Woman shopping wearing mask

Masking Priorities

Last week there was a particular Tweet that resonated with me.  It was from someone who captured a sign about wearing a mask in her store. 

Most of my clients (the exceptions being a startup and a virtual team) have wanted to discuss the wearing of PPE’s (masks, gloves and the other equipment cited in guidelines issued by state Departments of Health).  PPE’s offer logistical and operational challenges to any business owner who comes into contact with the outside world.

The Tweet I’m focused on was a photo of an Arizona vintage clothing store.  The owner had replaced the original sign – an invitation to wear a mask switched out with another sign that outlined possible consequences of not wearing a mask – the death of a family member. 

Social media is just one place that we see real time struggles play out for businesses.  Owners are trying to make sure that the business is safe for customers and employees.  The business needs to turn a profit, generate revenue, and serve the public.  No argument there, right?

Except….there’s always an argument.  Sometimes the argument is an internal one, or it takes place within a management team or at other times it plays out on social media. 

We can look at this from a number of different perspectives.  There is no definitive answer as to how to stop the virus.  We don’t know enough.  The facts of what we do know are:

  1. COVID19 is transmittable through respiratory droplets from person to person.
  2. It can be spread from one person to another when one coughs, sneezes or talks (sings, huffs). This stuff hangs in the air.
  3. Spread is more likely when the people are closer than 6 feet apart.
  4. The particles can survive from several hours to several days on a surface.

These 4 tidbits of knowledge create a mountain of potential problems for retailers, restauranteurs, hair salons, distributors, or any kind of business that depends on serving a customer. 

Conversations with clients usually go something like this: The business owner’s thoughts are caught in a tangle.  Who should wear the safety gear?  For how long?  There are so many questions.  There’s so much responsibility on every owner.

On the personal side, some feel that wearing a mask infringes on the rights of any citizen.  Owners don’t want anyone to get sick.  AND, owners are concerned that if individual rights are not respected on this topic, that will lead to other infringements on basic rights. 

On the business side, every company needs to be profitable.  The community relies on the taxes, the employees rely on their paychecks, and the owner’s family relies on the business to live.  If customers don’t feel safe or comfortable coming into a store, ordering from a restaurant, or receiving a service, that directly impacts the bottom line.

As business owners, people are sometimes faced with the conflicts of their strategic business plans versus their political, or cultural beliefs.  It can help to talk it through. 

My clients tell me about the loneliness of making these types of decisions.  I can hear the stress in their voices. 

There are lots of arguments against wearing masks.  Unfortunately, none of the arguments against wearing the masks help prevent the spread of the virus.  For example:

  • It’s political – I’m not a liberal!
  • It won’t affect me – it’s not that serious. Most people recover.
  • I don’t know anyone who has had the virus. It must be political scare tactics.
  • The CDC, and the government, contradict themselves on wearing masks, so why should I?

In the Fox News coverage covering the Tweet, the store owner talked about the number of people who were coming in, refusing the masks she provided free of charge, and arguing about the efficacy of wearing a mask. 

The owner goes on to explain that her energy and time were running short.  The arguing didn’t change anything.  Those people left.  That owner changed out the sign in acknowledgement that she couldn’t change the pattern of behavior, but she could reserve her energy and invest it differently.

So, where can you be effective and receive a high return on investment of energy, time and your company’s financial resources?

Here’s what you need to discover those opportunities:

  1. Growth mindset – Seek out the opinions and thoughts of others who are different than yourself.  This means people who look different, are of a different age, gender and if possible, sexual orientation.  THAT is diversity of thought.  Then, remove the politics and ask yourself, how can I support the wellbeing of this company with policies that are responses, rather than reactions?
  2. Awareness – you need a clear business strategy based on revenue generation, profitability, and the values you carry into the community.  How would a COVID diagnosis impact your revenue?  Your profits?  Your brand?  What are the steps that you can take to ensure that you and your employees and customers stay COVID free?
  3. Readiness – there is no normal.  Identify the opportunities within your business strategy to pivot and generate revenue.  Create an emergency recovery fund with 5 months of cash on hand for the unexpected.  Do this for your business and personal finances.
  4. Resilience – Look back at your company’s history.  What steps did the company take then to survive?  How effective were those steps in the short term?  How about the long term?  What are you missing in this crisis?  Who can fill your knowledge gaps and blind spots?  What do you, your employees and your company need to succeed?

Choose the options that align with your company’s vision, values, and purpose.  Generate ideas that lead to additional revenue.  Seek out the experts who can fill the gaps. 

Finally, while your company is making decisions, resist the temptation to engage in social media.  Your energy, and time are better invested elsewhere.

Fox News Coverage: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/arizona-vintage-shop-praised-sign-masks

Arizona Vintage Clothing Store Tweet
Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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