By Jennifer Kovach
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the type of industry you are in and the location of your business determines whether you are thriving, just surviving or, in some cases, whether it is time to make that difficult decision to close. While South Florida is among the areas hardest hit by the pandemic, I have been inspired by the creativity and drive exhibited by many of our local entrepreneurs to keep things going. When the economic effects of the coronavirus became apparent, South Florida small business owners who participated in the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s programs gathered virtually to discuss how to respond, what is working for them and how to pivot to turn challenges into opportunities. The following insights—gathered from nearly 100 local business owners—can benefit every company and its employees.
The spirit of entrepreneurs
Throughout my interactions with small business owners, I have found there remains an overall determination to persevere. Afterall, entrepreneurs by nature are driven to succeed and find creative ways to produce a product or service that consumers want or need.
Even if you are still at home, find ways to be productive and strategically think about how you can utilize your strengths. It may require pivoting your current business plan to serve other markets. For example, a small company that makes window treatments may be able to use its inventory to make surgical masks and gowns or your company could use its fleet of vehicles to transport someone’s products.
We’re all in this together
Being a CEO can be lonely, but understand you are not alone, and no one could have predicted the current situation. We are all in this together, regardless of business sector. Reach out to company owners and managers you respect for the answers you are seeking, and, at the same time, provide advice when you are asked.
Hustle: Follow the money
You may have already applied for PPP funds. Other ideas: Is it possible for you to defer payments to any of your creditors? Also, ask yourself if you have clients who owe you money? Don’t be shy to reach out and ask for their payment. Consider offering a discount for customers to buy a gift card now to make purchases from you later.
Keep in touch with customers
Many businesses have gone virtual and even those open could find benefit from a better online presence. Find creative ways to keep that “open” sign on the door. For instance, many real estate agents are using virtual tours to show properties. Stay on top of customers’ minds by regularly posting news on your website and social media. Update your email list and send alerts. Describe how you are operating: limited hours, online or by appointment. Describe the steps you are taking to ensure your business is minimizing exposure to infection.
Ask customers how you can help them. Contact past clients to see how they are doing. Reach out to leads you declined earlier and accept their business. The economic downturn caused by the virus s is creating opportunity. Think about how you can turn a customer into a business partner.
Giving to others
Forbes recently shared 50 ways companies are giving back during this pandemic. If you are in the position to do so, consider giving back as well. Good deeds performed now will be remembered by your customers and clients later. Consider ways you can provide in-kind support to others, including your own staff members. Your employees may have children out of school or elderly relatives who require assistance. Be flexible with their work hours or split shifts to accommodate schedules when you can.
Planning for the future and staying positive
Most business owners I have spoken with are staying positive. This includes reviewing marketing plans. Things are hard, but try to find the positive in each situation. Use downtime to work on other projects and get organized.
Even harder: take time off. Talk to people you think about, but never seem to have time to call. Those conversations will relieve some of your loneliness. Let those people know you care, which could be the greatest gift you can give in these difficult times.
Jennifer Kovach is the director of South Florida Operations at the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, part of Florida State University’s College of Business. The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship cultivates, trains and inspires entrepreneurial leaders through world-class executive education, applied training, public recognition and leading-edge research. For more information, visit JimMoranInstitute.fsu.edu