When we heard in March that we were going to be shut down as part of the Covid19 lockdown I confess that my wife and I crept home and cried for a while. At that moment it seemed that we would probably be faced with the shutdown of cashflow along with the immediate need to pay off our liabilities. The companies that insured our trade creditors accounts had withdrawn their cover with the advent of lockdown and balances were due immediately. All the normal outgoings still had to be paid. That was a brick wall that seemed too high to jump on that day.

We had begun the year with the bushfires taking away five of our people with family interests in affected areas to help with the fire fighting and look after refugeed relatives. This had already had a very negative bearing on our January and February business and we were just getting up and going again when the Covid crisis began in late March.

We began the process of letting our family and key colleagues know that in a worst case scenario this could be a fatal blow to a business and that we had better prepare ourselves for a potential scenario where assets might have to be rapidly be liquidated in order to fulfill liabilities in abeyance of an ability to trade.

Fortunately it didn’t go that badly …

We were still allowed to trade via the phone and internet, and in the initial stages of lockdown allowed to have minimal people in store. We were able to adapt the business with people working from home and keep some of our techs working on construction sites.

Our suppliers gave us time to pay down our trade balances, we gave our colleagues holidays or they worked from home. Customers somehow kept ringing up and buying things and the internet worked hard for us.

The initial lockdown left the store being manned by two redoubtable Scotsmen … always a good ethnic group when the going gets really tough. Darren and Chris worked really hard at getting things packed and sent and transacting via the phone and internet.

After a brief hiatus where we thought maybe business as usual Melbourne suddenly peaked at 725 cases in a day in July and the iteration of full Stage 4 lockdown meant only immediate family were left behind the closed doors to take care of business.

I suspect that I will look back upon those lockdown days with the insular rose tinted glasses of The Blitz in London. The enforced intimacy undistracted by the normal physical flow of customers but with the continual phone and web interaction was a bit of a family holiday for us.

Small business people have more than money invested in their operations. My partner and I have our family members and best friends working with us. Some of our most valued relationships in life are with our suppliers and clients quite outside the financial and marketplace boundaries. Conventional employment proffers a fundamental secularity of family, friends, and work. In Carlton Audio Visual there has been a general abandonment of the normal western Industrial hierarchy by deliberate infusion of new Australian SME values.

The two edged sword here is that although it makes for a rugged and adaptable small organisation with high levels of job satisfaction it means that there is a lot more than mere money to lose in the event of failure. Within our small specialist marketplace in Victoria I know three business owners who have taken their own lives in the last two decades …

A very positive consequence for potential clients for a business of our nature is that we take every transaction very seriously and personally. In a “normal” CE business you will deal with someone who when the going gets tough can simply leave and go home with no accountability beyond their commission. For people like us we will lose sleep and gain anxiety over the slightest issue of client dissatisfaction.

Some of you reading this may have been aware of our advertising on Facebook with an image of a masked Dan Andrews saying "Stay Safe and Stay Home" as per the header of this article that we ran while we were under lockdown.

We are accustomed to attracting a certain amount of vitriol when we use images of Trump or Hanson or similar for satire in our advertising. The right wing of politics readily lends itself to satire as they tend to use the foundation of the ludicrous as policy and work their down from there. The image of Dan Andrews was not intended as a political statement, it was simply a message online that we were shut pending Covid 19 lockdown … however the hostile response to this image was unlike anything else in we have experienced in recent years.

In brief the post attracted a broad spectrum of conspiracists ranging from Reclaim Australia racists through a peak of Anti Vaxxer Covid deniers right through to genuine Flat Earthers. The conflation of misery was all the more surprising in that they were gathered around the posts of a small business in Melbourne with no conceivable leverage on public or political opinion.

For a while I let them gather with their, sometimes abusive, commentary on our facebook Page as much as to turn that stone over for the normal and nice people who normally visit us. As time went on their tone become more strident and vitriolic so I eventually took delight in deleting and banning them en masse.

In my humble opinion these are people too stupid to enjoy good music and High Fidelity so removing them from our demographic reach forever seems like a good option to take …

I adhere to that theory that people who listen to music and read are made endemically more interesting than those of us who simply act as receivers of material that is broadcast. Thus blocking and banning the thousand or "Covid is a hoax like climate change and Dan is a Dictator" postees was something I did with relish and confidence that it would not affect our client base.

The first week of opening was a simple succession of people bringing in their old record players for resuscitation, friendly and fertile territory that always leads to positive transactional relationships further down the road.

We are now back in the groove of our normal retailing instore ... almost ...

Stock is in short supply and people are fiscally nervous. The Black Friday scene in our local speciality marketplace has been severely blunted as most of our peers have very little stock to spare to burn up in cost price offerings. We have officially disavowed Black Friday and have run a "Red November" promotion instead .. with an image of a victorious Dan Andrew and Joe Biden as satire the promotion seemed most effective ... in bringing out the tinfoil hat brigade all over again ...

This time they were claiming that Trump actually won the electuon and that Dan Andrews is a Chinese puppet or some version thereof. Perhaps we have taken "Fanatics Welcome" a little too far and should just go back to "buy it now because it is good and we sell it" advertising. 

However one of the minor freedoms of a small business is the opportunty to purvey ones culture alongside ones wares, and I think this is especially relevant when it comes to offering that equipmental interface of people with their music.

No one who listens to music enthusiastically for its own sake I would contend is free of its intellectual and emotional developmental influence. One of the simple joys of working at Carlton Audio Visual is just how damned nice and interesting the clients are who come in to meet us. It is an immense privilege to work with these people.