Aaron Blank is no stranger to business challenges.
The president and chief executive officer of Seattle public relations firm Fearey Group says about 20% of his company’s business is crisis communications. After a conversation with BizX Chief Executive Officer and founder Bob Bagga, Blank launched a private Facebook group to unite business owners in the Seattle area as they deal with the mounting coronavirus pandemic.
“We business owners have to take action,” says Blank, who has led Fearey Group since 2013. “The first thing I thought was to get people together and help business owners stay afloat. That’s the biggest thing from a business standpoint.”
More than 130 people have joined the group, called Corona: Seattle Business Owners Fight Back, since its launch earlier this week. They share tips, promote services and encourage the support of local businesses as the Puget Sound region is basically on lockdown.
Blank says he’s received about a dozen calls this week from business executives seeking help in dealing with customers and employees as the coronavirus increasingly wreaks havoc on the local and national economy. As of March 12, King County officials say 270 people in the county have been diagnosed with coronavirus, with 27 deaths. Gov. Jay Inslee has banned all gatherings of more than 250 people, and Seattle Public Schools has shut down until April 24.
“The idea was, if a business is in trouble, how can we help those businesses?” Blank says. “These are times we’ve never seen before.”
Several prominent business owners have joined the site, including Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price and Merideth Tall, founder and chief emeritus of cruise-ship company Clipper Navigation Inc.
Friday morning, Blank posted: “What are you doing to add innovation concepts and ideas into your business right now? Stuck? Post here. Let’s ideate and help each other now. Time is of the essence.”
Blank predicts the site will continue because of the connections it’s created, even after the coronavirus crisis fades.
“We’ll get there when we get there,” he says, “but right now we’re focused on helping people get through this.”