Sean Lewis and Buffalo, Apprenticeships and Entrepreneurship

CJ sat down with Sean Lewis. Sean is the President of SLC Advisory Group in Buffalo, New York. Our conversation begin with Sean sharing all the places he's lived and how he ended up in Buffalo as a musician. Then we discussed how he eventually "grew up" and started running companies, including starting his own consulting firm. Our conversation centered around a LinkedIn article he published in mid-April about the value of apprenticeships and how employers and employees alike can use this opportunity to establish a new social contract that will deliver more productivity and freedom for all parties. Enjoy!

 

Sean and CJ Discuss Buffalo, Apprenticeships, Professional Freedom, Homeschooling and Entrepreneurship

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Conversation Highlights

CJ and Sean spoke for about 45 minutes. Together they covered the following topics:

  • Sean's early life and all the different places he's lived.
  • How Sean ended up in Buffalo, New York and why it's his favorite place he's ever lived.
  • Playing music, and eventually finding a job and "growing up."
  • Sean's LinkedIn post he shared on April 17, 2020 and the importance of establishing an apprenticeship culture with mutual benefits for employers and employees.
  • Why business owners value control and how it can be detrimental to growing and scaling their businesses.
  • Productivity, freedom and accountability in the workplace.
  • How Sean's family is faring during COVID and how they've adjusted to homeschool their girls.
  • Our shared concerns about the economic impacts of COVID, along with our shared optimism for the emerging entrepreneurship culture and the gig economy.

Full Conversation Transcript

CJ Maurer:
What's up everybody. CJ Maurer here with another episode of CJ's "Podcast." I really do have to come up with a name for this eventually. But for the time being, I think CJ's "Podcast" is going to work. As you know, I went into this with no rhyme or reason other than I want to have interesting conversations with interesting people. And I think today we're absolutely meeting that criteria. I have Sean Lewis with SLC Advisory Group. Sean, how's it going? Thanks for coming up.

Sean Lewis:
Good.

CJ Maurer:
So the quick backstory is Sean and I worked together at different companies about six or seven years ago. And we've stayed in touch, but not a ton. And Sean posted something on LinkedIn recently that really caught my attention and we'll definitely get into that. And so we've been catching up a little bit more. We've both started companies, our own companies since the last time that we were really connected. Obviously, I started a marketing and growth agency and Sean started SLC Advisory Group, which helps businesses mainly from financial and operational perspectives. I find it really interesting. But Sean, one of the things I find most interesting about you is your origin story, if you will. You've lived in a whole bunch of places and done a whole bunch of things, whether it be in business or playing music. And I just think your story is pretty interesting. So why don't you tell us about all the places you lived and then ultimately how you arrived in Buffalo?

Sean Lewis:
So I think when I was four years old was when I left the United States and moved to Israel, spent about three years there. And my mom remarried there. So she married a Scotsman. So from there, we went to England, spent a year and a half there, then to Scotland and then we returned back to the United States in '81. Lived in Charlotte for about four years, then moved back to Long Island, spent about my high school years there. And then moved to Oneonta, where I went to school and then I worked for a number of years. I got to Buffalo because I decided that I was going to leave my career as an urban planner and get my feet wet as a Rock 'n' Roll Star. And so come to Buffalo and move and we had a band that we were being produced out of Canada. And we did a nice run for that for about six, seven years. And then I had to grow up and I fell into a career in business.

CJ Maurer:
Do you have a favorite place that you lived?

Sean Lewis:
Oh, Buffalo, absolutely.

CJ Maurer:
Oh, really? Nice.

Sean Lewis:
Yeah. Everything else, I was younger in some of these places. So it's hard to be a kid. And then you're a kid growing up and things, but I really made a life for myself in Buffalo and so I think that's really why I like Buffalo so much.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, I would agree. As somebody who's not from here, I grew up in Connecticut and I moved here after college and I've here for 12 years. And I've always enjoyed, not just the fact that I have made a life here, but as soon as I arrived here, I wasn't sure if this was going to be my forever home. I went to St. Bonaventure, which is only an hour and a half South. And I met a ton of people from Buffalo. And I knew that I could go to a place and live on my own, experience adulthood, figure myself out. And it was a place also where I already knew a bunch of people and was relatively affordable. So I was like, "Yeah, I could totally do Buffalo."

CJ Maurer:
And then as soon as I came to Buffalo, I marveled at how there's a true sense of place here, more so than I think where I grew up. Now, I absolutely love Connecticut. I loved my upbringing and everything about it quite frankly. But I think compared to where I grew up in a lot of places, quite frankly, people really identify with where they're from and where they live here, maybe more so than other places. Would you agree with that?

Sean Lewis:
Absolutely. There's a solidarity between people from Buffalo that you don't see. At least in Long Island and in New York, it's a different, it's more personal, where this is a lot more group-oriented. And I think that's what I really loved about Buffalo when I came here. I fell in love with it here.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. You have a lot more credibility to talk about what makes Buffalo unique as a community because even though you were a kid when you lived in a lot of these places, you've lived in a lot of places as a young boy and as a young adult as well. So I think that's really cool. So you found your way into a career. So why don't you talk about your career participation in Buffalo and then what led you to start your own business, become an entrepreneur?

Sean Lewis:
So as I was playing music, I needed to supplement my income. I did a stint at a music store on Grand Island for a number of years. And from that, I wound up getting a job with one of my customers. And that was my entry into home care. That was the business that I wound up spending 20 years doing. And through that, I just grew in positions along the way to a final point where my prior position before SLC was a partner with another agency and I spent about seven years doing that. I think that as we grew as a business, I was exposed to more and more elements of running a business that I really, really liked and enjoyed more than certain other aspects of it. One day, the stars all aligned and I got the opportunity to really start a business of my own that focus just on those elements. So that's how I really became an entrepreneur.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. Why don't you talk a little bit about what your business does.

Sean Lewis:
So SLC it's an advisory and coaching service that really focuses on businesses that make this transition from a small startup business mindset and feel and that type of culture to a larger or medium-sized business. Typically, we'll say like a mom and pop business that wants to go into some more corporate feel to maximize profits and grow efficiencies. But really, it's just to get things in place. And I think what we do best is really we help business owners get unburied from their businesses as they make that transition. If we get to speak to business owners earlier in that process, I think we can really help them prevent from getting buried by their businesses.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

Sean Lewis:
Exactly. So we're all about passing on the experience of what I learned by making the mistakes along the way and really to get these owners to sleep better at night and really have the freedom in their lives that they really created these businesses to have. That's by providing them the information that they need at their fingertips and getting the people and the systems in place so that their businesses don't need them to be there all the time to run well.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. Yeah, I think that's really interesting because you and I were talking about this leading up to this conversation. I saw your LinkedIn post and I was like, "Oh my God, Sean, haven't talked to him in a while. Got to reach out. I'd love this." I would love to have you on and talk about this idea that you bring forward about this new culture of apprenticeship. But we'll get into that in a second. So for those of you who don't know why would you know, that me reaching out spurred us to have this conversation.

CJ Maurer:
And one of the things that I was talking to you about is how... Quite frankly, my business is about five months old. And the only reason why I'm running this business is because I'm really good at marketing strategy. I'm really, really good at knowing what small and medium-sized businesses can and should do from a marketing and growth perspective. In terms of running a business, I have a lot to learn, which is why I think it's funny when some people... Maybe they just want to be friendly or complimentary. They say, "As a successful business owner..." I am not a successful business owner, at least not yet. I hope to be.

Sean Lewis:
You are. You're running a business now.

CJ Maurer:
I am, but here's what my thing is. I am a successful marketing strategist who has been able to leverage that success to start a business. It's only five months old, right? There's a lot to be learned and there's a lot of milestones I need to reach before I could consider myself a successful business owner. So there's so many things involved with running a business, managing finances and cash flow, operational efficiency, people, and protecting your time, because that's another thing that I certainly have succumbed to and a lot of other business owners I know is they get in situations, we get in situations where we start to get too deep into the business.

CJ Maurer:
And then the process, the whole operational process becomes so dependent, overly dependent on us and our time and then it waves. And that's the problem because time is a fixed asset. There's only so many hours in the day. And so if the business moving forward always needs more and more of your time, that's a risky proposition to be in. That could lead to burnout, that could lead to a whole bunch of other things. And so obviously, what you do really, really catches my attention and I think probably I would think for a lot of other businesses too.

Sean Lewis:
Yeah. I think one of the things about entrepreneurs is it's control. We start our businesses so that we can have control over aspects of our own lives, of our own destinies. But that spills out into how we run our businesses and we can't give up the control that we need to to get the freedom, to get things in place, the trust that we need to give to people to do their jobs, the responsibilities and the empowerment to do those things. So it's just this balance between the control and relinquishing control and how we're hardwired as entrepreneurs.

CJ Maurer:
That is 100% true. So I have a project manager that helps me out part-time. Her name is Molli and she's fantastic. Literally, everything that she's done for me has been great. Shout out to Molli. So part of me helping her be successful and help me as much as he can, involves handing things off that normally I would do myself. And even though I have no doubts in her ability, the idea of just unloading things, I realize it has nothing to do with her or anybody else. It's difficult for me because sometimes I just might think, "Well, how long would it take me to explain the way I do it the right way, the way that I do it, the way that makes me feel comfortable. And then by the time I explain that, would it just be quicker to go and do it myself?"

CJ Maurer:
And that may be true for one or two instances. But in the long run, I'm ultimately not helping myself. And one of the things that I'm finding is that when you have good people like Molli and a whole bunch of other people, when you have good talented people, yeah one, they can take coaching, but two, in many instances, they could probably figure out a way to do it their way. And often it's better than how I would have done. So I find that really refreshing. And so I'm getting more and more used to this idea, not only because I believe it to be critical if I want my business to grow without working 100 hours a week, but also because in many instances it makes the product better too. But that's the process. It's a matter of getting comfortable with that. And I still have a long way to go, to be honest.

Sean Lewis:
It's a process, right?

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. So let's talk about this article that you published on LinkedIn. I find it really interesting. So I have it pulled up right here. It is just a LinkedIn post. You publish this on April 17th, 2020. The title is The Social Contract, Business and Employee Commitment to a Meaningful Recovery. First of all, whether you're watching this video on YouTube or audio or whatever, I'm going to put a link to this in the description. I'll put a link to this on my website where I publish this as well. So anybody watching or listening, just scroll down wherever you are and there will be a link to this. I want to talk about a couple of things. But first and foremost, this was something that was written in response to the current global pandemic and the effect that it's having on the American work place, not just from the perspective of employers, but employees as well. So before I ask you a couple of questions, what was your inspiration to write this and why did you feel it was important to share?

Sean Lewis:
I had seen a projection that unemployment rate would possibly get up to 30% if things were to continue this way for longer than four or five months. They were talking about how many businesses would not really reopen their doors. This was very early on when everything started to happen and we started doing the social distancing, but prior to the PPP loans and all of this stuff and just right after the maybe two weeks into that whole social distancing and people being sent home. And I thought, "Boy, this is going to be a permanent change. And no matter how quickly things happen, the road to recovery will be long. And we're going to change things permanently for both the employers and the employees." We had already been running up into this position that we're in now with a lot of distrust between employee, employers, a lot of engagement issues that people were talking about at their jobs, and both for the employer and for the employee.

Sean Lewis:
And I just woke up one morning and I thought, "Wow, we should really get back to something which was an old style of work, which was apprentice. And what is it about those apprentice teacher relationships in positions, in jobs that really were effective?" And really, it's about trust and commitment and making sure that the employee feels like they have a future and the employer feels like you have a future with them also. And I think that's what we need in order to really maximize the recovery and also not to have businesses... It's changing the way the businesses, what their focuses are and putting that more towards society and helping everybody rise together again at the same time.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. I read a manifesto by Seth Godin. Are you familiar with who Seth Godin is?

Sean Lewis:
Absolutely.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. So he a manifesto back in 2012 called Stop Stealing Dreams. And that was about his belief in how the educational system should be reformed. He was calling attention to some models that he asserts are broken and how we should try to reimagine school. And I think he actually recently rereleased it. I think in light of all of this distance learning and things like that. But one of the things that I remember taking away from that, because I read it, whatever it was, seven, eight years ago when it first came out, was that back when, we didn't go to college right after finishing our primary school. We took apprenticeships first and learned a skill, learned to trade, enough to the point where we could do it on our own. And then if that was something that people were interested, then they pursued higher learning college.

CJ Maurer:
But now, we just load ourselves up with a bunch of knowledge, with a bunch of school, and we're seeing instances where people are coming out of school with a lot of debt and not necessarily qualified to find a job in the field that they're after. Now, that's not always the case. And I'm not bashing college. I went to college. It was really good for me. It was really good for a lot of people, but there's no denying that the bill of goods that a lot of us were sold on when we were kids go through high school, go through college, get good grades and then you'll get a job. It's not quite that easy. And what most employers are looking for is experience at least to get started, at least enough experience where you can be dangerous.

CJ Maurer:
And so that's one of the things that really caught my attention about this is this idea of apprenticeship. Now, part of being an entry-level employee in any field, nobody's expecting you to be an A player. They're expecting you to learn. So I think there is some built-in characteristics of apprenticeship into any entry-level job. But I wonder if it was more dedicated and called attention to if it could serve both the employer and employee better. And I think that seems like what you're trying to get at here.

Sean Lewis:
Yeah. I think employers have really taken the place of helping people. Really school isn't and our society isn't really educating our kids how to be employees, how to work, how to interact. There's where our maturity levels are being pushed over and over over time in years. So when we come into our first jobs, we're not really fully adults yet, I don't think. So it's really been relegated to the employer to really raise that last two years, let's say, of adulthood and maturity and how to interact at a workplace and what it means to learn and be a learning employee. And also, interactions between the employees, the dramas that we get from people because we're still in that maybe middle high school type of mentality. So it's really relegated to the employer to finish that training off.

CJ Maurer:
So you basically are asserting that the employers should start thinking of themselves as an extension of schooling, even though they wouldn't be providing traditional school. But for the first couple of years of an employer, they're continuing the education that employee needs to ultimately become proficient in that field of work.

Sean Lewis:
Absolutely.

CJ Maurer:
But you also assert that this could be beneficial for employees as well. How does that work?

Sean Lewis:
So the whole idea of an apprenticeship culture is really that for the employer, it's a commitment to teach. And for the apprentice, it's a commitment to learn and to stick around long enough to really give back to the company that's committed to them and invested in them. Another way of saying this really is that the employers are really feeling like they're providing a career for somebody and the employee is gaining a livelihood. So an apprentice gains a livelihood, that he gets to be able to be at a company for a long period of time, grow through that company, and then eventually at some point be able to move on to another company or somewhere else, maybe start their own business. But there's a return on investment for the employer as well.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. And then you've heard certain companies offer golden handcuffs, basically financial incentives that incentivize employees to stick around longer. Do you see that fitting in with this, or am I just making an unrelated observation?

Sean Lewis:
I think that's part of it. But I think you want to motivate employees intrinsically, not extrinsically. So they come in with a feeling like they're really benefiting from a career and being recognized and gaining not just the monetary benefits, but also the personal benefits and the recognition, the personal satisfaction of committing and doing good work and fulfilling work for themselves. That's I think a far better motivation than a golden handcuff at the end of the day because someone else could always offer a better set of golden handcuffs.

CJ Maurer:
That's true, that's true. And that's a really good point. One, I've read research that millennials, more so than previous generations, are motivated by nonfinancial rewards. They want to be at a place that they feel like aligns with their values, they want to work at a job where they're given freedom, where they're given the ability to try things, do things, feeling like they really belong and they're actually making a difference in the company or in the world or whatever. And I have to say that I actually have an example of that. About a decade ago, I left a job that was... It was a pretty good job early on in my career. But it was clear to me, I was bringing ideas for new projects forward. And while the company was receptive to the ideas in general, I felt like they were a little shut off to allowing me to lead those projects. I was showing initiative and I was willing to move some of these things forward, but I think they felt like, "Well, no, your place is over here. You do this."

CJ Maurer:
As an employer, on one hand, I can understand why an employer would... I don't know, why an employer to do their job and maybe the idea that they would feel threatened if an employee takes interest outside of what is technically on their job description. But on the other hand, I would love to have an employee to take initiative to start an advanced projects that are going to help my business and that they like it and that they're good at it. And so honestly, it was realizing that maybe I didn't have the opportunity for growth, whether that be for intrinsic growth or being promoted and things like that. That wasn't as soon on the horizon that I maybe would have thought. It actually led me to leave that company and go somewhere else.

Sean Lewis:
I think it's also part of that whole control thing too. It's also harder to give up control if you don't have that trust that the person's going to be around for a while. So you want employers typically put their employees into these boxes so that they know that they can keep them there and that they're guaranteed X amount of time before they move on or they don't invest too much into it.

CJ Maurer:
Well, that's the other thing too when you mentioned this in terms of... In this article, you set forth ideas of, "Okay, these are the commitments that employees would have to make to employers, and these are the commitments that employers would have to make to employees." And one of the things that you suggested is that employers should be mindful of like outdated models for time and inflexibility. [crosstalk 00:23:18] by that?

Sean Lewis:
Yeah, we've changed the way the world works now altogether. People want to integrate their lives and their businesses together so that... I think people are far more willing to break that 9:00 to 5:00 mold and spread it out over a whole day, but have their personal time interspersed in between their work time. Like at the former company that I was... We had number of employees and number of administrators inside the company. I would never hold anybody you can't do Facebook. I didn't mind if they had a Facebook running on the side as long as they're being productive. I really wanted to focus on get the job done mindset as opposed to you have to work eight hours a day. I think it's unreasonable to expect that you're going to get eight hours of full attention from somebody. So let's embrace it and give somebody the personal freedom to intersperse their personal and work life together, you'll get more out of them. Their productivity will be better.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. I've also heard that taking breaks increases productivity.

Sean Lewis:
Absolutely.

CJ Maurer:
And I've experienced it myself, even though I'm not always good about taking breaks often enough. But yeah, at the end of the day, I don't know if this is the best example, but if you're Netflix and you're in talks with a production company to make a new show and you want it streaming by June 1st, is it delivered on time, at a high quality? You're happy. You care at what points of the day these people made it or what sprints or breaks they took. And I think that's true too. At the end of the day, I think we need to be very mindful of what we want out of people, not just in the long run, but for every project that's assigned. And I think that the quality of your work and that it is delivered on time matters way more than when you do it or where you are when you do it.

Sean Lewis:
Right. And if you've hired adults already, so treat them like adults. And then they can manage their time and manage their work product.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. I was the director of marketing for a payroll and HR company. And sometimes I would notice that the clients of this company, so basically these could be the business owner, they could be the HR director, operations manager, administrative person, basically people who are in charge of getting the employees paid and things like that. And I remember there was a new, I think it was a new law passed in New York that employers have to give employees I think up to three hours of paid leave to vote if they're unable to vote on their own time.

CJ Maurer:
And I just remember there were a lot of people who were like, "Is there a way that we can get our employees to prove to us that they voted during that time." And like, "I don't know, what if they just get a sticker? Do we know they actually voted?" Things like that. And I just remember thinking like that is absolutely not the way I would ever... That would be the least of my concerns with my employees, is trying to validate that they did something during a three-hour window. You know what I mean? That just feels so suffocating to me.

Sean Lewis:
Yeah. The opposite end of that is the companies that say they have no vacation policy whatsoever, you take as much vacation as you want and need and the time off as long as the job gets done and you're not jeopardizing your teams.

CJ Maurer:
Tell me if this is true. I've heard somebody say that for companies with unlimited vacation time, employees generally take less vacation time than they would otherwise. Is that it?

Sean Lewis:
It's a self-policing system. Yeah, it becomes a peer pressure thing. I can't explain it. I've read about these things also. But from what I gather, it's peer pressure. The expectation of the job is also bigger. So that if you're going to get all these freedoms, your responsibilities are just that much more complicated too.

CJ Maurer:
It's funny that I brought up Netflix because they several years ago published a slide deck about their culture and I think it was called like freedom and accountability, how Netflix works, what it means to work at Netflix. And you hit the nail on the head. The freedoms that they offer were incredible, but they also expected a lot out of you. So if you are that right type of person, you're probably going to fit perfectly. Did you happen to see that?

Sean Lewis:
I did not.

CJ Maurer:
Okay. Yeah, I'll send it to you afterwards.

Sean Lewis:
Thank you.

CJ Maurer:
This is something that I feel like you would really enjoy. And I also heard, and again, this is conjecture, but I also believe I remember hearing that the HR director who created that policy ultimately like a couple of years later was not meeting her expectations and ultimately did not fit the culture anymore. And I believe she was let go. I'm not sure. I'm not really interested in whether or not that happened, but it is interesting that the idea that no one is above the law. It would be very much like the policy that I read for the person who implemented it to maybe not meet it. You know what I'm saying? So, yeah. Obviously, this pandemic is taking a lot of casualties, not just people at hospitals, but also professionally, like people being furloughed, losing their work, and things like that. And obviously, that's what's prompted you to write this article. Between your business and your clients and things like that, how are most of you guys fairing during all of this?

Sean Lewis:
So I have clients that are all over the board. Some were essential services that were really... They're still humming along without any problems. Other businesses took real hit, up to 75% of revenues right off the bat. So you start dealing with management of really just the management of the regulations for essential businesses and then the cash flow management for the businesses that are really, really struggling. It's across the board. For me, it's been a mix of both. I have clients that I had specific face-to-face. So part of my job is going on site for three or four hours of operations management. Those I can't do anymore. I do as much as I can remotely. But the CFO side, the financial side, I can do from anywhere. So I've been lucky about being able to maintain that side of the business while the other side is on a hiatus for now.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. So there's been instances where you do things face-to-face, where you felt like it hasn't been able to transition well enough to basically remote meetings?

Sean Lewis:
Yeah, because you have to be onsite, working on the shop floor for the manufacturing companies, things like that. So those you really have to be there. You can have someone walk around with the cameras, just not the same. And the coaching face-to-face... I'm sorry.

CJ Maurer:
No, go ahead. Finish, finish your thought.

Sean Lewis:
But there's also the interaction when you do face-to-face coaching, it's a lot different. The personal space between the two of you, face, body language, all that stuff works a lot better. It can be done on this, but I think it creates more time to get things done.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, I'm with you. I really like video chatting. I like the fact that I don't have to drive and so it gives me a lot more time in my day. I can have more meetings, I can be more productive. And in something like this, this is great. I'm having a lot of fun doing this and I'm having a lot of most instances conducting client meetings this way. But I absolutely prefer face-to-face. I absolutely do. I really miss it. I'm super excited whenever this happens, when we can go back and meet with people face-to-face and go get coffee at my favorite coffee shops and things like that.

Sean Lewis:
I really miss that too.

CJ Maurer:
Personally, as a family, how are you guys holding up during all of this?

Sean Lewis:
So it's been interesting. So we now have a house full all the time. And my wife is a teacher and she's been doing her remote learning. And I think one of the most fascinating things about this is that my wife, myself and both my daughters all have Zoom meetings at the same time. So all of us are on Zoom meetings, their remote learning on Zoom. We're having our business meetings and my wife is teaching on Zoom.

CJ Maurer:
Unbelievable.

Sean Lewis:
So it's incredible to see everybody doing the same activities. I think it's heartening in many ways because now there's an identification with your family in a different way. Daddy's working this way, my kids are working this way.

CJ Maurer:
How old are your girls?

Sean Lewis:
Oh, I've 12 and one's going to be turning 11.

CJ Maurer:
Wow, so they're like knee-deep into schooling. So my kids are four and two. My daughter's in pre-K, my son he's only two. So for us, yes, we do some activities with our daughter and we're starting to practice writing and making sounds of letters and prereading activities. But it's not like we have to keep up with any type of curriculum or homework or things like that. From the parents that I've spoke with who have real school aged children, that's got to be hard. I don't know if your wife being a teacher makes it a little bit easier. But now, you're taking on double duty where you have to continue working and then also you're basically being homeschool teacher.

Sean Lewis:
Oh, yeah. It's double the work because now you've taken your traditional 8:00 to 2:30 day and you spread it out now between seven and six o'clock at night. And it's just the amount of time you're doing the classroom work, but now it's really more one-on-one. At least that's how she's been approaching it. And I'm giving the personal attention to each kid. It's a foreign language, so they really need to have that conversational aspect of it in the practice. So she's really focused on making sure that they have the time to do that. For the kids, they've been shortened their day down to maybe three or four hours. For my older daughter who's a consummate introvert, this has been golden for her. She gets to sit in her little box for the three hours and get her work done and focus on her pace and not worry about anything else. And for my extroverted daughter, she misses that whole social interaction for sure.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. I was going to ask you about that, how are they liking it? Because I'm hearing mixed bags and I think it always depends on the kid. My son doesn't know the difference really, but my daughter, she definitely misses school. Actually, it's kind of heart wrenching. It was a couple of weeks ago and I was tucking her in at night and she was like, "Daddy, when do I go back to school?" She's sad about it. And her ability to process what's going on, she understands that we can't go places because lots of people are getting sick. She understands that and she remembers that. But I know she's really itching to return to normal. And I think so are a lot of other people obviously not at the expense of public health, but yeah. Do you think schools start on time in the fall?

Sean Lewis:
It's a good question.

CJ Maurer:
In public, I mean like not just distance learning?

Sean Lewis:
Yeah, I think it's a good question. I've read that like Caltech and some other universities are not going to have full classes. So for the university side of things, it's really about if school starts, will parents send their kids to school? I think there's two sides of this [crosstalk 00:35:25]-

CJ Maurer:
That's the other thing too.

Sean Lewis:
... like feel confident, right?

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, because-

Sean Lewis:
I don't-

CJ Maurer:
Same thing at the workplace. Even when people go back, there's going to be new... some requirements like in terms of cleanliness and health and things like that and then other best practices. But then even when you let somebody back, if somebody has a compromised immune system or maybe they just feel uncomfortable about this whole thing because this virus is not just going to miraculously go away-

Sean Lewis:
The risk to the teachers because they're going to be in these rooms. And it turns out that the virus does spread through recirculated air and if you're going to spend four or five hours in classrooms with kids and it concentrated rates. I think it'd be difficult to put together those systems for that type of situation for schooling. But again, I'm not an expert on this, but I don't believe that things are going to be quite normal in August and September. We have to send kids back to school.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, interesting. Yeah, all we can do is speculate. I have no opinion because I don't know. But then you also hear Niagara, I think they already announced that in the fall semester classes will be provided on time, on campus as normal. I thought that was interesting because I don't know how many colleges or universities have announced that so preemptively.

Sean Lewis:
And I think it boils down to what the leadership of each institution believes that the future is going to hold. Are we going to have a second wave, or are we not going to have a second wave? Is the second wave going to be worse? Is it worth the risk? And these are everything that everybody's individually balancing between themselves. Because no matter what, even if Madonna gets their phase three up and running and everything becomes successful and they start producing in January, it's still going to take months and months and months to start getting everybody up to speed and get everybody-

CJ Maurer:
Immunized?

Sean Lewis:
Immunized. Yeah, thank you. So this is a long haul.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, it is, it is. I think that it's pointed out how fortunate we have been at least in the United States. Because for a lot of people, this is the greatest inconvenience that they've had in their lives. And relatively speaking to a lot of things that happen around the world, this is, if nothing else, a reminder that we have it pretty good if this is the worst we've been inconveniencing.

Sean Lewis:
I completely agree. Now, remember, for some, it's devastating without a doubt. So everybody's experiencing this in a different way. But as far as hardships go... I didn't live through World War II. I don't have, but I imagine from the stories that I've heard from my grandparents, there's obviously very little to compare as far as-

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, it's so interesting. It is interesting and devastating and exciting and confusing and so many other things all at once. It really is. And I just know that as I get older, my kids hopefully... This all passes before they have an ability to truly comprehend it. And then maybe when they're your children's age, when they're 11 and 12, they might ask like, "Hey, what was that like?" And we'll probably have a lot to... because they lived through it, but of course they don't really know-

Sean Lewis:
What was it like that to go to work in an office?

CJ Maurer:
Yeah, oh geez, yeah.

Sean Lewis:
Oh, when I was your age, we had to sit in traffic for-

CJ Maurer:
That's another thing too. When you think about it, Buffalo does not have a lot of traffic. But even still, nobody really batched their eye at a 20 or 30 minute commute. Where do you live, Sean?

Sean Lewis:
On the border, like at Snyder-Eggertsville border.

CJ Maurer:
Okay. So it's not quite 30 minutes for you to be downtown. But there are parts of Amherst where it's a half an hour to get downtown. And we don't really bat an eye about a 30-minute commute yet. When you think about that, that's twice a day, five days a week. You do the math, that is five hours a week. What would happen if you gave an effective employee five hours back in their week?

Sean Lewis:
Oh my God, can you imagine the New York City area where we grew up, where it was nothing for us to spend two hours on the road to go 15 to 20 miles. So you'd give people back, I know, more than a third of their lives.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. My dad used to commute like at least an hour going down the Saw Mill River Parkway. There's a lot of people where I grew up in Southwest Connecticut took the Metro North and that was an hour train ride. So it's maybe 5, 10, 15 minutes to get to the train station depending on where they live, Brewster, Southwest, wherever. And then hit that down and then walking to the office or taking a cab or whatever. You're talking like at least an hour and a half, maybe two hours to get to work every day.

Sean Lewis:
If you four hours per day, five days, that's 20 hours a week. That's half your work week you've just gotten back.

CJ Maurer:
That's unbelievable. That is unbelievable.

Sean Lewis:
Yeah, unbelievable.

CJ Maurer:
So on one hand, I'm excited about what this means for people and certain employers because again, more time. Time is the most precious asset, is the one thing that we all have the same amount of. It is the ultimate fixed asset and it's also the most precious. So I'm excited about that and I'm excited about people being more productive, businesses getting more productive workers and all of that. What I'm not excited about is all of... If you get out on Grand Central on 42nd Street, I know that's Times Square and that's touristy, but then when you get out of the immediate tourist area, there's a lot of bodegas and restaurants and convenience stores that support all of the commuters, all of the people that come in there. And these skyscrapers that are just filled with people, are we going to see empty skyscrapers in Downtown Manhattan, in Midtown Manhattan?

Sean Lewis:
Very possible.

CJ Maurer:
And then what is that going to mean in a smaller city like Buffalo?

Sean Lewis:
It's very possible. I already started reading about that. It's also tied to the tourist industry and how many people coming to New York. So there's the future of office now, how much office space is going to be a glut? I think that we've changed. Regardless of when this vaccine comes along, we've changed the nature of work and social interaction forever. And the fact that the time it takes for us to get back to a set of normalcy, the amount of businesses that will return, it's going to be a fraction of what were in business before. One in four restaurants I think I've read are going to be able to open up their doors and all the support structures from that. The unemployment rates is going to hit maybe 30% and how do you start putting all these individuals back to work. So they're not going to be any places for them to go to offices. So this is an incredible, incredible change. I think I lost my train of thought. Go ahead.

CJ Maurer:
No, it is incredible. And I think maybe we underestimate the magnitude. And although it's very natural for us to focus on all the things that are positive about it or the things to be optimistic about, I think you're not processing the situation correctly if you don't acknowledge all of these downfalls. And it's really unfortunate. And I feel so helpless because it's like, "What do you do?"

Sean Lewis:
Nope, I agree. I think there's a lot of denial going out there. I also think we're about to experience what happens when the P3 loans start to wear over the eight week period if people are going to run through that money. So what we've really done is we've spread this... really bought businesses two or three months of time to pay their employees. So now, those employees are going to go on to the unemployment rolls, the money might run out, and then they don't have the monies for their operations and they still don't have the revenues coming in. So now, you can see an uptick on businesses starting to shutter and then therefore increase the unemployment rate. This is, I think, one of the tip of an eye of a second wave of iceberg of unemployment and business closures.

CJ Maurer:
Well, I think you make a good case for that. I hope you're wrong, but I think it makes a lot of sense. Sean, we've covered a lot and I've really enjoyed this conversation. What's a positive note that we can end on before we wrap up?

Sean Lewis:
This will pass. We will find to ways to... We're a resilient nation. I think that one of the positive things is that I think a lot of people start new businesses. This gig economy that we had started before, we'll start to see all kinds of ways that people will start working together. There'll be all kinds of partnerships between entrepreneurs that will help support each other. I think there'll be communities of businesses that start up to support everybody's livelihoods. And I think that's going to be a really positive thing. I think we will change the way businesses prioritize things. It's not about the shareholder anymore. The levels of who the stakeholders are and what decisions are made for in businesses will be more leaning towards how do we help rebuild these parts of society that have been hit so hard. So I think there's going to be a lot of that.

CJ Maurer:
Yeah. I hope you're right because I think there's a strong case to be made that although I understand why a lot of these public companies prioritize the shareholder, I understand that. I think the prioritization of the shareholder has had very detrimental effects to the economy too in a number of ways. So-

Sean Lewis:
Businesses have to have customers, right?

CJ Maurer:
Right, yes. And there needs to be a demand. Well, that's kind of your same point. But I also do share some of your optimism about more entrepreneurship, more this expansion of the gig economy and maybe like an evolution and maturation of it, so that maybe it's more than just delivering goods, but that it can extend to lots of different sectors of the economy. I think that would be really healthy. So, Sean, I can't thank you enough for doing this.

Sean Lewis:
Thank you.

CJ Maurer:
I thought you are a tremendous guest, you are a pleasure to talk to and a wealth of knowledge. And I really hope that we can do this again.

Sean Lewis:
Thank you, CJ. I had a ball.

CJ Maurer:
Last thing, if anybody wants to get in touch with you, how would they do that?

Sean Lewis:
They can go to sean@slcadvisorygroup.com and shoot me an email and I'll get right back to them.

CJ Maurer:
Sounds good. And I'll make sure I include that in there as well.

Sean Lewis:
Thank you.

CJ Maurer:
So have a good day to you and your-

Sean Lewis:
Thank you. You, too. Have a good day.

CJ Maurer:
Bye.

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