying their bills. Eventually someone falls over and the domino effect begins.
JobSeeker largely brought about a lazy nation with people believing they were entitled to watch Netflix all day, do the online courses they never had time to do and perhaps start a side hustle, knowing that in essence, they have been given a confined long holiday courtesy of taxpayers.
The US did the same and if you are a small business owner trying to employ anyone that is young, good luck! They quite simply believe that most jobs are beneath them.
A psychiatric hospital in Atlanta is currently paying people $100 more per shift as well as higher hourly rates just to get people to turn up. Restaurants, farms and yes, marketing companies are struggling to get people to stay in their jobs or apply (well, they apply, but just don’t turn up for the interview).
No-one should be given government money without working for it. There should be no free lunch. People have computers, internet and resources to use this time wisely and the reluctance for any government to put in place a meaningful program to ensure that free money is an entitlement, frustrates me.
What lockdowns is doing is putting small businesses out of business, causing suicides, divorces, and mental health issues. At what point are politicians who gave themselves a pay rise over COVID (for less hours and less work) going to realize that someone must pay this money back and without small businesses, the economy will crash.
I’m a small business owner and I want to be in a position that I keep paying taxes and providing worthwhile jobs to Australians, but the government is making this very hard.