Rediscovering normal, resolutely

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The mayor said it; the president said it; and when CNN asked the person on the street, she said it, too. America needs to get back to normal, and New York needs to get back to business. Perhaps the media business in New York has not commanded the same scrutiny as the stock market but we are a quintessential New York business. Getting back to normal (as well as figuring out what "normal" means) is easier said than done.

Obviously, our company is blessed in many ways: Every one of our 50 employees was safe, as was everyone's immediate family. Our workplace is intact, albeit with minor inconveniences. I am sure it is firms such as ours that the mayor has in mind when he said New York should get back to work.

But on further reflection it is not so easy as it seems. To start with, it is not the easiest thing to focus on the work at hand. Several of us have friends, close and distant, who are missing. I was at a memorial service Sept. 17. I fear it is not the last one I will go to. This, too, exacts an emotional toll. Lack of sleep and general nervousness about safety affects many, even people who did not lose anyone they knew. Distraction with these matters is natural and does not help us do a job that is not an easy one in the first place.

Our phone service has been spotty (no one is blaming anyone for this). There are ways to deal with it, but without the phones ringing our office can seem so eerily quiet that even this relatively small inconvenience does not make getting "back to normal" any easier. Likewise, almost everyone's commute to work has been affected.

And now the million-dollar question: How and when and in what fashion should we go back to selling to and servicing our clientele?

Issues abound. Maybe they were affected worse than we were, and lost a loved one. Or a client's entire industry could have been impacted. At the very least, the people on the other side of the table are distracted by the tragedy in the same way we are, and not focused on moving ahead. So issues ranging from strategic business planning to just plain awkwardness make it difficult to go back to business as usual.

So, what to do? There is no perfect answer, but here is what we are doing.

First, anyone who cannot emotionally deal with work can take time off. For others, business is running on normal hours. We are making sure everyone has emergency phone numbers, knowledge of emergency exits, etc. We have sent e-mails and are calling all our business contacts, clients and partners to (1) let them know we are all right, (2) ascertain they are all right and (3) begin the process of once again talking about business.

My personal experience is people are very grateful regarding the first two points, and very straightforward about the third. In a number of cases, the human connection that was made enhanced our business relationship. I can also say that with every conversation I feel a little bit better myself, one step closer to back to normal.

So while it is not easy, I agree we have to do what we can to get back to a quasi-normal routine. The "usual" in business as usual may never be what it was, and who knows what challenges we have in front of us. But let us move forward resolutely.

Mr. Housman is CEO, Jungle Interactive, New York, publisher of MBA Jungle, JD Jungle, mbajungle.com and jdjungle.com.

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