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Painting A Picture: COVID-19

Updated: Mar 19, 2020


If you asked me what COVID-19 was a couple months ago, I would have thought maybe a pair of basketball sneakers or the name of a pop band.


I can hear it now, "Dad, did you see the COVID-19's Nike just released?"


I knew there were issues going on overseas, but my focus was on my family and some exciting progress with the business. Things were cruising along great, other than giving the occasional thought of beating my 15-year-old with a paint brush due to a missed assignment here or there. I did check into the legal ramifications of such a beating...and it does appear to be illegal. Apparently using a coat hanger would also be frowned upon. Beyond that, the biggest drama in our house in recent months was related to my wife's swift investigation into, "Who the hell would leave an empty box in the freezer! Seriously! Who!"


That was then...and today seems a lot different. These last two weeks have tested me as a small business owner to say the least. There is a lot to be concerned with. I worry about my team members (who also happen to be family). I don't call them employees because they're more than yet. I worry about meeting the needs of our customers and making sure their lives can be as normal as possible. You may not think a painting service is essential until you just bought a home and are waiting to move in, but there are numerous sheet rock repairs and damage that needs to be addressed and you've waited your whole life to make this dream home your own. We have a client coming up soon who has very personal and real reasons on why they are moving into a new home, and the paint color on the walls will mean more to them than most people would understand.


But listen...I'm not trying to act like a painting service is essential like the medical professionals, or the first responders, or the logistics people keeping supply chain moving, etc. But I do think most small businesses are much more essential than people realize. Nobody thinks much of a plumber...until you need one.


I worry about a shut-down. How could I not? Not being able to serve my customers? Having to consider how long will the business have to sustain zero productivity and zero revenue while also supporting my income, the employees' livelihoods, bills and obligations, and making sure I can continue to support my distributors, partners, restaurants, etc. It's a lot to chew on.


I've seen the calls for everybody to just proactively isolate and shut down. One thing I noticed, is that the most vocal of these people usually have the easiest path to doing so. There's a lot of millionaires and people on paid-leave talking about how important it is to just shut down immediately. Well, for a lot of people, it's not so easy and it's a hard pill to swallow to consider the possibility of losing their business or livelihood. Sure, let's shut down. For how long? 2 weeks? 3 weeks? Until June? What are we coming back to at that point? I don't know. I know there's a lot of people working very hard to figure this all out.


I know all about losing loved-ones to illness. I know how it feels. In fact, I have no recollection of a life that doesn't include serious illness and the loss of the most important person in my life at that time. I was so young when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, I'm not even sure what grade it was. First grade maybe? Second grade? Somewhere in there but it's a memory burned in my brain...her trying to explain to me on the front steps of our house that she was seriously ill. I didn't understand.


I did understand soon after though, watching her bounce between remission and illness, watching her hair fall out from time to time as she battled through her latest round of treatment. That was business as usual for me as a kid. And then I had to watch her completely deteriorate right in front me over the first 3 months of my freshman year of high school. I will spare you the details of her passing in our home under Hospice care. It was a painful sight, and it was not a graceful passing or an experience I'd wish on anybody. I also watched my father deteriorate in a matter of weeks and pass away 5 months after my college graduation. I saw the 230 pound lug that raised me deteriorate down to...I don't know..90 pounds maybe? It's not fun to draw back a curtain and see your father deceased. Painful image I carry to this day.


I had a great mother-in-law. She treated me like a son and was the apple of my own son's eye. I watched her battle Lymphoma for years, and spent 6 months trying to help my wife get back to normalcy after we lost her. My wife is still hurt bad from it years later. My mother-in-law was just 56 years old.


I've always been fortunate to have my brothers. 5 of them. Each of them ugly as hell but they mean a lot to me. I can't stand watching them eat...they gross me out. But they mean a lot. And we've had some close calls there too. Some scary calls. Calls you don't want to get from guys you care about. Even as ugly as they are.


So I would say I understand the fragility of life pretty well. I understand how scared and concerned people can be regarding the well-being of their loved ones. Many people are maybe having thoughts about losing a loved one for the first time during this world-wide crisis. There are a lot of people that I care about that would classify as high-risk during this outbreak. You're damn right I'm concerned about them.


I'm also a passionate business owner that has a ton of energy and work ethic and pride, and I want to serve my customers! I want to generate revenue and cut pay-checks and put smiles on people's faces. I'm not a doctor, I can't treat anybody. But I want to do my part and be a producer and circulate money into the economy and do whatever I can to shorten the recovery of this crisis. That's my hope.


At the end of the day, I will follow the guidelines set forth by the leaders of this state and country. Braun's Painting will continue to operate (with substantial precautions) until we are told we can't operate anymore. And I will continue to funnel money to my suppliers and other small businesses for as long as I'm able to operate.


Here are the precautions we have taken to operate as safely as we possibly can:


  • We have prioritized interior projects that are unoccupied homes. The project we are working in now and a large upcoming project are both recently purchased properties with owner's anxious to move into their new homes. In both cases, we can execute the projects with minimal public or customer interaction.

  • I will be the only team member to get project supplies and materials. The rest of our team is going from home to the jobsite, and back home. I will handle the material pickups, and I will handle those with limited personal interaction with my supplier.

  • We have sanitary wipes at our jobsites and vehicles, and follow the guidelines regarding hand washing and hygiene.

  • We will either bring our lunch, or arrange for curbside pickup or delivery.

  • I am no longer conducting on-site interior consultations or office visits. All consultations will be remote or virtual. All our quotes and contracts are already handled remotely via cloud-based tools, requiring no personal meetings. We can also accept online payments.

  • We will sanitize our equipment carefully in between projects and before moving equipment

  • We will continue to monitor our own health and follow the instructions as advised by health professionals


That is our plan. I know it could change. If NY State or the federal government decides that an operation like ours can't continue to perform, then we will adjust to that new reality. I will find another way to bring value to society and do whatever I can to help all of us through this absurd time in history. I like my chances to inflict some serious damage in the event zombies start coming out of the ground. I would expect my kill-rate to be commendable and to be talked about in future text books.


One thing I am certain about...is that Braun's Painting will be slinging paint around the 'Cuse for a long time. Here's to all of you!


Steve Braun




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