by Patti Rowlson
“We are doing the job of several people whose positions were eliminated. We’re so exhausted and mentally drained by the time we leave that we are lucky to be able to spend any quality time with our families. We cry… a lot.”
Wow. Put yourself in the shoes of the Whatcom County business leader who wrote those words, and then imagine feeling this way for six consecutive months. You’d probably cry, too.
Some local business leaders are admittedly at a breaking point. They are doing their best to smile under the masks they wear, and they are doing their best to keep pushing forward while being faced with never-ending business changes and consumer volatility in some industries.
The volume of change that local mom and pops, small businesses leaders and large corporate executives have had to go through since March 2020 has been monumental.
However, what we as consumers can see during the buying experience is only the tip of the iceberg. The work that is being done under the surface to keep businesses afloat and operating safely during this pandemic is unmeasurable and exhaustive. It is no wonder that they are worn down, feeling vulnerable and sensitive to criticism right now.
Spoiler alert: Now may not be the time to write a negative review for a local business.
When we look beyond the tip of the iceberg, empathy forms.
Consumers who interact with the public-facing side of a business rarely get to see the business end of operations, such as banking, paying taxes, ordering supplies, complying with governmental regulations, licensing, handling cash flow and managing human resources — all of the navigation and brain work that goes on behind the scenes to keep a business going. That perspective is obviously not on the minds of humans as they are shopping, eating, buying and otherwise engaging with a local business, but it is an important thing to remember.
In normal conditions, strategic changes in any one of those business management areas — planned weeks, months and even years in advance — can cause chaos and disruption.
During the pandemic, every one of those business management areas changed without warning. It was shocking. Every plan that was in place, every budget that was set had to be revisited regardless of whether the business was considered “essential” or not.
Our local business community has done an incredible job of adjusting! In my opinion, they deserve credit and encouragement to keep pushing forward as they work through exhaustion, overwhelm and uncertainty about what the future holds.
How to offer encouragement to a business during COVID-19.
Now is the time to lift each other up and show patience and understanding for all businesses that have managed to operate in our community through the pandemic.
I would ask anyone reading this article to think and act with empathy until businesses are legally allowed to return to a form of operation the feels more normal to staff and the public.
Keep in mind that there are real people behind the effort to keep commerce going in Whatcom County — tired people who go home at the end of a workday and are faced with helping with their children’s schooling, managing spousal relationships, paying bills, cooking meals, shopping for needed supplies and trying to do anything that might help them rest and recharge for another day.
If interacting with a business feels different right now, and if processes and products are not perfect, instead of hopping online and leaving a negative review, think back to what has been occurring under the tip of the iceberg and remind yourself what everyone who is associated with that business has been working through since March 2020. Pause and give folks some much-needed grace and space; lift people up, don’t tear them down.
Choose to offer sunshine, not rain.
Perhaps you can even redirect any harsh thoughts you may have about local business operations or services and choose to write one positive review for a business that you know has been doing an awesome job navigating through the pandemic.
If a few more consumers (that’s you and me!) show kindness, grace and empathy when interacting with local businesses, that would go a long way toward helping folks hang on through this grueling season.
I’m going to send words of encouragement and write a positive review right now. How about you?