How can businesses, especially small ones survive in a world that has been turned upside down in just a few weeks? We are faced with daily news that instills fear and creates uncertainty; this is an unprecedented time. People are hoarding toilet paper, of all things, and although the hundreds of social media posts and funny memes make light of that situation, it is also a reminder of how fearful and irrational many people have become.
Just over a week ago while in Costa Rica, we were hearing stories of how unusual and crazy things were quickly becoming back home. On our last night there we were visiting with a few local Manuel Antonio friends, two own fishing tour companies, one a restaurant and another is a private chef. Although the virus and hysteria surrounding it had yet to reach that area, our friends were already feeling the effects of the situation as much of the rest of the world was reacting. Most, if not all, of their fishing trips, had canceled, the private chef who normally cooks for several private homes and resort villas in the area had gone from no days off to zero scheduled meals, and the restaurant and hotel business was quickly slowing. The global economic impact had already reached this small area of the world and our friends were faced with real fears that they may not stay in business if the world stops leisurely living. I remember hugging our friends goodbye that night and feeling a sense of fear for not only their livelihood, but for what we were heading home to. At the time we had no idea how quickly it would escalate to where we are now.
Over the past week, while in self-quarantine, we have watched as schools and businesses have been forced to close, restaurants moving to take out and delivery only, and now to our entire community being told we must stay home, only leaving for absolute necessities. This is a new and very scary time for everyone. So how can we be proactive, how can we make sure that this doesn’t completely shut down so many of our local businesses, how do we survive this and come out on the other side still in business and possibly even in a better place?
Small businesses have a choice, they can choose to throw their hands up and give up, let fear and uncertainty consume them or they can dig in, use the entrepreneurial creativity and resourcefulness that led them to be small business owners in the first place.
**I want to pause here and say I am not making light of this situation, I want to wholeheartedly acknowledge that this is not an easy time for anyone, there is little to no support or precedents for what we are going through. Businesses are faced with some hard decisions and will certainly feel the sting of this for a long time. It is heartbreaking and scary, but we will all come through this.
So, what do you choose? How will you use this time to sustain your dream, your business, your goals? Can you see past this and look to the future, if so, how does that look?
Right now, for the first time ever, many of your competitors are slowing down their marketing and engagement, some are temporarily or maybe even permanently closing. This is a unique opportunity to earn the respect and trust of your competitor’s customers. I am not saying kick them while they are down, because we are all down. I am saying stay engaged, continue to promote your business, come up with unique ways to stay relevant and prominent. Now more than ever is the time to find your inner ingenuity.
· Ingenuity: the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful
I have seen several friends and local businesses finding unique ways to stay engaged with their customers, followers, and friends. Most of the people I have seen doing this are not looking for a profit at this very moment, but they are continuing their passions while also staying in touch with their loyal customers/supporters and also gaining the interest and loyalty of new potential customers.
Several of the musicians that for years played live at my restaurant are now hosting “live” Facebook concerts. With the use of Apple TV, we spent a good part of our Friday night last weekend switching between three different musicians who were hosting Facebook live concerts and taking requests while engaging and responding live to comments. It was really cool and a great example of social media at it’s best. We shared on our Facebook feeds and it was fun to see friends jump on and watch with us and also share.
These same musicians and many others are offering virtual music lessons and group zoom events.
Many personal trainers are posting free workouts and healthy recipes. I have a friend who shares success stories, workout videos and healthy recipes every day with her followers. She is inspiring people to stay healthy at a time when gyms are closed, and we are all likely sitting around a lot more than we are used to. You can follow her on Instagram @g_alexanderpt I have also seen companies that usually charge for training programs offering free trials right now. Looking to change up my routine I signed up for one today. This is a great way to offer people something free during a time of economic uncertainty, but it’s also a fantastic way to gain new long term customers, especially if the program you offer is too good to give up when the trial ends.
I have seen hairstylist and beauty technicians staying connected with fun tutorials or offering to deliver products
As a previous restaurant owner, watching my local restaurant industry friends close their doors has been very sad. I have tried to follow and share anything they are promoting; this is very close to my heart and I know is one of the industries that has been and will be hit the hardest. I have been beyond impressed by how they are reacting and not only supporting each other but also the community. In addition to their regular takeout menus, so many have offered packages that include hard to find or high demand items. When several of your local restaurants are selling you bread, steak, eggs, a gallon of milk, etc., alongside a roll or two of toilet paper, you know we are living in a unique and ingenious world.
Some local chefs are using the extra time on their hands by creating online cooking classes and sharing inspirational food pics and recipes.
I have seen local farms and purveyors who typically only sell to restaurants now offering delivery to individual consumers. And today I saw a local restaurant, Heritage Farms, in our area was moving away from their usual menu and switching over their restaurant to a fresh market, offering fresh meats, baked items, etc.
I have also seen restaurants using their resources and extra time to operate kitchens for the greater good of the community and those most in need. A local Dallas restaurant, Pecan Lodge, announced over the weekend that they would, through their non-profit, Dinner Bell Dallas, “provide low cost, high-quality meals to individuals and families in need as well as healthcare workers and first responders in our community on the front lines battling the Covid-19 pandemic."
I absolutely loved hearing this story and the quote at the end of their press release is a perfect example of how small businesses can choose to stay strong during this extremely hard time.
“As a small business owner with literally everything on the line right now, we understand the fear. It is real. And it’s going to get worse but we’re going to get through it y’all. This isn’t the time to throw in the towel. The battle just got started.”
This is just one of many heartwarming stories I have read over the past week. The service industry is truly unique and like one big family, it has been incredible to watch as they come together in support of each other, their customers and the community. I plan to support local restaurants and much as I can, and I hope you will too. Today March 24th is officially, The Great American Takeout, help restaurants today and over the next few difficult weeks by ordering takeout! #thegreatamericantakeout
Delivery services are waiving fees, grocery stores are adding extra hours for elderly, local charities are working together to provide meals for those most in need and people are showing up in more ways than ever to help.
Every industry is affected in one way or another right now, finding ways to help each other while also staying connected with your customers and community will not only gain their trust and loyalty now but when we come out on the other side of this (and we will), small businesses that stayed engaged and diligent will be top of mind and will come out ahead of those that rolled over and fell silent and who will most likely find themselves starting all over again; if they even can. As we are forced to stay home, we only have a few options to keep us busy so after extra chores, projects, puzzles, games, and hours of binging on Netflix, most of us find ourselves online and on our social media sites. Why not meet us there, engage with us, let us know what you’re up to, show your humanity and gain our loyalty while also promoting your business?
This is an unimaginable time that none of us prepared for or could have ever predicted, but now is the time to stay strong, work together, have faith, and use this as a creative opportunity to grow in more ways than you could ever have imagined before.
I am compiling a list of local businesses that have altered their business plan for the moment but are still engaging and offering consumers something of interest or value. This started out as a way to help local restaurants share what they are doing right now, but I am happy to promote and share any local small business. Send me a message if I can help you and also look for my list coming soon. Stay healthy, safe, practice #socialdistance and we will all get through this together.