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4 Years- Post Covid: A Small Business Owner's Look Back

March 13, 2020: President Trump Declares Covid-19 a National Emergency.

I missed the 4 year anniversary by one day!

In my lifetime at the ripe old age of 5-0, 9-11 was the defining moment of my lifetime. But in a top 5 list, hard to make an argument that Covid doesn't come in second. I hope businesses, communities and families across the country reflect on this time, learn a thing or 2, and listen to each other.

I've never sat down to put thoughts on paper until now. Sometimes in life, TIME and space are needed to make sense of things....

It was therapeutic for me to go through a handful of PAVERART designs we managed to produce in 2020. I grabbed a sampling of our designs from four quarters....."collage therapy!"

We thanked our lucky stars for each one!

patio ideas, inlay, paver design, hardscaping, outdoor living
PAVERART 2020 Designs - Collage 1

The Start Of The Pandemic

Mike & I were on the phone all weekend when Covid was declared a state of emergency. Everybody scrambled for answers, shut-down info, safety risk. NJ was not unlike many states with wide ranging restrictions. But one industry they protected? MANUFACTURING.

I was so grateful that the powers to be "sparred" the manufacturing sector and allowed us to keep operating. I was also reminded of the fact that at any moment, countless businesses and the employees that work in them can quickly lose their lively hood, to no fault of their own.

At the same time, NEVER was I more resentful of the word "ESSENTIAL." Health crisis or not, I find it utterly distasteful that one job can be deemed essential while the other one is not. Tell that to the family that is trying to make their rent and put food on the table. But I digress....

Our team was only 5. We got together often, communicated when one of us may have been around crowds. We threw hand sanitizer on the counters. We didn't go nuts, but we used some good old common sense, talked as a group when one of us may have been exposed, and took precautions.

But I'd by lying to tell you I wasn't on triple red alert about our business. Couple things worth noting.

  1. We were in the middle of enacting a legit GROWTH plan, which meant our first major capital investment project, and at the time the largest in PAVERART's history. So we spent down our cash to a level in December 2019 - Feb 2020 to a level that NOBODY would have said was wise had you known a pandemic was around the corner.

NJ ROI Published This Fine (and somewhat embarrassing headline, truth be told) in February of 2020.

Owner of PAVERART wants to triple size of his business within five years — while making N.J. more beautiful


February 14, 2020

NOTE TO SELF: Next time you decide to say yes for an article, make sure your bank account supports your ambition!

2. WHO KNEW what the impact of Covid-19 would have on us, but unemployment skyrocketing and stock market crashing are never positive signs.

So we got focused, booked orders, watched every penny. And we made PAVERART. We kept Engraving, although with schools shut down that side of our business slowed.

patio inlay, small business, manufacturing, hardscape design, landscape architecture, paver logo
PAVERART 2020 Designs - Collage 3

What Else?

Wouldn't it be smart for the good old USA to do a deep dive, post-mortem on the pandemic? Non -Partisan, fact based. What worked? What did not? All to go through a healthy degree of learning in preparation for the next pandemic.

If I had to guide on a couple of principles to our elected officials?

  • When in doubt, Default to FREEDOM. When not in doubt too....

  • Don't pick winners and losers. ALL are important.

How About MASSIVE Government Spending: PPP - Paycheck Protection Program?

The Paycheck protection program covered 10 weeks worth of payroll, and was said to have reached 76% of small businesses. PAVERART participated. One thing was clear early on: If the business was NOT shut down, the PPP had the possibility of being a real "cushion" to that business. Said differently, it may have lined the coffers of small businesses not severely impacted by the Pandemic. I vowed to use the gift and invest every $ to become stronger. Go on offense.

Every business owner makes different decisions. I'm proud of the fact that 100% of the PPP funds we received (and probably 3x's this amount) went directly into not just maintaining staffing levels (the program #1 goal), but expanding them, and increasing wages significantly across the board.

Was some of those driven by labor market dynamics? Sure.

Was it MORE driven by building a growth company? Absolutely.

hardscaping, paverart, small business, landscape architecture
PAVERART 2020 Designs - Collage 4

My son was 12 years old when the Pandemic hit. Like many schools across the country, they were forced to stay home. How did they do Gym classes? They made the kids go for a walk.

I'll never forget the days working from home, Dominic would come up to the attic and tell me it was walk time, do I want to take a walk with him? To this day, long walks with Dom is our thing.

  • Within a week I noticed the air was cleaner.

  • Dogs were appearing all over the place.

  • This thing called ZOOM was becoming common place.

And something else started happening.

  • The term OUTDOOR LIVING became real.

  • Fire pits for family gatherings. OUTSIDE.

  • Pizza ovens. Smokers. People skipped the vacation and started to do "Stay-cations."

Who knew a little company like PAVERART would be in the middle of that world?

It turns out that first big Cap-ex investment project was important.

The investments in the team were even MORE important.

Every business I've been a part of, I've been fortunate to put a personal stamp on it. To work towards a simple principle: Businesses are either growing, or dying. To Wake up each day and work with those around me, and build a stronger future. It was a supreme freedom, a choice. To go after making a difference, or not.

I'm glad that most of the country is sick and tired of thinking/talking/reflecting on all things Covid. I am too.

I'm also extraordinarily grateful we were given a chance to survive. We were not taken out of the game from a forced shut down. It is harmful to my fragile ego, but we got lucky.

Too many were not as fortunate.

For all of those people, I hope our great country learns from this. We need to do better.


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