Diary of a small business owner: John Levy of Computers To Go

After being laid off by a pharmaceutical company years ago, initially I thought the most important thing to do was to find another job. After all, I was married with two kids, a mortgage and a lot of responsibilities to meet. The same time I got laid off, my wife did as well just two weeks later, as she worked for the same company. We quickly went from double income to no income.

But my passion has always been to own my own business.

Thus, I started Computers To Go nearly 13 years ago in the Midland Mall, where it remains today. About a year after we opened, we also expanded to our Saginaw location.

As a business owner, I can say it’s a scary thing when you decide to go into work for yourself and you’ve never done it before. There’s not much wiggle room for failure.

Fast forward to what’s going on today...

I spent the last 13 years, roughly, in control of my destiny. I was able to decide whether I succeeded or failed, if my doors were open or closed. I would decide everything that is best for me, my family and my customers. But that definitely changed for us in the last couple of months.

I understand we need to be safe, but there’s an extra level of stress on small business owners right now. There’s a lot of expenses that have to be taken care of that won’t be taken care of by the government and without any income coming in, these burdens fall on me and my business partners. The mortgage and all the utilities still need to be paid.

In the same vein that I started the company, I believe that what we do has a value to our customers, I will find a way to survive financially. But it does add an extra layer of being uncomfortable when you’re no longer 100% in control of your financial future.

It’s great to hear others in the community say ‘I shop local’ and I hope they do. I hope this staying at home doesn’t train people to shop online more. Personally, I love going to businesses and shopping in person for what I’m looking for. I love getting my things repaired locally and not shipping them off and waiting for them to come back.

Most of what we do is service, because people are buying more things online versus locally or depending on the item, there aren’t as many options locally. I get it, plus everything online is usually cheaper. But for all the money people save shopping online, how many things do you think you purchased that wasn’t the right size, that wasn’t the right quality, that never arrived and you forgot you even ordered it, how many things have you wanted to return with the best of intentions but forgot to or didn’t get it shipped back in time to get the rebate or the full refund?

Every business starts out as a small business and the good ones become huge companies like Dow, General Motors, Amazon or Apple. All of these companies start it up small with one person’s dream. That one person couldn’t make those companies if it wasn’t for their family sacrifice and all the employees who started with them and stuck with them and continue to work hard. 

As a community, as a country and as a world we will get past this eventually. My fear is people will learn to rely on the Internet to buy everything. That is one of the reasons why we are seeing more malls close, more businesses shutter. I love what I do. I’m a business owner I couldn’t imagine being anything else.

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