What It’s Like to Watch Your Business Fail

My wife’s job has always been to keep people relaxed. The stress of keeping that dream alive is agonizing.

Chris Thompson
GEN
Published in
9 min readApr 2, 2020

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Photo illustration. Image sources: Adam Gault/Getty Images, Edward Oleksak/Getty Images

TThe widespread crumbling of American small businesses in the year 2020 will ultimately be a second- or third-order concern, at best, as millions of people are infected by the novel coronavirus and some horrifying percentage succumb to Covid-19. It’s worth observing, though, that just as the ultimate tally of lives lost will be bloated by a slapdick governmental response that left many folks to balance for themselves the danger of multiple existential threats, so too will the eventual failure of hundreds of thousands of small businesses reflect the confusion, incompetence, and indifference of the people whose job it is to manage this crisis.

My wife has owned and operated a boutique day spa in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. for going on 15 years now. A dozen practitioners tend to rosters of dedicated clients; a small handful of support and administrative staffers keep things organized. Because it’s a very small operation, my wife is both the main administrator and also a practitioner who sees clients. It’s a demanding job, and it eats up much more of her time than a full-time job in someone else’s spa would, but she’s very good at it and is fulfilled by the…

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Chris Thompson
GEN
Writer for

Former Deadspinner. Also on Gawker, The Guardian, Road & Track, ESPN’s Truehoop Network, and The Classical.