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Jim Gaffigan, the well-known comic and actor, eats garbage. And he's grateful for the chance.
Gaffigan is personable and very concerned for both the people and the business owners – he is one himself – who have suffered illness and financial pain from this very severe economic downturn. But as he said in a podcast interview I did with him earlier this month, "I'm glad this happened to me now, not 20 years ago."
As a stand-up comedian, Gaffigan has to split his time between developing new material and running his growing business empire. He has numerous employees who help him with marketing, scheduling, public relations, management and finance. He's constantly trying to come up with new ideas for his brand's growth (including a new YouTube show called Let's Get Cooking, which shows his audience how to make (and of course eat) local delicacies like Rochester New York's trash plate). In all of his professional duties, he juggles the overwhelming responsibility of raising a family with his wife, Jeannie.
Does this sound familiar to you, other than eating garbage? If you run a small business, it should.
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Much like almost every small business owner I know, Gaffigan has been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. "I think I denied myself a little even after dealing with my personal agent and manager," he now admits. "It was this development. It started with, OK, we have to move these dates in April and May. And then, OK, we have to move these dates in June. And then it was, OK in all likelihood it will No major stand-up shows in 2020. "
Gaffigan's business has literally dried up. No more live audience means no more stand-up which was the core of its source of income. Such a thing can cause a lot of stress for any manager. However, what he's doing to tackle this downturn is the result of a simple mindset shared by every smart business owner I know, and it's key to surviving an economic downturn regardless of the cause: he has cash and a low maintenance one Lifestyle.
Sure, he's made a lot of money talking to millions of people and appearing in movies and TV shows over the years. But he also has significant obligations, not least the cost of raising five children in New York City. The good news is that besides his house, which he bought outright ("I was careful not to have a mortgage"), he managed to build up cash reserves and keep his monthly overhead low and manageable. Not high-end cars. No expensive clothes. No fancy restaurants. "I don't even need a good bottle of wine," he jokes. "My tastes aren't rich. And I spent money (before the outbreak) taking my family to international shows."
If this had happened 20 years ago, things would have been different. Not that his lifestyle was any different. But then Gaffigan was still struggling to make a name for himself and had no money in the bank. Most of us who started businesses from scratch know this feeling. And we never forget. We, like Gaffigan, appreciate the value of cash (and maybe just a nice box of wine). We also know that running a small business is a long-term endeavor, no matter how great things seem, and things are never always as good as they seem.
For some small business owners, this mindset not only helps survive when their income is plummeting, it also gives them reserves to invest when opportunities arise. Gaffigan is no different. He is innovative. He puts resources into his online activities, especially on YouTube, where he posts new material (for free) and deepens his commitment to his followers. He does stand-up shows for people watching from their cars. He eats rubbish in public. All in preparation for when he can finally get back on stage. "You have to think long-term," he says.
Many entrepreneurs have suffered from this pandemic, and the suffering is not over yet. But many others I know do not necessarily benefit from these times, but see themselves bypassing the challenges with this type of innovation, coupled with a low-maintenance lifestyle and a simple appreciation for cash reserves.
Related: Why Does Warren Buffett Always Pay In Cash?
Hopefully, like Gaffigan, you had the resources to weather these challenging times. Hopefully, unlike gaffigan, you're not eating rubbish.