The future of small business is uncertain. The economic browbeating and indecisiveness due to the Coronavirus pandemic continues. The clarity and correct choices of how to correctly navigate proper and ethical business choices in this fluid and ever-changing historical period is paradoxical and tough.
While it doesn’t appear to have been done on purpose, the combination of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), essentially has pitted small business employers and their team members against each other. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, the government has tasked me (incorrectly in my opinion, but tasked nonetheless) with paying my employees two weeks of paid leave for dealing with the Coronavirus.
Legislative effects of Stimulus on Small Business
With one firm able to work remotely, one firm closed by state executive order, and one firm considered essential the navigation of this legislation has been muddy. While working for different companies, but sharing mutual management, some team members feel slighted, while others are happy, and others still are simply nervous depending on the firm that they work for and the position they hold within said firm. This negative engagement alone makes the future of small business uncertain.
How does a Small Business Navigate the Future of the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Take the essential company for example. This firm is allowed to continue working. Being primarily in the home services sector of our industry, demand has been lower than normal as consumers and customers take understandable protective measures in line with CDC and local government guidelines. However, we also have on-going projects, equipment maintenance, and other tasks which could be completed during this time. Virtual training, in-service, overview of best practices, review of customer service guidelines, and more. Yet, many of these team members are nervous about the Coronavirus pandemic and the corresponding COVID-19 disease. While none of them technically qualify for leave as the law has written it, as an emphatic person and family man, I sympathize with their concerns. With no immediate end in sight, many of these people have filed for unemployment.
Future of Small Business, to Work or Not to Work
The rub is I haven’t laid them off. They asked to stop coming to work. If people do not want to come to work, this certainly makes the future of small business uncertain moving forward. The firm has work which can be done and the firm is prepared to spend money to ensure when this pandemic subsides we are well positioned to handle the anticipated onslaught of customer requests. Having now paid these same team members, who are requesting unemployment benefits, for the two weeks of paid leave, was this the correct thing to do?
With a holistic decision making process; balancing out what was responsible, what could be afforded, and considering the promises that money would be refunded via tax credits did we make a rational decision as a contributing member of society or did I simply put both myself and the team members in awkward positions? Short the firm of much needed cash flow and delay the desired (and perhaps inevitable) benefit to the employees?
Federal Unemployment Benefits Impact
With the additional Federally funded unemployment, the firm will likely struggle to find staff moving forward, yet another example of the future of small business looking uncertain. Most current team members and potential future employees will likely make more for the next 4+ months on unemployment (if not longer, pending the next stimulus bill) than they would earn at a competitive market rate in the private sector. It appears the government simply considered every fiscal policy program they could conceive and applied them without rhyme or reason with regard to how it may impact the overall operation of the economy or small business across the country.
Slapstick Approach to Economic Stimulus
Rather than focus on one segment, such as worker protection, individual protection, or firm protection, such as small business, lawmakers simply tried to institute all of these ideas at once without an understanding of how one may affect the other. The unintended consequences of their actions will prove detrimental. I have discussed this previously in other posts too. Their process, in hindsight, surely seems shortsighted and only condemns our nation to a long and slow economic recovery.
My concern for the future of my firms, my vision of the future, and our nation’s economic outlook continues to sour everyday. The future of small business is uncertain. The problem is complex. Individual circumstances, perspective, experience and responsibilities will make our transition back towards ‘normalcy’ muddy and argumentative. The larger problem which looms is there is no correct answer. We’ve never been here before and even the most well-read ethicists will struggle to answer the question(s) of what groups, segments, and people are to be deemed more important than the other.