Small business owners will remember 2020 as one of the most traumatic periods of their life. As the realization of the impact COVID 19 would have on family, business and community began to sink in, business owners who adapted quickly to conserve cash, modify operations, and find customers in new channels survived, many did not. Moreover, we saw the fragility of cash business owners had to withstand a forced closing during which the duration was highly uncertain. The fate of the 48% of American workers who worked in small businesses proved closely tied to the resilience of the small business ecosystem and the massive economic disruption caused by the pandemic. PPP and EDIL funding did not come quickly enough, and over 40% of restaurateurs did not survive the summer.
As I think about what happens after what happens next, there will always be winners, losers and “reformulators”, companies who will continue to adapt to change and survive. I believe we’re already reached a tipping point that may fundamentally change the way many business owners will operate A.C. (after COVID-19).
Larger employers utilizing video conferencing with employees working from home may find that all that office space may not be needed later and impact the commercial real estate market A.C. Restauranteurs are learning how to start a customer pickup business and the importance of mobile marketing. Local retailers are learning how to operate with reduced hours while turning selling space into warehouse space to pick orders for customers who prefer to buy online. Stores have never been cleaner, and customers are rewarding owners who consider the safety of their customers.
The good news is that small businesses can pivot much faster and are more entrepreneurial than larger ones, and owners who can figure out ways to grow their business will become even stronger A.C. Smart operators have learned to better control cash, the importance of good relationships with employees and how to better price goods and services when both are scarce. More importantly, they’ve reimagined customer relationships by showing real concern for their safety and well being while inside their establishments.
The old saying “change or die” has never been more appropriate as we move forward into the new decade. The speed of change is happening incredibly fast. More goods were sold on the Internet in the past 8 months than were sold in the previous 14 years! There will be winners, losers and “reformulators”. Which will you be?