Although the San Fernando Valley area has been spared from some of the most devastating disasters of the past, we will not escape dramatic effects of COVID-19.

It is official. As a business owner or manager, this pandemic affects your business and your employees. How we respond will have lasting consequences that will inform us and the world of who we are. Winston Churchill remarked, “In every age there comes a time when a leader must come forward to meet the needs of the hour. Therefore, there is no potential leader who does not have an opportunity to make a positive difference in society. Tragically, there are times when a leader does not rise to the hour.”

To make the most positive difference at this time, business leaders put employees first and provide excellent service to our clients and customers. There is no time to develop our character. The spotlight is on us and our character is on display for all to see – especially to our employees. Imagine what they are going through.

Most employees do not have significant savings and are genuinely worried about being able to care for themselves and their families. Never mind that they could become ill. You, as owner or manager, are the only real leader in their lives. Be genuinely concerned about their health. Reassure them that you will exploit every opportunity to keep them employed. Provide them with the tools to work remotely. That is what they want from you. The Walt Disney Co., one of the Valley’s largest employers, paid its nonunion staff through April 18 even though they shut down their theme parks. Even after that date, they continued to pay the full costs of health insurance.

I am distressed by how many of my fellow business owners have become frozen or have even given up. I read daily how businesses are laying off valued employees, closing locations and “waiting it out.” Some Valley area companies sought legal advice so they could limit their damage if employees sued them for exposure to the coronavirus.

As president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, I have been begging law firm owners not to panic and fire or furlough their employees. The legal business will return, even if the courts are closed, and there is plenty of government help to tide us over. Now is the time to provide excellent services to our community regardless of your area of practice or business. I would like to share some excerpts of a letter I recently wrote to my team:

Let me give you the good news! We are all going to get through this so do not let fear and panic take over. Although this crisis is unique, crisis still happens with some regularity.  You need to keep your heads even though others are losing theirs! If any of you need anything for you or your family, please contact me directly.

Let me give you some more good news – I will not abandon you during this crisis. Your jobs are solid and we are still in business. I have been taking steps to keep you secure in the coming months …

I was inspired to write to you because I read an online post from a very good and well-established lawyer that I know. In sum, she said that she is “freaking out,” and has let most of her employees go. I believe this is crazy for two reasons: 1.) Who is going to do the work now and when things recover?; 2.) She is seeing doom and gloom instead of an opportunity.

“Opportunity?” you ask? Yes. Could you imagine if our firm did estate plans right now? Every single person I know would want a will, a trust and a medical directive in case someone got sick. We could sell a million of these… So – I ask you – who is going to do all that work and make all that money? The answer is the law firms that stayed cool and stuck with their teams!

To “carry on,” all I ask is that you keep up your regular work schedules, spoil our clients with care and try to solve as many problems as you can. We will get through this together.

To my fellow Valley businesses, this is our defining moment. Do not panic or give up. Reassure your employees and find opportunities to serve your clients and customers in this time of need – that is why we own and manage businesses in the Valley area.

Barry P. Goldberg heads his personal injury law firm in Woodland Hills and is president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association.