NEW YORK Thousands of small companies suffered enormous financial and emotional loss in last week's terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center.
Every day, Banchet Bianca Jaigla's drivers delivered flowers to her biggest client, Windows on the World, the world famous restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. Traffic congestion in lower Manhattan on Tuesday morning prevented the last scheduled delivery before the devastating attack.
On Friday, her new, 350 square-foot flower cooler was filled with the berry branches, green hydrangea, Casablanca lilies and orchids that were ready to be delivered to Windows on the World the morning that two jumbo jets hijacked by terrorists crashed into the towering center.
Despite the numbing shock, sadness and the loss of a major client, life and business went on last week for Jaigla and her staff of six full-time employees and five part-time workers. While thousands of rescue and construction workers labored at what is now called "ground zero," her two trucks continued to deliver flowers to clients around the city. Fighting back tears, she kept her floral assistants busy preparing flowers for a bar mitzvah in Manhattan and a wedding in Greenwich, Conn.
"The minute I stop (working), I'm in mourning," said Jaigla. "I get sick to my stomach I think, I worry. When I'm busy with my work, I don't think about it so much."
Though she was cheered by the news that the owner and general manager of Windows on the World survived the destruction, and that many restaurant workers also made it safely out of the building, Jaigla said she is consumed by sorrow for those whose lives were lost in the collapse.Keeping busy is key
Like other small-business owners throughout New York, Jaigla was doing everything she could to cheer up her employees "and keep them busy."
Although many flower orders were canceled in the wake of the tragedy last week, Jaigla said keeping busy kept them sane.
"If we didn't have (the events) this weekend, I don't know what we'd do."
Jaigla said supplying the daily flower order and flowers for special events at the now-demolished restaurant made up about a third of her business. She's grateful for her other well-known clients, including the Lutece and Le Bernadin restaurants, as well as a number of corporate clients. Jaigla, who has been in business for 18 years, said she still plans to open a new store on Washington Street in the meat-packing district on Oct. 24. She chose the location because it was only 10 minutes away from the World Trade Center and her biggest client.
"I can laugh and cry about all this," said Jaigla. "But all I can do is take it one day at a time. We are all going to suffer. Hopefully, I can find more business and move forward."
Amy Kopelan, CEO and owner of Bedlam Entertainment in Manhattan, was also severely affected by the horrible tragedy. On Tuesday morning, she was dealing with the last-minute details for a high-profile event she produces called "The Corporate State."
The event is a prestigious summit for women CEOs and senior managers. One hundred twenty-five participants, speakers and corporate sponsors from all around the United States were due to begin the conference with a private reception at the Four Seasons hotel the evening after the attacks.
As soon as she heard the news of the terrorist attacks in downtown New York and Washington, Kopelan began making phone calls to reschedule the event. In six hours, assisted by conference calls set up by a colleague in Arizona, she had rebooked the entire event, including the hotel, flower vendors, photographers, keynote speakers and all of the executives planning to attend.
"I managed to get through to all 125 people," said Kopelan, a former television producer who is used to working under extreme pressure. "They all said they'd be here in January."
Kopelan said everyone she contacted that life-changing morning was "overwhelmingly supportive."
For Kopelan, maintaining forward momentum by immediately rescheduling the event was her way to cope with disaster and uncertainty.
"My feeling is that life marches on," said Kopelan. "Life has to go on."
Businesses across the country are still reeling from the calamitous and tragic events of last week. But talking about the tragic events and sharing feelings are important to the healing process. Business owners and employees need to do everything possible to keep morale high, according to Roger Herman, a certified management consultant and founder of The Herman Group in Greensboro, N.C.He offers these suggestions for effective leadership in the stressful weeks ahead:
- Schedule a staff meeting to discuss the impact of the events and the need to unite and endure.
- Offer employees time off with pay to volunteer.
- Make arrangements to support the families of any employees who are called to duty in the National Guard or military reserves.
- Offer your employees the opportunity to join you in making a donation to a charity.
- Make your donation in the company's name and allow your employees to help you decide the amount and the recipient of the funds.
- Give employees opportunities to express their feelings at work.
- As soon as possible, try to return to normalcy or something close to it.
Jane Applegate is the author of "201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business," and is CEO of SBTV.com, a multimedia site providing small-business resources. She can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at P.O. Box 768, Pelham, NY 10803.
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