Yesterday, I had a sobering telephone conversation with a prospect I called from my day job as an outside-sales-turned-inside-sales print consultant. That’s when I truly learned the importance of diversification.
He’s in the tourism industry. I recently started calling people in the tourism industry, offering them polycarbonate barriers and social distancing signage/supplies as they slowly reopen for business. This man was kind and gentle, but his view of the future was grim. He said, “Everyone is talking about how Alberta needs to diversify and stop focusing so much on oil and gas, which is true. But nobody in Banff realized the importance of diversification for us—becoming more than just a tourism town—until the day came when we had to lay off 85% of our workforce.”
One town. 85% of its workforce shut down due to this pandemic.
The Importance of Diversification
I’m one of the lucky ones. I remain the same workaholic I’ve been for the past several years—working seven days per week at full-time and part-time jobs while running my book publishing company. I’ve never been more grateful to have the continued privilege to work this hard.
Why do I have all these jobs? Well, as those closest to me are aware, I took around risk three years ago. I knowingly, purposefully went to the edge of the proverbial cliff. But before I could jump or fly or do anything of the sort, that cliff crumbled out from under me. I’ve been climbing back up ever since. My choice. I own it. Zero regrets about it. Learned a lot. Life goes on.
That fall forced me to find two jobs to supplement my book publishing business. Ever since then, I’ve worked weekends at London Drugs. And I work weekdays at Mountain View Printing. I’m fully diversified with these two “offline” jobs and my “online” book publishing work. So, I feel safer than most people feel right now. But that wasn’t always the case.
I remember the first day, back in March, when we were all told to stay home by our government. I felt shell-shocked. As a salesperson who is accustomed to driving all over the city, cold calling, and meeting in person with clients, I sat there with my phone in my hand, wondering how in the hell to make myself relevant. I can’t deliver anything. I can’t meet with anyone. And it’s socially unacceptable to try to sell anything right now. What am I supposed to do here? I felt scared.
I was unsure what to do, so I just started calling and emailing my clients to say, “Hey, I hope you’re okay. There’s another human being on the other side of this call who is going through this with you. I’m here if you want to talk.” The first day I did that, I received six replies saying, “THANK YOU. I NEEDED THAT.” That’s when I knew I was on the right track.
I’ve made anywhere from 35 to 50 phone calls and emails per day, every single day, since then. Thank God I have employers who immediately saw the value in that—and continue to see the value in me, my character, and my loyalty to both them and my customers. The owners of Mountain View Printing have had stresses of their own to deal with, but they’ve continued to show such patience with their staff. I have so much respect for them and appreciate that they’ve allowed me to blow off steam by sharing in the occasional social media comment/discussion in between calls. That’s how I manage stress; I exercise my brain by thinking out loud and debating with people.
We All Handle Stress Differently
My other job, at London Drugs, has taught me some interesting things about human nature. If you would have told me, three months ago, that I would one day be thanked and called a hero for showing up to work to ring through people’s toilet paper purchases, I would have laughed and called you nuts. But I get thanked and called a hero at least three times per weekend now. It’s downright bizarre.
What’s even more bizarre is all the different ways that people are handling this forced shut-down. I’ve seen people wearing full-on helmets with plastic facemasks standing two meters away from someone in flip flops and shorts. Some wear gloves. Others don’t. Some people are terrified. Others think the whole thing is ridiculous. Every single one of them thanks me for being there for them—which is laughable considering that, just three months ago, many of them were downright rude to retail people. They saw us as somehow below them. Now we’re all gods and goddesses to them. It’s so bizarre.
To those of you who have felt afraid for your health, I have compassion for you. I also ask that you have compassion for the people around you in these stores. Some of you have yelled at other people for not standing far enough away from you. You’ve criticized the clerks in front of you for not wearing masks, or not changing their gloves after every damn order, et cetera. STOP! Please understand that some of the people who are working there are just as afraid as you are, but they must be there. They don’t have a choice because that job is their only livelihood. You, on the other hand, have a choice. You don’t have to be there. So, if you’re that bothered by what you see around you, please leave.
London Drugs is a phenomenal employer and retailer that has been so patient with both staff and customers during this entire time. This company does its best to accommodate everyone while respecting the protocols the government has set forth for everyone.
Respecting Government Protocols
As for me, I have also done my best to respect these protocols … even though I have questioned most of them right from day one, and still do. I personally agree with Sweden’s handling of this coronavirus. Still, for the past three months, I’ve done nothing but go to work, come home, work from home, go to work, come home, work from home. I buy as many of my groceries from London Drugs as I can to avoid going into the large grocery stores too often. I wear gloves when I’m serving customers, and I spray hand sanitizer on those gloves quite often each hour. I don’t wear a mask. We couldn’t get them for such a long time that we learned how to manage at London Drugs without them. We have those polycarbonate barriers up between us and customers, anyway, so I hope that makes people feel safer.
What I’ve truly learned from this whole pandemic is the importance of diversification. Thank God I’m fully diversified in all that I do. I wear many hats—both online and offline—so I’ll always have work. I never realized just how lucky I am until I talked to that gentleman in Banff yesterday. He’s genuinely frightened for his family’s future.
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