In the stages of grief we are experiencing from the coronavirus crisis, we’ve moved past denial. We’re now keenly aware of how real this pandemic is, and that it will continue to impact every one of us long-term. We’ve (hopefully) worked through our anger and depression, although I think there will continue to be challenging emotions for a while. So if we can agree that we’re ready to accept what’s happening and try to move forward, we’ll be better off.
When I deal with hard times, I always look for lessons I can take away. Otherwise, what good can come from bad? I asked a few entrepreneurs what lessons they and their clients were learning in the midst of all the chaos.
Plans change—keep moving
Kimberly Crossland, owner/operator of The Focus-Driven Biz, says she had a plan for her business all figured out—ha!
Like so many entrepreneurs, Crossland found that she’d been in hustle mode before the coronavirus hit and hadn’t been putting her ear to the ground to listen to what her customers truly wanted. She says, “By taking a step back to silence my hustle mentality with this pandemic, I was able to hear my audience’s needs better, get in touch with what customers truly wanted, and adjust my offerings to meet them where they’re at.”
Always save for a rainy day
We all know in theory that we should have an emergency fund, but so many small businesses were taken by surprise during the pandemic. Andrew Schrage, CEO of MoneyCrashers, says, “One all-too-painful lesson that millions of small business owners have rather abruptly learned is that it always pays to save for a rainy day. Building a liquid emergency fund on an irregular cash flow is not easy, but the sudden credit freeze we saw in March made it abundantly clear that business lines of credit aren’t guaranteed to be there when you need them.”
He says that many business owners have now seen up close the limitations of fintech lenders—and the federal government—attempting to operate at scale. As a result, thousands of such businesses didn’t receive the funds they desperately needed and were forced to lay off employees. Lacking access to working capital, many businesses suspended operations altogether; some won’t ever reopen, Schrage says.
“If there’s a silver lining to this crisis, it’s that the business community is rapidly absorbing information that will leave the pandemic’s economic survivors stronger and better prepared for future crises,” he says.
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Constant communication is key
Ivana Taylor, small business influencer and publisher of DIYMarketers, says the pandemic has taught her how critical it is to be able to be in immediate communication with your customers through your website, email, Facebook, and Google My Business profiles.
“When businesses started shutting down and changing their hours or ways of doing business, not only were many unprepared with a crisis communications plan that was clear about what businesses were going to do and how they were going to service customers, but everyone was trying to figure out the technology behind all of these communications channels,” she says. “Then came the challenge of shifting their ways of doing business, sometimes making changes to products, services, pricing, and so on. This has been a huge wake-up call.”
Taylor has clients who went from generating $30,000 per week to earning zero, all because they were relying on a single (previously successful) marketing strategy that wasn’t feasible during a healthcare crisis. This is a prime example of the importance of not putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to your business strategy.
Provide situation-specific advice to your audience
Of course, we didn’t know in March how big or how long this coronavirus thing would be. Adam LoDolce, founder of Sexy Confidence, a dating and relationship resource for women, already knew the importance of community, since his business is built around one.
But LoDolce says he wishes he’d created more content related to dating during a pandemic, because his audience has craved it. “I would have provided more advice for women specifically on how to date with distance. We only just released a training course on how to do this, and it’s a little late,” he says.
He also wishes he had been more available on social media during the early days, answering questions and guiding women on how to handle being in quarantine while trying to date.
Flexibility isn’t optional
Another lesson Schrage says that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of flexibility. Many businesses, he says, learned this valuable lesson prior to businesses having no choice but to work from home.
“When the pandemic hit, countless service businesses scrambled to find ways to ensure their employees could operate safely, securely, and productively from home,” Schrage explains. “With much of the white-collar workforce likely to work remotely for the foreseeable future, businesses that had already made the switch to all or mostly remote—or could do so easily because they’d already laid the groundwork for such a switch—operate from a position of collective strength.”
Hearing lessons like these helps, doesn’t it? They serve as a reminder that COVID-19 took us all unaware and we’re doing our best to move into what comes next.
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