Small businesses coping with national emergencies
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
I write in the immediate aftermath of horrifying terrorist attacks on the great cultural city of Paris. On Friday 13th November 2015, six simultaneous assaults were carried out across the French city by three coordinated teams of gunmen (as far as we currently know). The previous day, there was a massacre in Beirut, where several deadly suicide bombs were detonated. While the majority of media in the West has focused on the Parisian attack as it feels so close to home, the sudden string of attacks across nations is indicative of an unfolding situation being dealt with by countries near and far.
The French state was holding crisis meetings as of Friday night, and declared a ‘State of Emergency’. This resulted in the closure of tourist attractions and cultural destinations, particularly those that attract high visitor numbers. At the time of writing, it is suspected that at least one gunman is still on the loose. While France is in the midst of tracking down perpetrators, accomplices and associates, tightening down on national security and mourning the loss of so many, the owners of small businesses also wonder what the tragedy means for their future.
The much-celebrated Paris Photo Fair had finished the second of four scheduled days of trading when the atrocities occurred. The homepage of www.parisphoto.com presents artist Jean Jullien’s widely-shared image of the Eiffel Tower morphed into a peace symbol, ‘Peace for Paris’ (see above), accompanied by the statement: “Under the order of the Ministry of Culture and the Prime Minister, all cultural institutions in Ile-de-France are closed this week-end.” According to press release, the Grand Palais (the fair location) is closed “until further notice.”
The first priority of exhibitors is of course safety, and getting home to loved ones. With 147 galleries from 34 countries, in addition to 27 book publishers and specialist art book dealers, people had travelled far and wide at great expense. Businesses will be impacted by the weekend closure, many of whom won’t cover costs. The majority will weather the storm, but some dealerships and publishers / booksellers, particularly younger enterprises with less stability, could ultimately fold owing to impact on cash flow and the like.
While you can insure against some forms of trading interruption, for instance an art shipment not arriving at a fair and an exhibitor not being able to physically get to an event, acts of terrorism and resulting closures are another matter altogether. What can be done? Endeavour to get your business into a safe position that can handle unforeseen events, and do your upmost to keep trading. In the instance of Paris Photo exhibitors for example, they might encourage collectors to browse and shop online in lieu of visiting the Grand Palais this weekend.
In this spirit of keeping on keeping on, Photo Paris satellite fair FotoFever, which was not required to close by the State of Emergency, has kept its doors open. A tweet by photographer Tami Bahat aka @tamibahat sums up the keep-moving spirit: “Thank you to all the beautiful people that have visited our @fabrikworld booth at @fotofever_eu. We love you, Paris.”
The 11th arrondissement-based artist Marcus McAllister, a close associate, has likewise carried on the show, stating on his Facebook page, “Mon thé de dimanche à l'atelier aura bien lieu cet après-midi, comme d'habitude, de 15h à 18h---qu'on n'abandonne pas la convivialité ! / I'll be hosting my usual Sunday Tea in the studio this afternoon from 3 to 6pm--I'm not giving up on good cheer and fellowship!”
At the time of national emergency, the safety of yourself and family comes first and foremost. Providing this is in tact (as much as is feasible), rise above fear and do your best to keep your chin up and move forward. Taking positive action in your own way is in the best interest of your country, as well as your small enterprise.
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