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Changing with the virus: Adapting my business to COVID-19

East Bay Mac Menders owner Chris Barylick dissects a MacBook Pro to replace a hard drive.

East Bay Mac Menders owner Chris Barylick dissects a MacBook Pro to replace a hard drive.

If you or anyone you know has said they’d give just about anything for things to return to how they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. The situation is unprecedented, its impact entirely devastating, and we’ve had to wrap our lives around something new, which changes from day to day, and that we don’t fully understand.

In the case of my tech consulting business, the changes have been astronomical. East Bay Mac Menders (www.eastbaymacmenders.com), which I began in October of 2002, has been my mainstay, letting me provide an income for myself by capitalizing on my computer geekiness and helpful nature. For more than 17 years, my business model has been on-site tech repair and data recovery for Mac and Windows computers, and while some parts of the business could drive me bananas, I was happy to be the person you could call, text, or email if your computer decided to go south and you were in a jam.

For those 17 years, I’d set up appointments, shop for whatever parts were necessary, head over to the clients’ house, enter politely, and dive into my work, sorting out whatever tech issues were at hand, recovering data, installing parts, and getting computers back up and running. There was a certain joy in being the reliable person that could be called over in a pinch, and that’s come to an end thanks to a respiratory virus that’s torn through the world and decimated people’s work lives like a hurricane.

Now, my business has gone down approximately 85%, become almost entirely remote, and I’ve only had one on-site client in the past three months. Appointments are still made via text, email, or phone, but my work style has changed from being the guy who comes to your home to the guy who now dons gloves and a mask and picks up and returns things up from your front porch or has you drop your own equipment off on my front porch.

The intake process has changed, and after picking equipment up, I’m now wearing surgical gloves, wiping computers down with medical grade rubbing alcohol, waiting until it dissolves, then getting to work. This applies to the outbound process as well, and I’ve begun advertising that all equipment is sanitized both coming in and going out, something I never would have thought I’d be doing 17 years ago. Payment has become contactless, I’ve come to rely on PayPal and Venmo, and have seen only one check – which I sanitized before signing – as well.

Of course, I’m not alone in this, and everyone’s had to change given the circumstances, even businesses that are accustomed to having a remote workforce. “My day-to-day work life has, luckily, changed very little as me and my staff all work remotely from home and always have,” said Max Evry, 39, the Managing Editor of ComingSoon.net (www.comingsoon.net), an entertainment news web site. “Unfortunately we do not get invited on any more cool trips to junkets, set visits, movie premieres, theme parks, etc. that were a huge perk.”

In spite of missing things like New York’s amazing Chinese food, offline contact with friends, and some elements of privacy, Evry was still able to point out the positive points to being at home. “I’ve become connected to my daughter in a way I never have been before. She’s at a perfect age for this situation, because a 2-year-old can entertain herself to a certain extent and yet she has no understanding of the what’s going on in the world outside our apartment.”

“We still take family car trips to state parks or Brooklyn’s Green Wood Cemetery, places that aren’t too crowded where people tend to wear masks and keep their distance. We get much-needed exercise, sunlight and fresh air this way,” said Evry. “I haven’t seen any of my friends in real life since mid-March, but now seven or eight of us get together on the House Party app once a week to watch a bad horror movie. It’s become a weekly ritual, and a great way to stay in touch and check the pulse of how everyone is maintaining during this crazy event. So far everyone is maintaining.”

Maintaining may be the best that you can do, but it’s enough given everything that’s happening. In spite of the gravity of the situation, it can’t last forever. And for every client that comes my way, there’s the chance to get it right, make sure they walk away happy, and ensure they recommend my business somewhere down the line, when normalcy is upon us again.

No one asked for COVID-19 to come into their lives. It’s something we all have to deal with, but there’s also the chance to come out a bit better than when you went in, adversity aside.

That’s how you maintain.

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