This week was the week when we hoped life would begin to go back to "normal", whatever that means. Now we have to pause and wait a little longer.
There are so many things that have changed over this last year. I am sure it will take some time to get going again, but I cannot wait to be able to get out and see friends and family free of restrictions. Equally I cannot wait to meet up face to face with clients, suppliers and business colleagues.
As a member of the millennial generation you may think it strange that I am saying this. After all, I have been brought up in the digital age. I have not known a time where technology was not central to our everyday lives. Someone like me should have found this whole experience of being locked down in business a breeze!
My business, Embello, has grown throughout this period and I know how lucky I am in that regard – so many business owners have not had that luxury. Indeed I have recruited new members of staff.
However, the pandemic has had more profound impacts economically and socially than we could have possibly imagined. Many of the younger members of my generation and those who are younger have been so negatively impacted.
Research has shown that the pandemic has negatively affected everyone’s mental health to some degree, but to a harder degree for some groups, my generation included. We are at far higher risk of redundancy and unemployment. Being unable to see friendship groups and meet up with our usual social networks, or now being fearful of doing so, has also had a huge impact.
This pandemic has been a great leveller in so many ways. Those measures we may use to feel we are more or less successful than someone else (let’s be honest, we do this from time to time) have been stripped away. Most of us should be looking at July 19 with a degree of humility and a huge dose of compassion.
After all, Covid-19 does not care about success, your bank balance, how many cars you have, the size of your home, the size of your ego. We stand before it as a species where we are all at risk and we have all had to face the demon.
With all of this in mind, I felt it was time to reflect on what I, as a single man in my 20s, with a successful business behind me, have learned from this experience:
1. One of the biggest problems for many people of my age is that they have lost their jobs. I am extremely grateful to be running my own business at this time and not having to find a way forward when the world went to sleep. I never thought I would reflect on my business in this way.
2. I have come to recognise just how important having made good contacts over the life of my business has been. Loyal customers have remained loyal and we have been able to support our suppliers too. We have been able to have difficult conversations and come to an accommodation. I will make wiser business decisions going forward as a good business relationship is worth its weight in gold.
3. For the first time during this last year I have really understood what exhaustion is, not just being tired, but completely and utterly exhausted. So exhausted that even thinking is no longer possible. Not only do I run Embello, but I also work as a paramedic. I qualified as a paramedic during the pandemic, so have been working harder than ever. You may have seen me on TV in the first series of 999: On the Front Line, broadcast by Channel 4. I will value "me" time and time to just "chill" more than ever before.
4. At last, as July 19 approaches, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Having a coffee with someone, which in business I used to be very careful around how much time I devoted to it, suddenly seems like a trip to Disney!
5. Some of the new clients who have joined us during lockdown, we have only spoken to on the phone or via Zoom, so to meet them face to face will be a huge adventure. To form a relationship with someone you’ve never physically met is something to be treasured.
6. We have a plan at Embello to celebrate "life" opening up again, by sending out a "welcome back to business" pack to all our clients. We thought it would be something a little different and perhaps give them a little surprise to received something out of the blue. Lumpy mail has during this time taken on a new significance. It was a treat so many other treats were off the table.
7. I may only be 27 years old and of the tech age, but as we all know, people buy from people they know, like and trust. We all know how well Amazon are doing, and they do an amazing job, but it is faceless. My business will not be faceless, I will not be faceless. I do not want that, I want to feel like I am making a difference. I do not want to be just sat back waiting for the money to roll in. I now know that really is important to me and one of my needs.
8. I do not think things will go back to how they were before the pandemic. I do think a new "normal" will emerge and I hope eventually it will be better, as we will place more value on human interaction. In some ways, Zoom calls and online platforms are so much quicker, they save on time and on expenditure. We will make smarter decisions around that, however many of us do miss that human touch, the personal dialogue and interactions. I think we will see a mix in business.
9. Family has always been important to me, and throughout the whole of lockdown, I have been supporting my mum and Grandad Maurice, both of whom I am close to. We have been in each others' bubbles over this period. However I look at them both with renewed admiration and respect. So many families have lost loved ones, and when those family members are the foundation on which you have built your life, you value them so much more. I have learned how lucky I am to have them.
10. Whilst working as a paramedic, I have come across some terrible situations, so I am grateful for my health and my business as I recognise there are many who have not been so lucky. I am also grateful that I have that role in my life. I see life’s experiences from all angles and that, more than anything else, means that I approach July 19 with a feeling of humility and gratitude that I am here, my loved ones are here and my business is thriving.
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