One year ago today, like many business owners, I made the decision to convert to a fully remote company and closed the office. All-day that Friday, I was profoundly sad. I knew in my heart my business life as I have known it would never be the same — and I loved my professional lifestyle. My MBWA (management by walking around) style doesn’t play on Zoom. The celebrations, consolations and coaching sessions with my 35 people, many of whom I shared every workday for 10+ years, won’t be the same. We will still be friends, colleagues, squabblers, and dreamers. There won’t be the high fives, warm exchanges, occasional PC hugs, and knowing looks. I grieve for those staff people; most were also long-time co-workers, for whom that was their last day with the Company for no fault of their own. When I locked the door that Friday the 13th night and looked back, all I could think about was the end of Fiddler on the Roof and leaving Anitevka. I didn’t want the walk to Grand Central to end.
During this year, the challenges of leading people I truly care about have been harder than anything I have ever had to do during any recession or downturn. We have learned to meet through Zoom and Teams, chat with video and, when possible, try to be somewhat spontaneous (hey, you free?). As if that could replace plopping down in someone’s office. Our team meetings have included magicians and games, but gifts are mailed to homes rather than handed out and we welcome new staff people by waving through our cameras. The parents supervising home learning, the sandwich generationers worrying about both parents and children, and young singles living in small spaces are stressed and somewhat depressed. How do I support a team of hunters and gathers who make their living and get their adrenaline pumping by closing sales when they don’t have any customers to call on? The financial pressures on individuals and families are real because we have each had to sacrifice for the sake of the whole. We discuss one another’s mental and emotional health far more and commiserate that we are all feeling blue. On nice days, we encourage each other to get outside, walk, socialize if possible and achieve some level of pandemic positivity. This new normal sucks.
As a team, we work to reinvent, adapt and soldier forward in Darwinian spirit. These unchartered waters make navigation extremely difficult. Our approach is to stay close to our customers so that we will be there with the right products and services to help them rebuild their businesses when they are ready. Worry overhangs us because we don’t know when the markets will come back and if we have the right solutions. The determination to survive and one day thrive sustains us.
As an eternal optimist, I believe we will find a new stasis that offers successes, happiness and collegiality. The worst of the pandemic is behind us and there will be green sprouts. Maybe one day we will open a new office and many of us will reunite in person. We are survivors and apply all our abilities to reestablish ourselves. If Tevye can go from Russia to Chicago and start a new life, we can rebuild too. Here’s to the next year.
David L Miller
March 12, 2021