Michelle Sukow running business during COVID-19

I’ve been a business owner for more than 20 years, and I’ve had my share of ups and downs. I’ve run businesses during the recession and the housing market decline, but keeping everything in line during COVID-19 has been a big task with many changes. I hope to never have to endure something like this pandemic again. 

It’s created such a multifaceted challenge that has affected everyone differently. So many people have had to change their lives, and aside from work and worrying about keeping their jobs. They’re missing interactions with family and friends, dealing with kids home from school, and being stuck in isolation. It’s been hard for us all, that’s for sure.

As a business owner, of course, I’ve had huge concerns about how my businesses were going to survive this. My branding business has had to evolve. My two brick-and-mortar businesses are considered essential. I’ve had to figure out how to keep things going while being as safe as possible and protecting my employees.

These times have been hard, but we’ve all kept going. Personally, I think some of the changes in my businesses due to the pandemic have actually been good, even though it’s been challenging. It’s been a difficult few months, we’re all finding our way through it.

Trying New Things 

For my branding business, I really had to pivot and start doing things in a way I hadn’t planned. When the pandemic hit, I had to start doing a lot of things virtually. I had to jump in fast and learn quickly! Luckily, I’ve had help from amazing people who have helped me on my journey. I’ve shifted from live speaking engagements, networking opportunities, and conferences, to forums like webinars and virtual workshops. 

While I miss being out in front of people, I honestly really like being able to connect with them in new, virtual ways. COVID-19 might have made me take steps into a new business area earlier than planned. It’s been nice in some ways. I love learning new things – it energizes me, so I’m embracing it and having fun!

Taking Care of My Employees

Taking care of my employees has been a huge priority for me since the start of this pandemic. At my two brick-and-mortar businesses, I cut my own salary in half so that no one would have to worry about being furloughed or let go. Yes, we had to evaluate payroll to minimize overtime and be as efficient as possible. But I wasn’t about to let the teams take cuts on their hours and lose their livelihood. My employees have been there for me for more than 20 years, and this was my turn to show them how much I support, respect, and value them!

Their health and well-being are incredibly important to me, and I take every precaution possible to protect them. At my auto repair, auto wash, and laundromat business, we started to do tons of cleaning and sanitizing. Extra time was scheduled between appointments to keep our customers from interacting. We switched to phone calls only, instead of allowing walk-in appointments.

At my heavy duty towing and truck repair business, we put our offices on lockdown and didn’t let anyone come in who wasn’t an employee. Within our office, I encouraged everyone to maintain safe, six-foot distances from each other. We cleaned regularly and provided hand sanitizer and masks for everyone. Our approach to towing changed, too. Instead of having customers ride in the cabs of our trucks with drivers, we helped them to find separate, safe transportation.

Tough Times for My Businesses

For my auto repair, auto wash, and laundromat business, our sales really took a hit at the height of the pandemic. The general public was staying home, and fewer miles driven = less of a need for repairs. I’m honestly glad that people were staying home and staying safe, but the pandemic came at a tough time for that business. The property is near our town’s main street, which was already completely under construction, causing some disruption. 

We had planned for that challenge, and we’d taken some steps to prepare for a loss of income, which maybe gave us a bit of a leg up on the impact COVID-19 would have. Honestly, the shining light of these times has been the fantastic customers and clients that have supported us, especially during the construction. Taking detours and driving through construction obstacles to get to us… I’ll be forever grateful to our community for their support.

At my heavy duty towing and truck repair business, we’ve actually stayed relatively busy during the pandemic. We help keep the roads clear for law enforcement and prevent accidents, so we needed to be available 24/7. That said, the pandemic has impacted us just like everyone else. Sales went down, and we weren’t prepared for it. Luckily, we were able to minimize expenses by temporarily cutting back where we could. 

Moving Forward 

As things have started to open up again, my businesses are still taking precautions to make sure our employees are safe. We haven’t gone back to the “old way” of doing things. We always clean and sanitize, and we’re cautious of who we’re letting in and out of our buildings. I don’t see things ever being completely the same again, but that’s okay. 

I think it’s great that we’re all more aware of our surroundings, and that we’re mindful of who we’re coming in contact with. But we’re not letting it get us down. Business is picking up, and we’re busier now than we were during the first couple of months of the pandemic. Everyone seems happier, and maybe a little less stressed out. 

I’m hoping people will come out of this with more respect for one another, more kindness, and consideration for each other’s boundaries. All of us feel differently about what’s going on. Some are scared, some are less concerned. Some feel strongly about following all of the precautions, and some maybe have a different view of what COVID-19 is, and don’t feel the need to be careful. 

I’m just hoping everyone can be respectful of all of our different opinions and beliefs, and honor the boundaries that some of us are putting in place. I can say with all of my strength and convictions that if a second wave comes our way, we all will be more prepared and able to handle all of this so much better. If a second wave happens, I just want everyone to try to be healthy. 

Be safe. Be kind. Be respectful.