Operating in uncertainty

On several occasions in the past, I have had to deal with uncertain situations and precarious finances. I have also faced the possibility of not making it through several crises at different moments in my entrepreneurial journey. However, nothing could have prepared me for COVID-19…

As I write this article, I am aware that my business is among the fortunate companies that can continue to operate as they are considered to be essential. I am very grateful for that. I am also very grateful to be able to count on my team, both the one working to continue our production and the teleworking team that is doing its best to reconcile their new reality at home; for some, this means working while taking care of young children, such is my case.

Even though my business is still in operation, I am exposed to business risks and some aspects of my business have been affected, such as food service and hotel sales. Like many others, I will have to deal with the possibility of registering bad debts, seeing new in-store referrals postponed, suspending the launch of my new range for an indefinite period of time, cancelling or postponing various promotional activities… In other words, I will have to deal with the consequences of the crisis on various aspects of my business. I’m definitely also worried about the health of my production team, which has to work together on a daily basis and also commute to our facility with the risks that this currently involves. Having said that, I have to try to exercise my leadership from home… with three young children to take care of.

Again, I want to say that I recognize the privilege that my husband and I have of being able to work from home, but the fact remains that the whole family is being severely tested. The children are often left to themselves, for too long in their pajamas, there is no such thing as routine, parents are present but also absent at the same time… In short, I am constantly feeling like I am letting everyone down, both my team and my children. I would like to be able to go to the office every day, do my usual production quality checks and chit chat, and support my team. But I had to quarantine myself at the beginning of the crisis and then I had respiratory problems that put me at risk, so I had to stay at home. When I finally get to the office, my husband will be the one who’s going to have to take the blow and try to reconcile the supervision of the three children with his workload and many daily conference calls.

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What I find both beautiful and difficult is to see my children all day long. I love to hear them playing together and getting along. I like to see how they include and care for one another. I like hearing my 2-year-old son speak and express his thoughts better and better every passing day. What I find more difficult is to have to say NO more often than YES, not being able to cook or do crafts as much as I would like with them, it’s neglecting the quality of the meals in order to be more efficient or not being able to go outside to play with them more often. Above all, it’s not being able to invest the time needed to assist my daughter, who is in first grade, in her schoolwork. I do my best to devote time to it on a daily basis, but I never feel that it’s enough.

In a nutshell, lately I’ve been cramming everything in, always feeling that there isn’t enough time… In spite of all the helplessness I feel in the face of the situation, I try to generate good ideas, both for the benefit of my company to project myself into the AFTER and for my family to create moments of simple happiness with the kids: the sweet treats we prepare together, the long bubble baths, the wild dance shows in the living room…

As is the case for most people, my mood is fragile; despite the entrepreneur’s great capacity for optimism, we can’t escape the current reality, which is greater than us: I am fearful for the coming months like everyone else. But one thing is sure, despite the challenges associated with the reality of being an entrepreneur and a mother at the same time, I will never regret having spent too much time with my children during these difficult times. And I don’t think my team will blame me either… they know that I will do what I have to do to ensure the continuity of the business as well as their jobs, as I have always done for the past 16 years. I think they also know that I am grateful for their contribution and loyalty during these difficult times, even if I don’t have the opportunity to tell them on a daily basis. I guess we have to show a different kind of leadership when we have to reconcile our family reality with our role as business owners: leadership based on trust and complicity.

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