CompanionLink Blog

Stages of Grief for Small Business in Crisis

Things are looking up! I’m feeling hopeful about the future.

It’s not the news. There is nothing to make anyone happy in the news. The Virus is grinding on – neither accelerating or decelerating. Politicians posture and push but nothing seems to be getting solved.

In places that are “Opened up” people are still staying at home. It looks like legislation is not having influence on the pace of the economy. The pace of the economy is awful; with 20% of the US Population out of work. Everyone is concerned about their budget and no one is spending freely. This makes business growth nearly impossible!

Stage 1: Denial

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the 5 Stages of Grief, the first of which is Denial. Most small business owners hit this stage sometime between February and April, as we pondered how this virus would affect us. The first week that sales were not as expected. The first time we felt fear that a loved one would be endangered by this virus. The first time we looked at our IRA and recognized that years just got added to our work-before-retirement plan. Our first reaction is that it cannot be happening!

Stage 2: Anger

Anger converts your internal pain and directs it outward. Surely someone, somewhere is responsible for this problem. Surely it is their fault that I am suffering. The virus is merely a bit of protein, and we do not get angry at a bit of protein as much as we do how other people respond. We are angry at people who endanger others, people who travel and the travel industry that allow the virus to spread. At governments who, even if acting in good faith, make announcements and rules that we do not agree with.

Stage 3 – Bargaining

If I get saved from this, I promise I’ll call my parents every week, be kind to my children, never raise my voice again. Please save me from the pain of not knowing what comes next, or how to navigate the business decisions. Should I apply for a loan or furlough staff? Do we place advertising to increase sales, or decrease costs by putting all expenses on ice?

Stage 4 – Depression

When your energy is spent, a quiet sadness descends. I do not even know how to handle the situation. Each day becomes an endurance race to cope with new phases of the crisis. I envy small business people who can smile through anything, comparing my insides to their outsides.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

Kübler-Ross ends here stages on a hopeful note. Once you have accepted a loss, you can settle it and move on. This week I feel I’m reaching this phase, but then some news comes my way and I’m back to Depression and Anger.

Enduring the Covid Era

Our current problem is not a one-time loss but an ongoing disaster. Think about 9/11 when 3,000 people died in one day. This left a lasting scar on the national psyche, changed the nature of business travel, and changed the balance of federal spending between domestic and military spending.

Covid is taking 1,600 people per day currently, so a 9/11 every two days. And it is not ending. 10,000 people a week, 40,000 people a month. The scope of change in government spending, national priorities and the nature of our community is 100 times what we did in 9/11.

This a hinge moment, a generational shift, an epic event. It is so new we do not even have a name for it. In ten or twenty years, people will ask “what was it like during that time?” What will we say?

Navigating Your Business Forward

How do we move forward, even against the tide of the ongoing epidemic still coming in? Kübler-Ross gives us a blueprint. No need to hurry the stages. Move through them with self-care and understanding. Take time now to look with clear vision on what is happening now. Find your point of acceptance and start building on it.

I am coming to an understanding of what is motivating my customers right now, and how to fulfill small needs for them right now. For now, I can listen to their words and help the best I can. This will be my blueprint forward.

You would not be in Business if…

Small business is a mixed opportunity. You have complete control of your actions and a clear vision of how these actions become sales and solutions for your customers. It is the choice of an entrepreneur is to make less money and have more control.

You control yourself, and to some extent you can control your vendors and staff. Depending on your style you try to convince, force, cajole or entice these forces to align in your chosen direction. You have no control over the world at large, and to try to exert control will only sap your self esteem.

I am finding the tools are at my fingertips. I can make decisions that seem to bring light to those around me. At CompanionLink we have found some minor cost savings. We have purchased a small amount of equipment and furniture to upgraded our staff home workstations which improves our quality of life and quality of work. We are shifting our marketing and product strategy to focus on customers who are buying products right now.

These are small steps, but these are making business meaningful for our team. When the crisis stops spinning, we hope to be on top. It is the best we can do in an unstable economy.

Other articles in this series:

Stages of Grief for Small Business in Crisis was last updated May 16th, 2020 by Wayland Bruns
Stages of Grief for Small Business in Crisis was last modified: May 16th, 2020 by Wayland Bruns