Fri | Jun 18, 2021

Yaneek Page | COVID recovery planning for entrepreneurs

Published:Sunday | May 9, 2021 | 12:09 AM

QUESTION: I was forced to close my clothing business early this year because of COVID-19 and the economy being shut down. August to December was usually my busy time of year because that is when you would have many graduations and parties. To be fair, January to July were never the good months. I owe the shop back-rent and had to send home staff.

Right now, it’s my spouse’s salary that is supporting me, but I am in court now because I was sued for the rent owed, and I still owe JPS. I am so depressed. It’s like I can’t go forward. I can’t believe all I worked for all these years is gone. I don’t even know how to move forward. I have no money to pay any lawyer, and I can’t pay the debts I owe. I also owe staff. What would you do if you were me?

– M, St James

BUSINESSWISE: I’m truly sorry and empathise with the incredible losses you have suffered, particularly the trauma of the dislocation caused by the pandemic.

I omitted some of the details in your letter to protect your privacy, however, I was truly moved by the heavy toll this has taken on your emotional health and family life and would encourage you to speak with your doctor or seek immediate counselling support, locally.

You could also explore online options for therapy that are easily accessible, and in some cases, available for free. I’m taking time to focus on your emotional and psychological well-being because planning for survival and recovery in these times will be near impossible without good mental health. In fact, one of the best turnaround stories I ever shared in this column was from an entrepreneur who credited his remarkable recovery to the treatment of his depression. Please search for and read column of December 8, 2019, titled ‘Two Transformative Tips for Entrepreneurs” in which I detailed how a struggling entrepreneur grew the business from a loss leader to a very profitable company in under 15 months.

I wrote then that the real Eureka in this entrepreneurial transformation came unassumingly from a doctor’s visit. Anonymous had suffered an injury and was being treated for pain when the he realised in a follow-up visit that one of the medications also treated depression and anxiety. He knew he wasn’t feeling himself in the months prior, but he had no idea that he was suffering from depression and anxiety, which was having a disastrous effect on his performance.

The stress, mounting bills, tax pressures, family pressures, staff struggles, cash flow challenges, and fear of financial ruin had wreaked havoc on his mental health. Now, with greater focus on his mental health and wellness, and the appropriate treatment, his productivity has sky-rocketed and his confidence, energy, creativity, and sharpness have improved dramatically.

The result is more and better output plus a positive attitude that is not only attracting the right team members and clients, but in his view, the best fortune in his career to date. In his words: “We really need more conversations on mental health in this country. It is a game-changer.”

Back to your situation, M. As you take care of your mental health, one possible solution to managing your legal challenges is to explore mediation.

First, contact the Dispute Resolution Foundation of Jamaica and ask how you can use their voluntary mediation services to resolve your existing disputes. Be sure to explain your financial situation and ascertain the process and cost.

Once you have the details and are satisfied that this could be a viable and more peaceful and cost-effective solution than to be up and down at court, then contact your landlord and propose that you both attend voluntary mediation. It may be helpful to explain the benefits of mediation to him as well so that he would appreciate the value and buy in to the solution.

I would not recommend starting another business yet until you are able to resolve your credit issues as well as take care of your mental health. Until then, you can consider earning by providing freelance services online, finding a remote or part- time opportunity.

I know things are not easy, but remember that you have survived 100 per cent of your worst days so far, and with the right support, you can succeed again. Many entrepreneurs have been able to come back from failures, so stay positive and keep the faith.

One love!

- Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series.