Broker Words—October 2020

I have a lot of friends on the west coast and I include them in my prayers every day, although I usually blanket the whole area, much as the thick smoke continues to do, and throw in “Please watch over all those I care about and keep them from harm.” I am truly humbled by the blessing that my work in this industry has given me so many dear friends there that I can’t easily count them all. And I can say that about pretty much most of the country.

Being a small business owner myself, I also feel a pang of sorrow almost daily as I hear about COVID-19 and attendant restrictions, or man-made fires, forcing many to abandon their dreams and service to their communities permanently. Also I have, as I imagine we all do, friends and important acquaintances outside of the business who are struggling mightily to keep their lives together in the face of either greatly reduced hours or unemployment brought on by the pandemic. Much like any trip I take to the animal shelter, I wish I could comfort and help them all.

My problems (ignoring the obvious personality issues) and the impact of COVID-19 on same really pale in comparison to so many others in our country today. And I think those serving in the insurance business are predominantly very fortunate that lockdowns, and mask mandates, and social distancing, and above all fear in general, have such a lesser impact on our ability to do business than the vast majority of small businesses we pre-COVID might have taken for granted.

Fear delusionally disguised as caution severely limits our nearly clandestine escapes from self-imposed virtual house arrest, skulking, like Frodo and Samwise in Mordor, to the post office, pharmacy, grocery or (gulp) Target and then immediately thoroughly rinsing in our shower/Silkwood decontamination stall. I’m firmly convinced that my wife would insist upon a full hazmat suit…if Lilly Pulitzer would only make one. Now not only do I not get to eat in restaurants, but Hope’s prevention protocols now enforce the mandate that even curbside carryout must now be either eaten tepid or reheated. Nothing flavors the pandemic like an already swiftly sogging Double Whopper further deconstructed in the microwave. And she’s a rabid mask Inquisitor, which I try my best to accommodate, but there are so many ordinances imposed on my already meek acquiescence that I’m constantly cowed by one inadvertent heretical violation or another. I find it quite the paradox that she’s perfectly fine with me cleaning raccoon poop off of the deck but goes all Torquemada on me if I touch the outside of my mask. Almost makes one misty for the halcyon days of E. coli and Salmonella.

As I’ve alluded to previously, my wife Hope hasn’t been to her nail salon nor me to SportClips since early March. Neither have we eaten a meal in a restaurant. I can’t remember the last time we saw a movie in public, and now speculation exists that the movie theater as a neighborhood entertainment source may be fading away forever. I contend, however, for all the new streaming, and on demand options, and cheap financing for huge TVs, and being able to watch in your jammies…I, and I bet you too, can’t make popcorn that tastes anywhere near as decadent as the large tub with “butter”—in the middle and on top—that you got from the annoyed teenager at the concession stand. I’ll come to miss that exasperated sigh and rolling of the eyes.
And how I miss traveling. I now formally apologize for nearly every single thing said bemoaning the rigors and pitfalls of our business trips (except for those reflecting my ironclad hatred of and resentment toward United Airlines). It has really hit home how much I miss it and miss seeing all the wonderful friends granted during almost four decades serving this great industry.

I have no idea, as none of us does, when actual real live in-person meetings will recommence, and even personal travel has been forbidden by Der Kommissar. Airports are viewed as mini Chernobyls, airplanes as modern day leper colonies, and now…because of Coronavirus…not because of any of the other obvious legitimate hygienic reasons…gas station and truck stop restrooms are immeasurably beyond consideration. So no road trips.

By now we would have visited about ten of America’s great cities and be looking forward to four or five more, including Hollywood, FL, for our favorite meeting—the annual NAILBA conference. But NAILBA Chairman Chad Milner, The Milner Group, Lawrenceville, GA, and NAILBA CEO Dan LaBert, inspired lemonade makers both, have announced an ambitious and extravagant virtual alternative.

NAILBA 39—ENGAGE! A Virtual Experience—Soaring To New Heights! NAILBA 39 is moving from in-person to a virtual event—three days extended to three months, complete with a virtual exhibit hall, live events and on-demand content. General admission will be complimentary to all industry professionals, promoted not only to NAILBA’s members, carriers, vendors and staff, but to a circulation list of 340,000+ industry professionals. Highlighted will be specific themed days of panel discussions, keynotes, workshops, and one-on-one talks. Launching November 19, the annual meeting will continue its commitment for bringing together the independent distribution community for business, networking and professional development.

Given virtual has no time restraints, NAILBA is seizing the moments and expanding the time for engagement between exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees from November 19 to February 24, 2021. This creates a whole new level of ROI for exhibitors, sponsors and especially attendees, giving a whole new meaning to the word Engage. NAILBA—Where Independence shines, relationships are built and business gets done. Online and on your time schedule the virtual platform allows for viewing on any device, at any time. Throughout the three months NAILBA 39 will offer live and on-demand activities for continuous engagement with the market 24/7. For more information please visit

I must confess to a certain eagerness to see what type of a mosaic is created by having 1200+ faces illuminated together on my Zoom screen. Hopefully the individual images will be so small that no one will be able to tell that I’m still in my jammies. [SPH]