The COVID-19 outbreak has given rise to memes the way you’d expect from the year in its name. Most of them probably die quickly on the vine, but some have shaped up to make their way into my feed over and over.
And of those a lot are poignant and hilarious. Some on the other hand, induce a lot of facepalm in me when I read them:
- The Venice canals have magically healed themselves, so maybe there’s a silver lining to this whole thing.
- Grocery workers should have higher salaries because we’re collectively grateful to them at the moment.
- The virus severity is a left-wing conspiracy to make Trump look bad (though I think that one seems to be subsiding).
But perhaps nothing brings palm to face harder than this one:
They tell us that families should save at least three months worth of expenses to cover for emergencies, but businesses lay people off and need bailouts after a week.
The relationship between meme and trope is often a tight one. And this meme walks hand-in-hand with the “corporate fat cats vs honest folks” trope.
Remember this trope, and I’ll return to it to explain why I brought it up a little later.
My wife and I own a small business. It employs 4 salaried full timers and somewhere around 100 contractors who do varying amounts of part time work.
And, counter to the meme, we have banked enough expenses to survive (without layoffs) for three months. But, if anything, this “of course you should have” attitude actually makes me hate the meme more, and, in this post, I want to explain why.
Painting with a Broad Brush: Not All Businesses are GigantiCorp
I want to elaborate a little about my business in particular, because the story of building this business is going to underscore a number of points I’ll make.
The business, Hit Subscribe, is a bootstrapped company. (Briefly: we’ve never taken investment capital or loans, and instead built the business exclusively on cash from sales.) My wife and I founded it together, about three years ago, and did all of the work in it, initially.
Over the last three years, we’ve grown steadily, backfilling ourselves with contractor help and, eventually, full time employees. That brings us to the current state, with the worker situation that I’ve mentioned.
Remember the “corporate fat cat” trope? I mentioned that because the skeptics reading this are gearing up to object, “you’re not who I’m talking about — I mean Giganticorp!”
Well, fine, but two things.
- First, in that case, you should probably qualify exactly who you’re shaming in your meme.
- And second, the road to war chest doesn’t magically get easier as you grow.
To underscore why that is, I’m going to tell the story of growing the business and the fight to build a war chest.