Lifestyle

Life amid crisis: How small business owners can adapt

Written by

Dani Flynn

Posted

July 31, 2020

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, humanity is left clambering to adapt. No one is exempt.

Our hearts go out to those directly impacted by the virus – especially its victims and their loved ones. And we tip our hats with gratitude to the essential workers on the front lines fighting to understand and contain this global pandemic.

Here in America, there’s another group also bearing the brunt of COVID-19. They’re the unsung heroes of the US economy. The lifeblood of our communities. They are small business owners.

A recent LendingTree analysis shows that between 24% and 40% of the nation’s largest 50 metro areas are in danger of having to shut down soon if business doesn’t return to normal. Since April, the percentage of small businesses saying their cash reserves could last more than three months rose from 16.7% to 27.4%

In the wake of lockdowns and quarantines (and talk of an impending second wave), business owners across the nation are left with one thing to do: master the pivot. Those who are successfully riding the COVID storm share their tips with fellow entrepreneurs:

Adapt and give back

Restaurant owners and their staff are taking a major hit from COVID. Adjustments are needed to keep business afloat. Now, many restaurants offer limited menus, curbside pickup and expanded delivery options. Cleaning protocols are enhanced, masks and gloves are mandatory, and outdoor patio spaces are being expanded.

Even with these changes, though, business is still impacted.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many restaurants – although open for modified business – saw a significant reduction in guests, which ultimately affected their bottom line and left them with extra food.

That was the experience of restaurant owner Wes Choplin. He saw this shift in his business as a chance to help others.

“I don’t want to be in business if I can’t help someone out along the way. We saw this turn of events as an opportunity to give back. Grocery stores were being depleted, and many healthcare workers and other essentials needed food. So, we reached out to our community and found local families in need and donated meals to them. And it came back full circle – our customers have kept us going and keep us optimistic about the future.”

While restaurants slowed down, others in the industry were unexpectedly busy. Sam and Catherine Buttine opened a small butchery late February with the goal of a soft opening and gradual growth. Within a month, though, they had to pivot and pivot fast!

Their small family business was suddenly booming. Local stay at home orders meant more people eating at home, and they had the meats! The increased demand shortened their new business learning curve and socialized their butchery faster than they imagined.

With close ties to the restaurant industry, they were able to hire furloughed chefs and servers in need of work and leaned into them to support their growth. Their advice to new business owners:

“Be nimble. If your business is going to survive, you have to be ready for the best and worst of times. When you’re thriving, look for ways to bring others along with you. When business is slow, look for creative ways to ride the storm.”

Put the pivot in the process

The live events and entertainment industry are arguably one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic.

Gone are the days of packed arenas and stadiums, and wedding celebrations that expand beyond immediate family are a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

What’s an event planner, photographer, performer, etc. to do? Pivot.

Event planner and business coach Jon’ll Boyd is no stranger to change. After leaving a successful career in sales and marketing, she took a leap and used her corporate skills to launch a small wedding planning business that grew into a sought-after event planning and design firm in the DC Metro area and beyond.

While growing her business, she launched an education platform to help new and aspiring event planners lay the business foundation for their success.

Along the way, Jon’ll noticed the lack of an online presence in the event planning field, and so she began to offer a virtual event alternative to her corporate clients. That adjustment has led to her company undergoing a full rebrand that includes a plethora of full scale digital and marketing business services, among other things. All of it’s helped her maintain and expand her brand amid crisis. Her advice to others:

“Build room to pivot within your processes. Don’t consider change as a necessary evil. Adapting should be part of your business model. And don’t be afraid to try something new. If you feel drawn to something, try it! No matter what others may say, or the path they take, take a leap of faith and follow your dreams. You may find that the unpaved path is the key to sustaining your business through life’s changes”.

COVID-19 or not, change is inevitable. The wise entrepreneur plans for the pivot long-term and looks for ways to bring others along for the ride.