My name is Lisa Ware and I am the Director of Business Development & Special Projects at Catering by Michaels. I have been writing about our journey through COVID-19. If you have not yet read the previous episodes – be sure to start from the beginning!
The Great Pause
I have been staring at this screen for hours trying to find the words to describe the roller coaster of emotions we have been through in the past three months. My last blog post was all about the abrupt shutdown so forgive me that I am going to fast forward a little bit. The weeks that followed the abrupt shutdown have all blurred together, but the emotions throughout remain the same. In my head, I have dubbed this weird time as the great pause. When we held our all-team meeting in mid-March, never did we ever imagine we would still be in this position in mid-June.
The first few weeks after we fully shutdown were hard. Jeff and I would come into the office only on Mondays because there were a few things we had to get done that could only get done at the office. The silence of being the only people at Catering by Michaels was deafening and for me, heartbreaking. Every Sunday, around 6 PM, I would get sad and cranky. There have been times in my life where I dreaded going to work on a Monday, but that has never been the case with my time at Catering by Michaels. I genuinely enjoy all parts of my job and the challenges that every project and new business opportunity brings. During COVID-19, I had the worst case of the Sunday-Scaries ever. I would crawl into my shell and shut down. I think Jeff could pinpoint every Sunday when it would hit. The feelings of fear, uncertainty, and sadness were, are, overwhelming. The first few weeks were terrible for me. I do not say that for sympathy but to try to have you understand the monumental impact COVID-19 has had on our industry. We had no idea what dart was going to be thrown at us next, and we will face that feeling likely for the next year. The volume of event cancellations and reschedules that needed to be handled was heartbreaking, and still is. Talking to customers that had to reschedule their weddings, major celebrations, gala and everything in between was so emotional. I wanted to cry with them at the unfairness that they could not host their wedding or event. I wanted to cry for us because every reschedule and cancellation hurts our ability to survive as a business. I want to give a hug to every client that made this process easy for us and was kind and understanding. Yet, I understand the emotions of everyone that was not kind, some aggressively mean, and made the process so much harder. We understand what you are going through, and we are grieving with you. We feel those same emotions at every event lost. We have never been through a global pandemic as a business and must make watershed decisions every day to survive. We have adjusted our COVID-19 contract addendum week over week as new information came out in the last three months. Every morning during the cooldown of my workout, I look at my calendar and see all the places I would have been, all the meetings I should be at, all the events we should be preparing for, and all the milestones we should be achieving. And I grieve because grieving is the only way to continue. But then, I stand up and I keep fighting. Our industry is forced to pause right now, the future of events will look drastically different, many companies have closed and will continue to close and we still have a long fight in front of us, but this industry is full of fighters.
The Great Fight
At the start of all this, I started a boxing workout called 10 Rounds through Beachbody. It could not have come at a more perfect time. The irony has not been lost on me that I start my day every day literally boxing my way through 10 rounds of fitness sets and then shower and “put my fists up” to also fight another day to move our business forward. I am the one writing these blogs about our experience, but please know I am not fighting this fight alone. I have help, lots of help. From day one, we chose to fight. An amazing leader in catering and a friend, Anthony Lambatos from Footers Catering in Denver, Colorado, says “As leaders, we are dealers of hope!” Say that aloud to yourself one more time – “As leaders, we are dealers of hope!” Go follow Anthony, The Coach, on MIBE (Make It Better Everyday) Tribe for some weekly inspiration on how to make it better everyday – www.mibetribe.com. His messages have helped me and my team immensely.
I will not lie – hope is the only thing keeping me going, but it is also so hard to find some days. The mountain we must climb as an industry is steep and right now there is no end in sight. But without hope, what do we have?
Here are some things that I am hopeful for. I am hopeful that the decisions we have made thus far will drive our business forward. I am hopeful that our employees feel supported and continue to trust us to make the best decisions for our future. I am hopeful that our employees will work together to do whatever it takes to help our business survive. I am hopeful that the many brave faces of the catering and event industry will continue to work together to help all of us get to the other side of this. I am hopeful that we have the strength and resilience to survive. I am hopeful that we will face each day and every hard conversation with kindness. I am hopeful that we will continue to make decisions that set us up for success. I am hopeful that Jeff and I continue to lean into each other on the hard days and celebrate our victories on the good days. I am hopeful to see my family and friends soon. I am hopeful that our business will survive. I am hopeful that somehow, someway, the events industry will come back better and stronger than ever. I am hopeful that as a leader, I find the strength to deliver hope to my team every day. There is no other choice for me than to focus on hope and work towards that every day. Some days I have to dig deep to find hope, and some days I can shout it from the rooftops. I am hopeful that we all continue to have hope.
Stay tuned next time for the many different things we are doing to open our business in a meaningful and sustainable way!