Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Small businesses everywhere are wondering what will happen next.
In the next hour, the next day and the next week.
They hope the federal stimulus will help. And my colleagues at Inc have prepared an extremely thorough guide to how it all works for small businesses.
Small businesses also hope that those in their wider business ecosystem might lend a hand, especially if their businesses are strong.
After all, it's not as if any one business works in isolation. It may have employees, customers and suppliers. Those suppliers, in turn, may have their own employees, customers and suppliers.
What can each of them do to help another company in their ecosystem survive?
One or two businesses prepared for the coronavirus with extreme foresight.
San Antonio-based regional supermarket chain H-E-B, for example, began its first discussions about the coronavirus with Chinese retailers in January. It contacted retailers in Italy and Spain who were already going through extremely painful circumstances.
It had been preparing a pandemic emergency plan since 2005. After all, H-E-B had experience dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes that plague the south, so it had some familiarity with disasters.
As the Texas Monthly explained, H-E-B began to limit customer purchases at the beginning of March. It extended sick leave and raised pay early for its employees.
You'd think, perhaps, the chain would spend all its time focusing on itself, its employees and its customers.
Yet, just a few days ago, H-E-B's management had an idea that didn't just serve as a caring thank you to employees, but as a helpful boost to the decimated restaurant industry.
So many of America's restaurants have had to close because of the virus. Many will likely never reopen. Some are trying to offer takeout and delivery, if only to pay a couple of salaries.
H-E-B has 90 stores in the Houston area. So, to help boost the local restaurant industry, it ordered takeout for all the employees in those 90 stores from various Houston restaurants.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Scott McClelland, the chain's president, announced the bulk buy like this:
We are using our platform to create awareness for the needs of local restaurants at a time when community support is invaluable. We invite Houstonians to make a difference in any way they can whether it's placing a delivery order or donating.
H-E-B understands that it's part of a greater ecosystem, one that revolves around food and community.
Its management knows their own business is doing very well, as long as employees and customers continue to commit their support.
Yet, in spending more than $100,000 to support small restaurants in desperate need, H-E-B shows that when you're in a stronger position, you do everything you can to help the weaker.
Indeed, H-E-B even took things a step further. It's now stocking some local restaurants' specialties. For free.
KHOU 11 reported that one of the Houston restaurants involved, Cherry Block, was approached by H-E-B and simply said yes. Cherry Block's chef/partner, Jess DeSham Timmons, described the effect of this support:
Now I am going to be able to provide for other people's families as well. Which is really really important. That's been the toughest thing for me.
A city with no restaurants would be a sickeningly lonely place. H-E-B's individual stores will, therefore, continue to order from local restaurants to feed their employees and, seemingly find new ways to keep restaurants going.
If one successful supermarket chain can help save at least a few jobs in the restaurant industry, it will be something.
And, right now, many small businesses are looking for every ray and gesture of hope they can.
When the virus passes, H-E-B will stand for more than just its prescience and organization.
And a few more local restaurants may be still standing as a result.