As of this writing, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has worked its way around the world, and is starting to pause our normal everyday activities. Coronavirus has left many business owners asking, What’s going to happen next?
I sat down on Instagram Live with Diane Mayor, a business strategist with a background in corporate finance, to talk about how small business owners should be thinking about preparing for the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
A recording of the Live video is included here, as well as a summary of our chat, which has been cleaned up for brevity and ease of reading. 👇
Elise Darma (ED): I’ve been following the coronavirus since the end of January, but as a business owner, I didn’t really start to think about the impact it might have until the World Health Organization officially called it a pandemic [as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020]. You’re the first person who came to mind because your background is in helping corporate companies plan for moments like this. ‘Contingency planning’ is the term I keep using. So, is that correct? Is that how you would describe your experience?
Diane Mayor (DM): I come from a long corporate banking career and I think anybody who’s in that is always contingency planning. Whether it’s your role, or it’s for a market shutdown – it’s kind of like almost breathing in one of those roles. And I think ‘contingency planning’ is a perfect word for it. I think the word ‘crisis’ kind of scares people a little bit. So I think ‘contingency planning’ is a good one. I think what’s interesting, though, is a lot of the contingency planning at the corporate level doesn’t translate down to a small business because that’s not where people think about it. We like to veer onto the positivity side of things. So it’s been morphing my business experience down into my small business experience to create this combination.
Your “Corona risk” was always in your business. All that Corona[virus] has done is highlight to you that you have this huge risk in your business that you won’t be able to work.
Coronavirus Panic vs. Preparation in Business
ED: Yeah, we can be positive in a way, but I want some real talk because from what I’ve seen over the last week – and maybe you’ve seen the same – but I’ve actually seen some fairly irresponsible messages shared from people who are influencers. They have followers and they’re sharing information that is kind of encouraging people to put their blinders on. Maybe they’re uninformed themselves, maybe they don’t want to look at the reality of the situation. And so they’re just advising their followers to ‘lean into their gratitude.’ I don’t get it. There is a difference between panicking and preparation. I’m hardcore in the ‘let’s prepare camp’ and I think that’s you as well. So let’s talk about what as small business owners we can do today to prepare for it. Not just a quarantine situation, but maybe over the next few months there’s an economic downturn. So, out of curiosity, have you worked with clients before in similar situations like this one?
DM: In corporate, I’ve definitely been in the crisis situation, not in a pandemic situation, but I was in banking for the Lehman Brothers’ ground zero moment. I can still remember walking into my corporate job on that day and having to drop everything and how much everything changed after that. From a preparation perspective, I would say I didn’t think we had as big an event since then. I agree with you. I think a lot of the influencers are very: “If we’re just optimistic, don’t panic. There’s a vaccine coming.” Like you said, panic is one thing and preparation is another and I think it’s great to focus on what could happen and how good it could be. But I think there’s also nothing wrong with being prepared for it not being like that. And one thing I like to say to people is actually your “Corona risk” was always in your business. All that Corona[virus] has done is highlight to you that you have this huge risk in your business that you won’t be able to work. That could have happened to you six months ago with a stomach bug or a migraine or the flu. So while everybody is kind of feeling a little panicky, it’s almost like there’s not any extra risk to your business than there was yesterday or the day before. So what you do to prepare now is not only for this quarantine, self-isolation, whatever’s going to happen, but it’s also just preparing your business in general to survive any kind of little blip.
Will Coronavirus Cause a Recession?
ED: So you’re saying people have had businesses today, yesterday, six months ago, that were never prepared for a crisis, like a health issue or an economic downturn. Based on your experience and what you’re seeing happen in the world with the Coronavirus pandemic, are you foreseeing a potential downturn in the economic world because of this, or is it too soon to tell?
DM: I think we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s pretty early. But one thing I will say is when you see the markets doing what they’re doing at the moment, people get very afraid. People are watching their retirement values fluctuate. All the things that make them feel secure and safe are being stripped away from them. So they have markets that are volatile, they have illness that they can’t control. And, actually, all that toilet paper fighting that we’re seeing, that’s people trying to control what they can control. And what happens in that situation is people withdraw. They stop spending money. They start thinking about what they’re spending and what they could limit because they don’t know what’s coming. So that’s how they try to personally prepare and that obviously has a big knock for your business. So we don’t know where the economy is going to go. Most people are saying, Oh, this looks like it. This looks like the recession’s coming. There are some schools of thought that maybe this will be such a big bump that it’ll self-correct itself. But I think either way people are going to be so nervous for a while that we as business owners will be impacted.
How Does the 2020 Market Crash Compare to the 2008 Crash?
ED: How does the Coronavirus crash compare to what happened in 2008 when there was that market crash?
DM: I feel like people are more scared this time because that was almost like a new event and it was kind of like “the banks.” It was like “the banks” needed to sort it. People were personally impacted because people were out of work, and partners were out of work, and the economy was going into recession. But [the 2020 market crash] has a personal element of ‘not only is all this happening in the economy, but I could be sick during it.’ ‘I might not be able to work, if there’s not statutory sick pay’ or something like that. People who work hourly jobs or retail jobs or who drive for Uber, they’re just not going to make money. So it’s super personal. It’s not, ‘other people don’t have enough money so they can’t spend on me.’ It’s like ‘I might physically not be able to go out and earn, even if there is money.’ So that’s hitting really close to home.
Why Business Owners Can’t Ignore Coronavirus
ED: That’s such a great point because what happened in 2008, you’re right. It was like, ‘Oh, it’s a banking man’s problem. I don’t feel bad for him.’ But you’re right. Now it’s, ‘I need to think about my business and its future, plus my health’, and obviously health is number one out of those things, and because we’re dealing with a virus that is so contagious and people might have it right now and not even know, that’s what I find irresponsible with the advice that I see people sharing, is they’re almost saying to continue on with your normal life. They’re saying things like, “this is just fear-mongering from the media. Don’t believe the hype.” And I’m like, this is a virus that doesn’t care what you think. It can be spread so easily and you might not have symptoms and realize that you have it. That’s why this is a pandemic, because it’s not been contained. They’re just trying to mitigate the growth of it. I feel so passionate about it because we’re talking about people’s lives and livelihood, as you mentioned. So your background is in helping corporate businesses. I mostly help online business owners, but I don’t think we can forget about local business owners, too. People who are running shops, brick and mortar services.
How to Protect Your Business During Coronavirus
ED: So what can people do today to prepare their business during coronavirus? Maybe they have not ever done any preparation for something like this, but what can they do today to prepare for either a quarantine situation or an economic downturn? What would you say to a small business owner? Let’s say, someone like myself who’s in the online space.
DM: A lot of it is kind of common sense stuff and it’s probably stuff that is on your to-do list that you haven’t gotten to. I would say the number one thing I would start doing right now is, as you are going about your day-to-day as you’re working, start recording what you’re doing. Say you’re uploading a blog post, explain what you’re doing. Like, ‘I’m uploading this, I’m changing the image size for this.’ Explain it so that if somebody has to cover for you, they have access to that. Normally I want to see system notes, I want to see a checklist, but we don’t have time for that. So, at the moment, just document as much of what you’re doing as possible.
Then batching is your best friend, and so is “pre-crastination.” Doing things now as soon as you get them, so if something’s important, don’t think, ‘Oh, I’ll get to it next Thursday.’ Just do it now, while you are healthy, while you are not looking after kids or family members.
I think also thinking through your backup plans for everything. Zoom is going to be under a lot of stress, with all the new people trying to do everything virtually. So there’s a good chance that you’ve decided to do something virtually, you click on, and Zoom has no bandwidth. What is your backup plan for that? Not just for you, not being able to be present on that Zoom, but for Zoom itself not functioning?
And then I think communication is probably the biggest thing you need to be thinking about in your business. More is more. Early. Often. Those are the communication watchwords. Everybody knows this is happening. So you can acknowledge the elephant in the room if you’re running an event, if you’ve got something coming up, even just if you’re dealing with clients one-on-one, say, ‘Hey, I’m aware this is happening. If you get sick and you need to cancel, here’s how you do it. If I’m sick, here’s how I’ll let you know.’ The more information you can give to people, the more in control they feel. The sooner you tell them all of this stuff, the more empathetic they’re going to be. If you are deciding to cancel your event 24 hours before, it might happen, but that shouldn’t be your preference. You shouldn’t be like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to hope and hope and hope and hope,’ and then people are on planes and you go, ‘Okay, I’ll change my mind.’ I think from a business perspective those would be the big things that I would be looking at.
Also thinking in terms of all the tasks you do regularly, categorize them into: ‘this is vital, this is kind of important, this is a nice to have’, and preparing all of this while you are focused and calm and not in quarantine. So when you do focus, it is just a case of cutting and pasting things or ticking off the quick vital things you need to do rather than trying to figure out, ‘Oh, do I need to be on my Instagram feed today?’
ED: It sounds like you’re generally saying to figure out a way to replace yourself from your business as if you did disappear tomorrow. And through that it’s really documenting your processes using the tools. And you also mentioned something about addressing it with your clients, addressing it with your customers. I think that’s such a great point because I still see people posting as if it’s business as usual. I feel for them, like, maybe they’re in the middle of a launch right now; maybe they’re ramping up for a launch. You know, they have their content plan, but I think this situation warrants pausing and just reassessing, like, ‘Is this the best thing for my audience right now?’ Like you said, talking about it is key.
My rule of thumb at the moment for people is: be a human.
What Should a Content Strategy Look Like During Coronavirus?
ED: I would love to hear your thoughts on, do you think businesses should be pausing their regular content or their upcoming promotions during the Coronavirus pandemic? What should they be thinking in terms of that?
DM: If what you are selling, launching, or producing is coming from a place of service in this environment, in this market, you know, maybe you’re a teacher and you’re giving homeschooling advice to people, then by all means people need it and you’re coming from the right place. If you are coming from a place of, it is a traditional launch or you have a new group or a new mastermind, you need to ask yourself whether people are actually in a position to participate in the way you imagined. And if they’re not, whether the best thing to do for everyone is to take one more thing off their plate and push it a little further down the road.
I think we’re seeing some really sleazy marketing going on at the moment around people actually using almost fear mongering as their marketing tool. That is just like… You will lose followers, you will lose email list people, people will never buy from you again. You know, somebody wrote something really tacky during one of the hurricanes and I have literally never listened to another word they’ve said. I’ve blocked them, I don’t even see them. So I always think about that. I think my rule of thumb at the moment for people is: be a human. How would you feel in that situation? Do you want to be bombarded with launch emails about something kind of unrelated? Are you even going to read them or you’re just going to get overwhelmed? And I think if you are in a launch, I get it. Unfortunately the timing is just awful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge, ‘Hey, I get it is a lot going on. If you don’t want to hear about this launch anymore, just click here.’ Like, give people the option to have a bit of peace of mind. I think also though, you have to be prepared now with things that you launch that they might not be as strong as they were. Economically, people are gonna stop spending money. So I think we’re going to see launch levels come down. I think we’re going to see people cancelling a lot. I think we’re going to see people kind of getting halfway through a thing and being, “Oh I don’t want the rest of it.” So I think if you stop and ask yourself how you would feel then I think you’re probably on a good path. And I think if there’s even an inkling in your body that something you’re about to post, say, do is tone deaf to the situation, just don’t post it.
Definitely I would say pause, go check everything that you’ve got coming up for the next few weeks. And if any of them is like, it could even be remotely icky in this situation, I would err on the side of not posting it. We are still – I think – in the very early stages of it, but you know, it’s important that people understand that people are really, really ill and a lot of people have died. For some people this is an incredibly sensitive topic and their entire feed is full of it, so try to picture that when you’re talking to people.
ED: As a business owner in the online space, there’s this fine line that’s being walked right now by people like myself who help others get started in online business. I think it’s too easy for people to use this – what’s happening right now – as a way to sell their product to get started in the online space. I get that it is helpful to people. It’s a value. I’m in that same position. I have products that help people get started, but like you said, is now the time for people to be putting money into an aspect of their life that is brand new? They don’t have a business. Some people are being forced to not work right now. Some people have children who are home for the next three weeks and they’re freaking out because they don’t have childcare. So they’re choosing between working and making money and taking care of the kids. Where I think businesses have an opportunity who are in this space is to offer things for free. Free content, and I’m not talking freebies like just lead magnets. I saw on my friend Taylor Loren‘s feed yesterday, she is the marketer at Later – I love Later – and she started a thread to talk about how are we helping as marketers, what are we doing in our community? And someone commented saying, ‘I am emailing my list and I’m offering a free coaching call, all of us to get on and we’re going to talk about how we can manage this as business owners. We’re going to talk about our marketing plans.’ She’s literally offering coaching for free. I think that’s the right way to go about it versus using this as a time to sell your product that helps people get started in online business. What do you think?
DM: Yeah, I definitely lean towards, like, if you genuinely are coming from a place of “I want to help people”. I think if you have like a $27 product, great. I think if you have a $2,000 product, it’s going to be much harder and I think you’re right, like putting yourself actually in that position of like, ‘I don’t know how long I won’t able to work. I don’t know what’s happening with sick pay. I don’t know what’s going to happen to everything else in my life.’ That’s a really hard sell. Personally, I’m all about the how-can-I-help-for-free-at-the-moment? I’m a huge believer that karma will come back to you in spades further down the road. I think one of the interesting examples I’ve seen is Loom. They have slashed their process, extended their trial periods. People are so shocked that you are prepared to do something for free or what seems against your business in this kind of environment. Our target markets are probably not part of the people who need our help. We might be targeting people who are in a normal corporate day job who want to go online, but what about the yoga studio owner who needs to get virtual classes to feed their kids? I think we forget that actually the basics of just getting someone online, they probably don’t need the full $2,000. Like you said, if you could talk to a hundred people for an hour about starting a business, you could probably get half of them at least started on the basics.
ED: I want to shout out a few companies ’cause we’re in the online business space. We use tools all the time and there are many companies stepping up and offering their tools for free to help people in this situation. Teachable is offering some free services. I saw yesterday that Girl Boss is going to put on a virtual conference for women to just start sharing education for people about the online business space. There’s Loom, there’s CloudFlare who’s emailed me about what they’re doing, especially for their clients in Italy because, guess what? Internet usage has gone way up in Italy. So companies that help those sort of things are stepping up to the plate. And I think that’s what software and online business tools need to do as small business owners. We can do the same in our own way.
How to Start an Emergency Fund for Your Business
ED: One important question I definitely want to ask you: when we’re asking an online business owner to put the pause on their launch, put the pause on promoting their paid products and maybe even serve their audience for free, that might cause a panic for them because they might be needing that revenue, they might not have an emergency fund. So what does an emergency fund look like for a small business owner like myself? What are the details around that?
DM: When you’re thinking about, ‘Okay, revenue’s going to drop,’ the first thing everybody should know is their revenue, costs and profit. You need to know how much wiggle room you have between your revenue and your costs. How much revenue can you afford to lose before you start losing money for yourself? In those costs you want to add in your costs to survive as the business owner. So I think that’s a good place to start. Then your emergency fund, your rainy day fund, whatever you want to call it, you’re looking at ideally three months of your business expenses. The reason it’s three months – you could say three to six – but basically that would assume you made zero revenue for three months. In actual fact, as your revenue starts to drop, you’re probably looking at your business expenses and maybe going, ‘Do I need my paid super complicated email system or actually is that kind of like, I like to have that, but I could do MailChimp for free?’
You start looking at what you could cut in your business if your revenue starts to dip and then even as business owners, we are often a big expense and stress to our business because we need that bottom line to survive. So we also need to take a step back and be like, ‘Okay, how can I relieve some of that burden on my business? Could I cut some of my own nice-to-have things at home in order to allow the revenue to dip a little bit by offering these free things? Maybe I sacrifice a little bit on the home front, maybe you go for slightly cheaper groceries or you don’t watch cable or whatever it is. Every person will be different, and then you allow that difference to start to feed your fund.
So if at the moment you’ve got excess profit, that should all just be going into that fund. If you don’t have excess profit, you might want to start thinking about, ‘Okay, could I cut something?’ Now often as business owners, we have too many tools. That would be where I would start. I’d be like, what are all the tools that I own, especially the ones I’ve completely forgotten I have. How much money is that every month? And then every month put that into our emergency fund. That’s probably the easiest place to start. And the place that you won’t even feel it.
ED: So emergency fund should be three months of expenses, ideally, correct?
DM: Three to six months, including paying you. So that’s the thing. I think entrepreneurs forget that they can’t just go to zero if everything else goes to zero. They still need to pay rent, they need to buy food. It depends on what their home situation is… If they could go to zero, fine. But we need to have a salary line in there for how much money you need to take.
Tips For Local Brick & Mortar Businesses During Coronavirus
ED: I’m looking at your Any Day Crisis Plan template right now. It walks you through certain questions you should be asking yourself, if you were to disappear from your business tomorrow for whatever reason. You walk through how to highlight what needs attention, what do you need to do, what do you say in case this happens, how do you say it. So I think this is a really great place for a business owner to start is this template. I do want to circle back to local businesses. We’ve mostly focused on online business and this is out of my realm. I’ve never run a local business. And by that I mean a brick and mortar shop. Do you have any thoughts or tips on someone who is running a shop where they’re probably seen a decrease in foot traffic right now?
DM: I think if they’re still service-based they can probably have the same kind of process like, make sure somebody else can cover you, make sure everybody knows everything. Make sure you’re communicating. If I’m coming to you as a physio for example, I want to know, what are you doing? Are you sanitizing the table? Are you making sure I’m not in a waiting room with people? Anything like that. If you’re selling a product or it’s food or something – you know, one of my local coffee shops does something amazing. I was like, ‘Oh, where are the lids?’ And he went, ‘Oh yeah, let me put it on for you.’ He went, ‘We’re keeping everything here where I have used hand sanitizer so that you know you’re safe and nobody else is touching it.’ And it was just that one little thing that he said to me that I was like, ‘Oh, I feel completely fine coming into this coffee shop and getting coffee every day.’ So I think anything you’re doing, make sure you’re telling people. I think also if there is a way for you to start to think about how you could add an online component to bolster it. And then – this is going to be a little unpopular, I think – is there anything else you can do if for some reason you got into an Italy situation? Because in Italy it’s lockdown. The only stores that are open are pharmacies and groceries. Everything else has to be closed. So what other skill set do you have that you could maybe be building a little freelance side hustle? That could help. I think it’s a really, really tough spot to be in for the retail business.
ED: It is. Like you said, do what you can to move your service online. Be prepared with that emergency fund. Get started as soon as you can if you don’t have one. It’s been interesting since I opened up this conversation on my Instagram Stories, what people shared with me in their DMs. One lady is a teacher in Hong Kong. She says she’s not seen her students since January 18th. That’s two months. In that time she’s had to learn so much about teaching online. It’s put her in a position where that’s her only option.
DM: I think one thing people can think about is, I think when we think teach online, you think it needs to be Teachable, or it needs to be a membership, it needs to be something big. Remember that you can teach in a Facebook group, you can teach one-on-one over Zoom or Skype. I could teach you how to build the world’s most fancy spreadsheets one-on-one. So don’t let the fact that you don’t have this whole course mapped out stop you thinking about, ‘Hey, what do I know that other people don’t know?’ And I guarantee you what you think is super simple to you is super tough for other people. And if you popped up into Facebook and said to people, ‘Hey, if I was going to teach something, what would it be?’ Your friends will know what that thing is and then just say, ‘Hey, would anyone be interested in learning this?’ and take it from there. I think people will get really overwhelmed like, Oh, I need to create this whole thing. It can just be one on one small group, Facebook group, whatever you need to use.
As much as we don’t want our clients to retreat from us and to stop spending, you also want to think about, ‘How can I still support other people? Can I share a friend’s product? Can I share a friend’s post? Can I buy something small from them?’ You know, to keep that economy flowing because then they can spend a bit of money to someone else. And that’s how we all keep going as a little mini-economy. If everybody goes, ‘Oh, I’m not going to spend,’ that’s when everything shuts down.
ED: When it comes to Coronavirus and business, are people buying normally?
DM: The only thing I would say about that one is to check your adverts. If you’re running Facebook ads and you’ve got some funny thing that’s maybe not so funny anymore, think about that. The same kind of tone deaf vibe, go check your content, but also go, just go check your ads.
ED: I agree. I think we’re beyond the point of ignoring this and we do need to make sure the sensitivity is there in our content.
How Can Business Adapt to Social Distancing During Coronavirus?
ED: We’re talking about this concept of social distancing because that’s what’s being recommended as the best way to, not even contain this virus, but just mitigate its growth. So are there ways that businesses online or local, can really adapt to this social distancing recommendation? Any ways that come to mind for you?
DM: I think what’s scary or uncomfortable for people is this idea of, ‘I might be at home on my own talking to the walls for two weeks.’ I think for me that side of it is actually less scary because I’m actively looking at who I’m friends with around the world and I’m watching their Instagram and commenting and chatting to them in the DMs. I have regular friends who I co-work with, so we just get on Zoom and we do a few Pomodoros together so it doesn’t feel like you’re completely alone. I think really actively engaging in that will help mitigate this feeling of isolation when you’re in isolation. And I think especially as a business owner, if other people in your family aren’t business owners, they aren’t really getting what you’re going through. They’re just feeling ill; you’re feeling ill and freaked out and stressed. So having those biz besties that you can call on. I have some really good online friends who I’ve never met in real life, but we will Voxer backwards and forwards. We will WhatsApp backwards and forwards. You know, it’s almost like we have to actively build our digital friend group and you can use this with your personal friends as well, right? We have video chat, we have so many resources now that can help you stay connected without having to physically be in the space with people. And also the activities that you wanted to do. My trainer is talking about having like a virtual program so we can all Zoom in and still work out together, you know? So I think people are really open to this idea. You just have to actively push for it.
ED: I’ve even been thinking, what’s my gym going to do? It’s the F45 chain. There’s no touching. You don’t high five people. How long can that be okay until there’s a point where they actually just have to move their classes online? That might sound extreme to someone who owns a local business, but I think now is the time to buy the webcam, upgrade your internet if you can, and start testing those abilities that you have to continue your business as is. I read a really interesting article this morning titled, “Coronavirus is a Preview of Our Self-Isolating Future.” Diane and I, we have worked from home for years. I have done this since 2014. It’s so normal. It’s actually harder for me to be in big public spaces now because we’re used to this, good or bad. It’s just the truth. And I think where we can step up is by helping people with what we know to work by working from home, if that makes sense. So many companies have now enforced a work from home policy. So many employees have never worked from home before. They do not know what that means for their lifestyle, for their equipment at home, for their set up, their productivity. So where I see you and I being able to help is in talking to business owners about their marketing and also talking to people about the realities of working from home. How can we share what we’ve learned over the years to help people stay productive and also positive and not feel alone. Especially when they’re used to working in a coworker environment and now they’re home.
DM: You can help the local businesses as an online business. You are more prepared for this. You’ve done this, you’ve worked from home, you’ve thought this through. Ask your gym, ‘What will you do when we go into isolation?’ That’s what I did with my trainer this morning. I was like, ‘Tell me what’s going to happen at each of these stages.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, we’re making a plan.’ And I went back and they told me again like, ‘Okay, now what’s the plan?’ I think us encouraging them to think about it just makes everything stronger for everyone because think how much you help them if they’ve got two weeks notice on figuring out how to get online, versus as a last resort.
Stay Connected While Self-Isolating During Coronavirus
ED: My boyfriend and I are entering a phase right now where we’re preparing for a level of self-isolation. We’ve stocked up on food, we’ve stocked up on medicine, we were out last night and it’s already starting to feel a little bit like a ghost town in Toronto, one of the largest North American cities. I think that’s what we’re headed for, for the next week, maybe couple of weeks. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to actually feel that way. People might feel the heaviness of being isolated. But the good news is we have tools to continue to stay connected.
DM: Totally. And if anybody’s watching [Instagram Live] and they’re like, ‘Oh, I have something really specific about my kind of weird, unique business,’ please feel free to jump into my DMs. I can talk about this topic for hours. So no one would be bothering me. I’m happy to look at a specific business with you or just help you with ideas of what to get online. Just feel free to shout it out.
ED: Thank you so much. Your handle is @Diane_Mayor. Are there any last thoughts that you have? Maybe one thing that you think small business owners should be doing right now in this moment?
DM: It’s today. What can you prepare today? And then tomorrow, what can you prepare tomorrow? This is not like a Monday thing or a Wednesday thing or two weeks from Tuesday thing. This is like, what am I doing today and how can I prep something? Just prep one thing today. Just start. ‘Cause I think that’s the hardest thing is to acknowledge that you might have to do this. And then I think my overall rule of thumb still stands, which is be a human.