These past few weeks have brought so many incredible news events and “firsts” to our lives. Our economy is at a stand still as we wait for this virus to be contained. This virus is like a serial killer to me, and it does not deserve a proper name!
As business owners, our first responsibilities are to our family, our employees and their families. Jack and I take this responsibility very seriously and truly believe we’re in business not just for ourselves, but for our 30 families.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article last week listing how many days a store could cover expenses with cash on-hand and no new sales. Ralph Lauren was the leader at 154 days, and Dollar General came in at only four days. Jack immediately figured our number at over 1,000 days.
He truly is a wonderful steward of our company and we’re in great shape because of his guidance. We didn’t do foolish things with our money during the good years. We didn’t build more stores, add fancy designer lines or boutique watch brands, or add any unnecessary layers of personnel. We truly are a “mom and pop” operation, and each of us wears a number of different hats. The reserves we have built will get us through the tough times.
Lessons Through the Years
Current events are making me anxious and wishing I could talk to my parents. My Dad gave me many great gifts. His guidance taught me a tremendous work ethic and management skills. Some of those attributes include patience, completing everything you start, and not beating yourself up over mistakes. My mother, a very different Type A personality, gave me self-discipline and the lesson of noblesse oblige. Jack has also taught me business skills. He has always told me to “never cry over spilled milk” and to value our employees over all else.
I remember one time we tried to convert to new software and it was a disaster. The day we went back to our old system, he told us, “Take all my money and my buildings, but let me keep my people and we can build it all back in five years.” He was quoting J Paul Getty, and it really made us all feel calm and invincible.
Then came Hurricane Katrina and Jack Welch’s op-ed in the WSJ on September 14, 2005. “The Five Stages of Crisis Management” is a classic and I’ve kept a copy in my desk every since. I read it a couple of times every year, and I got it out this morning. Welch has perfect guidance for times like these!
Thoughts as We Go Forward
I am aware and respectful of this virus (and smell like Clorox) but I am not fearful of it. I am concerned for the state of our economy once this feels like it’s “over.” I’m worried about rampant bankruptcies, unemployment and 21st century soup lines.
The stories of the 1930’s from my depression-age parents are still quite vivid to me. My dad’s family in Tennessee killed one chicken a week to feed a family of five. My mother, from East Texas, remembers hobos at the kitchen door looking for work and lunch. A good ol’ recession sounds much better than another depression.
As jewelers, we have nothing anyone needs and our sales fall off dramatically on the first day of any crisis. This is my fourth crisis. The 1986 Texas Depression was my first, then the aftermath of 9/11, and the 2008 financial recession came in third. I was a new store manager in 1986 and my Dad and mentor told me, “Honey, if you can make a living during this time, it will be the best training ever, and you’ll be in great shape for the rest of your career.” As usual, he was correct.
I’m fully prepared to keep fighting. These tough times will focus and invigorate us as we help guide our business back to good times, and keep our families and our store families strong. The landscape may look different, and it will take time to rebuild our economy, but we will make it.
*Boomer decided to run some essential errands with me!