We sat down with our agency president, David Sidle, to chat about how he's been managing a small business during the difficult times of COVID-19. In addition, we chatted about how he's staying busy outside of work, what local restaurants he's been trying to support during quarantine, and how much he misses a good handshake.
Here's the Q&A:
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a small business owner during the quarantine?
The most obvious thing has been access to my clients and prospects. The misinformation, specifically propagated by news outlets and the rumor mill have been very challenging. It has been confusing with our clients hearing from one source or another that there will be, for example, business income coverage – when in reality it has been an industry wide exclusion since about 1918. We’ve been inundated by messaging from insurance companies stating that they are returning percentages of premium for various policies, when in reality, these refunds have to be filed with the NY State Department of Financial Services, and APPROVED, before this can ever happen. The State DFS is notoriously slow to act on anything, and I think as a result there will be a number of disappointed people out there as a result.
As professionals in risk management, what precautions are the Sidle Insurance staff/agency taking to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19?
- We closed our doors to the public to keep our staff and clients safe from spreading the disease.
- We are still here, but for those who have been in our office, they know that we have a large footprint and sit about 20 feet apart at a minimum.
- We are cleaning everything constantly .
- Our employees who do not handle insurance directly, are working from home.
With gatherings cancelled and “stay at home” protocol being so firmly encouraged, how are you passing the time with all of the extra hours at home?
To be honest from a work standpoint, as an “essential business”, the staff and I are still here for a full day, so there hasn’t been a ton of extra hours at home. The biggest difference has been the lack of high-school sports. With my daughter’s track season cancelled, we aren’t running all over the southern tier two nights per week . We’ve been doing several long over-due projects around the house. If we could get more than two consecutive days without rain, we’d be much further on those. Otherwise, I’ve been playing guitar, and streaming video. I actually received a notice from YouTube the other day stating “you have previously viewed all content available”. (joking of course).
How is the rest of your family handling the quarantine?
It depends on the day. My oldest lives in Philadelphia with his wife… he actually had COVID-19 and recovered, but he is doing well now. My second moved back from college to our house with his fiancée in tow. Aside from littering our home with shoes, musical instruments, laptops and woodworking projects, we’ve enjoyed having them there. My daughter is still forging ahead with her junior year of high school. Of course that’s a big year course-wise, so she’s a bit stir crazy. My wife, considered a “non-essential” employee in our business – not by me of course… has been working from home while time managing my daughter to ensure that she is keeping up with her work, and otherwise trying to organize a much busier household than normal… something akin to herding cats.
What do you miss the most since COVID-19 and the precautions taken against it altered our “normal” everyday lives?
- Human Contact. I’m a hand shaker, a hugger, and a put my arm around you kind of person. I also spend way too much time touching my face, and feel very comfortable standing inside someone’s “normal” social distance zone. Keeping my hands away from my face, and to myself, and standing 6 feet from people is very foreign to me.
- Living without fear. Not so much me… Although I’m 50 now so I’m in that supposed bracket of the at-risk population, but I don’t really feel any different than I did when I was 35. I’m also of the school of “eat a peck of dirt before you die”. Babies crawl around on the floor and put EVERYTHING in their mouths, including viruses and bacteria. Because of this they build up an immune system. It makes a lot more sense to me to quarantine the afflicted and at risk than it does to quarantine the healthy. I understand that we’re collectively trying to protect the at-risk in our population. But as I heard some talking head say a few days ago… “people drink too much, they smoke, they don’t exercise… collectively we all do things that we ought not to, and those things kill off a certain percentage of our population each year, but we don’t live in fear because of it” This has been a tremendously tragic event for more than 60,390 American families who have lost loved ones due to this virus, and that number is not lost on me. However, there is most certainly a difference between NY City where 21% of the deaths have occurred and much of the rest of the county, including us here in upstate NY. I wish that politicians could recognize that and get things going again.
You’ve been a big fan of supporting local restaurants for a long time, especially those that the agency insures. Some businesses have adapted to offer delivery or pickup options. What local meal are you craving right now?
I like my fish sandwich and macaroni and cheese on Fridays, and I’m a Mexican food junkie. Fortunately, most of our restaurant clients have remained open, so I’m able to get meals there for lunches. What I miss, is the social time of sitting in a restaurant and interacting with the staff and customers.
Many local festivals and events, including a number of which Sidle Insurance insures or sponsors, have been cancelled this year. How much of a loss is this for our community on a social and cultural level?
Our sponsorships are important to support the organizations that often benefit from the events. I’m sad to think that there will be those organizations that would normally benefit from a festival or event that will be missing that funding this year. How many lives will that affect in a negative way? I’m personally not a huge fan of attending these events, I don’t like crowds, but I know that they are beneficial to those whom they support.
Any final thoughts to add?
Certainly, this event will change the way that many do business, and the way that we spend our time. We’ve benefitted in spending more time around the supper table and having real conversations about things that matter. I’ve come to realize how much I miss going to church on Sunday. Truthfully, there are a lot of Sunday mornings that I’m tempted to sleep in. Playing in our band from time to time has been the incentive to get up. But I find that I really miss the people. I am hopeful that we can, as a nation, get past this. Get back to spending time together. Get back to walking through a building without a mask on and not have the eyes of judgement cast upon you. I want to shake hands, I want to hug, I want to stand uncomfortably close to people… just to see their reaction. I really want to scratch the itch on my face without worrying about someone’s reaction. God willing, we’ll again occupy that space.