November 22, 2020

Grace that Becomes Effortless: A Reflection on 2020

“This year, we all were forced to look at the good, bad, and ugly in ourselves and the world. Those of us who were paying attention know the value of loving thy neighbor. It’s that love that makes grace effortless,” says LaToya Johnson-Rainey.

“This year, we all were forced to look at the good, bad, and ugly in ourselves and the world. Those of us who were paying attention know the value of loving thy neighbor. It’s that love that makes grace effortless,” says LaToya Johnson-Rainey.

On March 10, 2020, my peers and I started making plans to cancel events and think about what we would do if we had to close our businesses. It seemed so far-fetched but it was happening, and we were determined to keep one another encouraged and as successful as possible.

At A Hair Boutique Shadyside, one of the first things we did was establish a method to earn trust and credibility with our clients and stakeholders. We recognized that successful communication depended on the S.E.A.T. method: Speed, Empathy, Accuracy, and Transparency.  Methods and processes are usually my forte, but to be honest, we had no idea what we were communicating.  It was acceptable to say to clients, I’m sorry. We don’t know. We decided to temporarily close our physical location because it seemed like the safest thing to do. For those who did not, it didn’t take long before a decision was made for them to close physical locations. We didn’t know how long the shutdown was going to last or if we should continue buying inventory, keep employees, and cancel projects.

LaToya Johnson-Rainey (right) styling A Hair Boutique Shadyside team member before Covid-19.

The grace in this situation was that we were not alone. It didn’t feel like we were slacking and the competition was out there thriving. I didn’t feel guilty about slowing down and taking a breather because everyone had to. Could this be the Universe telling us to slow up a bit?

Knowing our break-even number gave me a starting point to plan our next steps. I knew we had to pivot and make changes that could transition from urgent to perhaps long term.  Fortunately, this was not the first time my business closed for reasons out of my control.  In the seven years that A Hair Boutique Shadyside has been in business, we had to close twice for extended periods of time due to flooding and water damage.  From those isolated incidents, I’ve learned to save overhead expenses for several months, implement cloud-based communication and client management systems, have an up-to-date secured website, and above all,  a supportive tribe.  

We increased our online capability to include more video communication options. We set up a shipping station, video space, and storage space for inventory in our home and secured locker systems outside of our boutique. Working via video is exhausting and certainly not something we loved but it helped.  The changes we made seemed pretty smooth and steady.  By June, I was feeling confident. But then after comparing sales numbers from the same time last year, this year proved to be more than 60% lower in revenue. On the outside, I tried to stay calm but I was freaking out.  Yes, I was grateful that we were still operating efficiently (especially because many were not) but I feared a continuous drop.  Looking back, the best advice I would give to myself is, Take it one day at a time!

In November, I am still up and down.  We are not making as much money, the lack of leadership and support is destabilizing, the unknown is scary, and I’m tired of people fighting. However, we are operating safely and have more automated processes. I’m cooking more, buying from local businesses, and spending more quality time with my husband. I also have the 6 feet of space that I’ve always wanted from folks.

LaToya Johnson-Rainey has been a part of the eforever family for many years, actively shaping our program with her leadership and knowledge. First, she was a founding member of one of our first business owner peer groups in Wilkinsburg, PA. She remains a committed member today. She now also facilitates two peer groups, serves on our board of directors, and has an incredible talent for recruiting business owners to join our program.


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