I haven't written anything for a few weeks.
Like many of you, this whole coronavirus pandemic has completely changed my world. We're hunkered down at home. I'm working from home. The kids don't go to school. All our old routines are gone.
The world feels chaotic. Every day brings more news, and new measures to fight COVID-19.
I'm glad we're fighting it. I also feel pretty powerless. I'm not an epidemiologist, scientist, or doctor (and I'm not going to pretend to be one on Medium).
Most heartbreaking for me is how local businesses have been affected. My friends Brett, Andrew, and Elle are barbers and had to close up shop. Eric runs my favorite BBQ joint had to lay off his staff and shut down. In fact, all of the little shops in Vernon have been affected. Not in a little way; in a big way.
I keep thinking about this comment I saw on Facebook from a local business owner:
We're learning how frail the economic system is. Not only that, but we're seeing how critical small business is to a healthy economy. In North America, millions of people are out of work. It turns out, all those local restaurants, cafes, and hardware stores provide jobs for a lot of people.
Not everyone's suffering, mind you.
The contrast between Jeff and my friends on Main Street is striking:
Jeff can keep operating his business, but local businesses have been forced to close.
Jeff's net worth increased to $110 billion, but small business owners have lost everything.
And all of this makes me angry.
First, because I'm as guilty as anyone. I've ordered a ton from Amazon. With next-day delivery (which they lose money on by the way), incredible selection, and cheap prices, they've reduced all of the friction. Over the years, they've trained millions of consumers to shop online. The COVID-19 pandemic will reinforce that even more.
But now it's clear: small businesses are the foundation of our economy. Millions of workers are losing their livelihoods. And, the richest man in the world won't employ everybody. (Who wants to live in a world where we all work for Jeff?).
I don't think Amazon should be shut down (although, I do think it should be broken up).
But now, more than ever, we need to create viable alternatives to Amazon.
And to do it, we'll have to beat Jeff at his own game. Meaning, a viable Amazon competitor will have to be:
Let's be clear about outcomes here. I don't want to see Wal-Mart and Costco win at Amazon's expense. After this pandemic is over, I want to see small businesses gain more margin, and be less fragile.
When we rebuild, let's rebuild Main Street first.
PS – I've got a few ideas to get us started here:
Since putting that video out, I've received dozens of messages from people already working on solutions here.
It's encouraging to hear from folks already in motion. To make anything work, it's going to require coordination and cooperation. Independent businesses can't operate in silos; our strength is in our numbers.
If you've been working on solutions here, I'd love to hear from you.