“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on”
Involuntary Musical Imagery is a song that continually repeats through a person’s mind, and although the Bill Withers 1972 classic is almost 50 years old, never before has a song been so relevant.
I knew, in sitting down to write this column, that it would have to be about the pandemic we have all come to know as COVID-19 – and quite frankly I was dreading it. We have all been inundated with the news stories. The case counts. The toll on the economy. The deaths. The uncertainty of it all. And with that, I could not bear to push before you yet another piece about how this pandemic, like the virus itself, spread through our industry and our personal lives. We have all suffered through this. Financially, emotionally and, for some, physically. We all know someone who knew someone that this pandemic took the ultimate toll on, and there is no silver lining to any of it. Yet, I feel compelled, at some level, to write what good may have come from all of this.
Late in March, we were forced to temporarily shutter our business. It came with little notice and the planning for it took place over a three-hour meeting in the foyer of our office. The next day, we were closed and that’s when the grave severity of this situation began to set in. The staff were scared. Our customers were uncertain, and suddenly the only thing that really mattered was keeping our families safe. As a business owner, I knew I had to lead, but unsure what I was leading into. I was scared and worried and beat myself up every day for feeling this as I was certain I was the only one feeling this emotion. But slowly, I began to realize we were all scared, worried and concerned for the health and wellbeing of those we love and care for.
Like the lyrics to the song suggest, “If you need a friend – call me,” I did just that. It started with some industry peers I was comfortable with. I asked about their plans and shared resources. We spoke about the potential impact that the pandemic might have on our respective businesses and the industry as a whole. We listened to the daily news briefings and called each other to discuss and better understand what it all meant. We spoke of the incentives available to our businesses and those we employ. We spoke about how long all of this might last and how long our businesses would last in this environment. Yet, with all of this talk, I did not dare to ask the question “are you scared?” This leap of faith came almost two weeks into the shutdown phase. I didn’t even know how to ask the question as I was sure I would be laughed at – maybe even mocked – but I had to know if I was the only one struggling with the uncertainty. I may have even practiced how to ask the question so that I could redeem myself should my confidant have all their ducks in a row. Finally, I asked the question, I had to know, “are you scared?” and the answer allowed me to move forward with some reassurance, “Dude, I’m fucking terrified.”
I didn’t ask this question often but it allowed me to reach out to other industry peers with a certain level of confidence, many of whom I have known of for many years but really had no reason to ever reach out. Interestingly enough, even direct competitors seemed as appreciative of the call as I was for the opportunity. I shared information that I might typically guard and was surprised by the level of information that was shared in return. In short, I had what seemed an entire industry to lean on, and for that, I shall remain grateful.
Chris Meiorin is president of EuroVinyl Windows and Doors in Woodbridge, Ont.
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