I wear this crown of thorns, upon my liar’s chair. Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair. Beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear. You are someone else, I am still right here. What have I become, my sweetest friend? Everyone I know, goes away in the end. And you could have it all – my empire of dirt. I will let you down. I will make you hurt. If I could start again, a million miles away. I will keep myself. I would find a way. Sticking with last month’s blog, we start with another Johnny Cash song; actually, a cover by The Man in Black, of a 1994 song by the American rock band Nine Inch Nails. The song was written by Trent Reznor, the band’s lead singer, for their second studio album, The Downward Spiral, and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996. The Johnny Cash version was one of his final recordings and is likely one of the saddest songs ever sung.
There are a lot of reasons to be sad about the impact of the government-imposed shutdowns on business and the economy. For many of the millions of entrepreneurs who have been pursing the difficult dream of running a small business, the shutdowns have been a death knell. Small business owners put their heart and soul into their companies. They take risks and endure hardships that most people would never consider as realistic choices. Their employees become friends and even family, not just nameless cogs in a wheel, and they take pride in their efforts.
I know this to be true. I have been running John Dunham & Associates for 20 years now, and I love this little firm, my employees, and my clients. I would be truly hurt if the government were to put me out of business.
Our operations have been thrown to the winds for several months now, and while we interact on electronic media, I rarely see any of my team in person. Work loses some of its magic when people are separated. The kind of spontaneous discoveries that happen when people work on a project together are much more difficult to achieve when you are separated. This was why companies were formed in the first place – to integrate different minds, different skills and different opinions toward a common goal.
The other thing that COVID has brought about is an overwhelming fear of people. The powers that be have done a lot to scare people into thinking that any human contact will somehow kill them. For the past 25 years I have been spending a lot of time – probably too much time – on planes, trains and busses, and in hotel rooms. I find visiting with my clients, potential clients, and colleagues around the country to be the most rewarding part of my job. I have worked for many – if not most – of my clients for well over 10 or 15 years and consider all of them to be personal friends. I truly miss sitting down for dinner, or even coffee to go over the issues of the day, rehash old war stories, or to simply gossip. While this may sound unproductive, I have found that some of the most valuable insights can be gleaned from a late-night trip to a bar.
While it does not hurt to be home with my family and not in a cramped middle seat, it does hurt to not be able to kibbutz with some of the most interesting people that I have ever had the chance to know.
One thing about entrepreneurs is that we all love to hunt. Not hunting like rhinos and deer and ducks, but the hunt for business. Even after 20 years, it still feels great to know that a new client has selected you and your team to help them with an important problem or issue. And while losing a bid is never fun, there is no feeling like selling a new project to a new potential long-term friend. Sure, with all of the trouble in the world today, our particular business has never been brighter. But it is so much more meaningful to shake hands on a deal, than to do so virtually.
People need people, and there is no such concept as being socially distant. One is either social, or they are distant, you cannot be both things at the same time. Small business owners are social creatures by their very nature, and the government-imposed shutdowns and the irrational fear of contact has got to be getting to all of us. So as summer turns to autumn and 2020 passes into time, let us all hope that we will all be seeing each other again soon. For when You are someone else, I am still right here. And when I can start again, I will find a way.