Open Letter From the Founder of FreshBooks Regarding COVID-19

A message from Mike McDerment, CEO.

Saturday, March 21, 11:13 a.m.

Preface: I want to acknowledge that some have found this letter insensitive, especially those small business owners who are experiencing great hardship at this time. I take full responsibility for how this letter was written and apologize for offending anyone who felt this way. Please know this was not my intent and I regret any actions I would take to make you feel this way.

It may not be obvious, but I understand the feelings of uncertainty and insecurity many business owners are experiencing right now. The first years of my career were exceptionally rocky, debt-ridden and those difficult times are etched on my memory.

The intent of the message below was twofold:

  1. To acknowledge this is the reality for many at this time, and
  2. To compel those who are in a position to act, to do so in hopes of helping everyone through this time.

I have not edited the original message below. But I will be working closely with FreshBookers in the next week and beyond to add more concrete measures to help our customers, and the small business community.


I just bought a year of lunches. From a restaurant near where I work. It cost me $2,000—money I plan to spend on lunches anyhow. I know not everyone can afford this, but please let me explain why I did it.

These are challenging times.

No doubt you are concerned about your business. It would be strange if you weren’t. I want to recognize that everyone receiving this is both an owner, and a member of a local community. It is my aim to speak to both parts of you. Let’s see how it goes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing massive disruption to the health and safety of communities around the world. Above all, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and in good health.

One observation I’ve made is people everywhere are concerned for their local small businesses, and uncertain of how to help. The purpose of this email is to share a proposal for how together we can help small businesses, and update you on FreshBooks’ response amid all things COVID-19.

Now let me say, supporting local businesses in your community right now is imperative. Small businesses are the engine of economic growth. Growth fuels prosperity for all. We all want and deserve prosperity. Due to COVID-19, businesses will shut down. Some are adapting, others will be less impacted. With this backdrop, and in the face of this adversity, each of us has the power to act, but sometimes we just don’t know what to do.

So here is a proposal. It won’t fix everything. Some may laugh at how insignificant the proposal may seem on the surface. Or be annoyed that it’s “just an idea.” I would contend that at least it is taking action, however small. And that small acts can make a big impact.

My proposal is this: Pre-purchase from your local businesses.

Buy gift cards if available. Or, if you are a local business under duress, reach out to your clients and make it easy for them to purchase in advance from you today.

Why is this a good idea? Simply put, it gets cash into the hands of owners you believe in today, in the hopes they will be here tomorrow. Think of local restaurants, physical trainers or massage therapists. No clients will be visiting them for some time. Can you pre-purchase five lunches today? Or three sessions?

Again, this will not fix everything. And I am aware that many of you are experiencing such financial difficulty that you are not in a position to give. But for those of you who are, and who want to help and don’t know how, I would say, support the owners you believe in.

Cynics might say, “What if the owner just pockets the money and doesn’t honor the gift down the road?” To that I say, I believe in owners. 99.999% of owners will do the right thing. Why? Because they love their businesses, feel a duty to their customers, are concerned for their employees and respect their communities. Again, I believe in owners.

To those who might say, “my gift” won’t make a difference, I disagree. First, more than anything right now, owners need to feel your support. Knowing they matter to you is the non-monetary emotional support that will fuel their resolve to persevere. Owners are constantly concerned with serving their clients and caring for employees, and they need you now. Second, and importantly, if we take this act and spread this message far and wide, we can have an impact. What if 10 million people pre-purchased or gifted $100 to their local businesses? That’s $1 billion. That’s a very big deal, and could be the difference between survival, or not, for many businesses.

So please, if this strikes a chord, share the link to this post, or write your own—the important thing is to spread this message. You can use the hashtag #prebuylocal if you like. And more importantly, if you have the ability to pre-purchase from even one owner, please go ahead and do that. Better still, after you pre-purchase, share your act with others in hopes of inspiring them to do the same, including sharing it in the comments of this post if you like.

Beyond my act above, at FreshBooks, we are living this. We have a program that recognizes employees for living our values in an exemplary way. Any FreshBooker can recognize another, and along with recognition, the recipient gets a $25 gift card. Until this week, those gift cards were for Amazon and Best Buy. This week we shifted to make these gift cards for small local businesses within walking distance of our offices in Toronto, Raleigh, and Amsterdam. I encourage everyone to think about how you can think of the small acts you can make to help owners.

I recognize this idea and call to action will not work for every kind of business, or in every circumstance. I recognize not everyone has money to share right now. These are indeed imperfect times, but perhaps you can take the spirit of this message, find the good in it, and evolve my proposal to suit your needs or those of the people around you.

So this is a start. There is still a long road ahead. I look forward to figuring out more ways we all can work together to support the global small business community.

And with all of that, please know that more than 400 FreshBookers are standing by, ready to serve you. We weathered the 2008 financial crisis, so we have some experience with these circumstances and will be here for you throughout COVID-19, and beyond. Over the last 10 days, we have transitioned to 100% work-from-home. Like many of you, the self-isolation is hard on our team—especially those who live alone, and parents who are trying to stay productive while first tending to their most important job: Parenting.

With that, FreshBooks remains available to help as you navigate these challenging times with your business. On behalf of FreshBookers everywhere, stay safe, and stay healthy. And remember we’re here to help where we can in hopes you know that you’re not in this alone.


P.S. Beyond what’s above, should you seek connection with others in similar circumstances, please join our Facebook community page and share your experience. To kick things off, we have brought together business leaders and customers to share their experiences during this time. We encourage everyone to join and share their personal experience, in hopes you find comfort in community.

Mike McDerment

Mike McDerment

Written by Mike McDerment, Chair of the Board and Co-Founder, FreshBooks

Posted on March 20, 2020