Strategic Exchange: As the U.S. braces for an uncertain April, use your downtime to recharge for the inevitable recovery - April 2020

By Kemp Harr

What a difference a month can make. It appears now that the big debate is whether to stay home to curb the rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus or continue working to keep the economy alive. As we all know, the answer differs depending on how safe you can stay if you continue to work. At this point in time, here at the end of March, we’re facing at least four more weeks of social distancing and plenty of uncertainty about how long we’ll have to wait before we get to the other side of this.

So what’s wrong with hitting the pause button? Take time now to do the things you want to do but never get a chance. Read a book, work a puzzle, play a game, spend time with loved ones. If they aren’t nearby, write a letter. Do you remember when you moved into your house and jammed everything into the corners of the garage or that closet in the basement? Ah, now is the time to go through it all and get organized.

Have you considered changing your routine? Are you staying active? You know the drill: elevate your heart rate for more than 30 minutes at least three times a week-minimum! And between those times, take a walk. As Stephen Covey would say, now is the time to sharpen the saw.

For those of you who just have to stay plugged into your business, there is plenty to do in this area, as well. There are forms to fill out to access the government assistance that will allow you to keep your people employed. This will vary depending on the size of your company, but managing cash flow is key to making sure you have a business when the world starts to stabilize. Need help in this area? Reach out to your friends in your network and seek their advice.

So how’s your attitude? Are you keeping your sense of humor? Did you see the picture of The Shining’s Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and their movie son Danny riding in the car with the caption, “So, you’re going to spend time alone with your family for a few weeks…What could go wrong?”

Speaking of sanity, how much television are you watching? Do yourself a huge favor and keep your news intake to a minimum. As I mentioned earlier, we’re in unchartered waters, and 24-hour news is the curse of this era. Nobody’s got the answer. Here’s a suggestion that could broaden your horizon: tune into one of Ken Burns’ documentaries.

Want to talk about the flooring business for a minute? How are we going to replace all these trade shows and meetings that have been canceled? Indeed, many of these events will attempt to offer some web-based virtual substitute. But we all know that’s absurd. We’re just going to miss a year and pick it back up next year. There is no substitute for face to face and when it comes to product, you can’t tell quality without touching it.

There’s plenty of debate now about what businesses are considered essential. In parts of the country, police are knocking on doors demanding that businesses close shop per the order of the elected official. The fact is, anyone who owns a business thinks their business is essential. And though it is essential when it comes to supporting their livelihood, that doesn’t mean it qualifies under the laws of the governing body-whether that be state or local.

I know it is dangerous to wade into these waters, but tell me why is it okay for Home Depot and Lowe’s to be able to sell flooring while the specialty flooring stores must close? All of us have to eat, so grocery stores are essential. And along those same lines, all of us need shelter from the elements, so hardware and building materials are essential. Isn’t flooring a building material? Should we break out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Where do we draw the line?

We’re Americans, right? And together, over time, we’ve built the largest economy on the planet. Many of us are descendants of people who weren’t happy with the tyranny of the motherland and jumped into tiny ships-propelled by the wind and at the mercy of nature-risking it all for a chance to live freely. We’re doers by nature, but, like our forefathers, we also need to work together for the common good.

Is it safe to use China as a barometer for what our timeline might be for getting to the other side of this downturn? While it shouldn’t be a roadmap, it is certainly a datapoint worth considering. Most would argue that the Chinese quarantining process was more regimented, but they also live in more populated cities with closer proximity. The good news is China reached the other side of the incident curve in less than four months. That makes their January is our April.

For most floorcovering businesses, revenues for 2020 will fall short of the previous year’s. But with all the stimulus from Washington, the consumer should recover in 2021, and conditions should improve. Keep this mind as we trudge though April.

If you have any comments about this month’s column, you can email me at

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