What if trying your best is not enough?
When it first became apparent that Coronavirus would effect everyone, I was in Aspen, Colorado. I had arrived and went to my trusty coffee shop Victoria's to meet up with other compatriots to find out where everyone was skiing for the day.
Don't come closeAs I approached, they said, "Don't come close. We have just received a call that someone is sick and we were with them last night."
Another said, "I'm going to get on the first flight out of here."
In my head, I thought everyone was overreacting but one was a Doctor, so just in case, I would take every precaution.
It's fortunate I did as I wore gloves everywhere, washed my hands so many times that they were red raw, and took hand sanitiser with me everywhere and applied it liberally.
I left 5 days later after some incredible ski days with lots of powder and no-one on the slopes. It was such an eerie feeling.
The airport was deadWhen I left, I flew to Atlanta to my office.
I got off the plane and the airport was dead. You have to imagine that the biggest airport in the United States really had few people their and after many years travelling to this airport I knew something was up.
After arriving at my hotel I realized with the incredible upgrade that the Grand Hyatt gave me to one of their best suites that the hotel had few people staying. Staff were overly attentive and as I was to be there for 28 days, they knew my name and were only too happy to help me, provide me with delicious food and beverages.
The building was emptyMy first day back at the office, another thing hit me. No-one was going to work. The building was empty. My team were concerned and rightfully so as Atlanta has been hit hard. I've seen Atlanta down in its luck before, and to see this hit the city along with the riots which also effected our building, I was saddened.
The calls for Australian to go home before borders closed started to penetrate through the US. I had worked exactly 5 days before I was inundated with calls from other Australians in the United States asking me what I was going to do.
Within a few hours I was on a plane to LA. I flew out on an early flight "just in case" and arrived in LA really early. My flight back to Australia was midnight. I had luggage so I couldn't just hop in an Uber and go to the beach, and I didn't want to. The risk to get this far had already been high. To put myself or others at risk was selfish particularly given my position.
QuarantineAfter an ordeal that tested me in every way at the airport where they couldn't say whether I would be allowed on the flight or not, which mean as a Business Class passenger I would stand in line for almost 4 hours, I was finally escorted through the airport. Home was imminent.
On arriving home, I travelled straight home. My fridge and cupboards were full as my internal CFO had taken the liberty of making sure that I was well catered for during the two week quarantine that I had to undertake.
On day 4, a surprise arrived at my door without any person attached in a little pooch, @JolieAspenSmith (Instagram Handle). By this stage, being alone was starting to get to me. I was working hard and going to bed early. I would wake up sometimes at 2am in the morning to take calls from the United States so that I could do everything in my power to keep the business running.
But the inevitable happened and people stopped spending on marketing services. Our company took a huge hit. I've never experienced anything like it in 22 years of owning a business (yes, I have survived being a business owner for that long!!).
Cut CostsI cut costs everywhere with the help of our two internal accountants. In my marketing agency, no-one's salaries were effected until it became absolutely necessary, and none in my Australian team.
My technology company had to take a cut as we were pre-revenue and raising capital in this market is out of the question.
At the best of times I suffer from anxiety, so you can imagine what the past few months have been like. I have not slept one single night, scared for so many reasons. I wake up on the hour, every hour.
My internal accountants have kept the finances in order and for that I am grateful. How could I survive without them. I am not a stupid woman, so I know that quite simply I couldn't. They are life savers. I wish everyone realized just how much they do for the company.
My dreams were dashedWith isolation, I made one last ditch to have a baby and did one more round of IVF. This time it was brutal and lonely - and to be honest, I am of the opinion that the clinic that I used is just after revenue. I saw the Doctor only a minute before he did the extraction and for 5 minutes while he did the transfer. It didn't take. My dreams were dashed. There was to be no silver lining from COVID-19.
I picked myself up because I had to. I didn't cry until recently when I watched Yellowstone and it reminded me that my gene pool stops with me. Tears well in my eyes as I write this because it is such a definitive statement.
As I have worked harder than I ever have on the business, and suffered immensely from the strain of what is going on in the world, I have tried hard not to be drawn into media reports. I have thoughts on the whole COVID thing and perhaps they are not mainstream, but it's been hard from all accounts.
What I didn't account for is the amount of days staff have off during this period. They too suffer from the stress of the situation, watching their young friends stay at home on high social security benefits without having to do any work, and fear that they could get Coronavirus.
SacrificesA few of them have had many tests then take time off but all the weeks add up. What breaks my heart most is that my longest serving employee sacrificed her role for our team due to her salary being rightly higher than everyone else's and the amount of clients on hold. She did that off her own back and it was the hardest thing for both of us to have happened. 16 years gone just like that. What a selfless act.
I don't think anyone appreciated it. I suppose for both her and I, that is what hurts the most. But everyone is going through their own stuff and we cannot underestimate what they are going through or the why they make the choices they make.
This week, half of my Melbourne team is off having done tests for Coronavirus. There has been no cases and there are no symptoms of fever, but they feel that peace of mind is needed. As a small business owner, this is a huge strain. Imagine being already on reduced staff and having that happen. We have two big tenders due this week which we cannot submit as we must put our clients first. Missed opportunity. Missed job opportunities for others.
Small businesses are hurting. We are too. If it's not one thing, it seems to be another. I can't work any harder and the stress has gotten to me. I work, go home and work some more. I wake up in the middle of the night to do business development conference calls because we need to ensure that we keep everyone employed.
So, spare a thought for the people who are doing the right thing, and the small businesses out there that are having absolutely everything thrown at them. It's tough.