The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of chaos. A global pandemic paralyzed the normal life we were all accustomed to and are still trying to rebound. For small business owners, it has been challenging to navigate the pandemic world of changes while still trying to meet their customers’ needs. To stay above water, business owners had to leverage around uncertainty and pivot their businesses as circumstances changed. Being proactive and adaptive has been one of the most beneficial steps a small business owner could achieve. Unfortunately for some, waiting out the pandemic before reopening their business as it was before may have been a bad decision.
Two main areas most small business owners found important during the pandemic were an online presence and accurate bookkeeping. Businesses that had an online presence were able to capitalize on this approach, even if their physical location was temporarily closed. Selling products online and informing customers about changes in business hours and other options on their website and social media helped customers make informed decisions.
The importance of maintaining accurate bookkeeping was evident to the small business owners as they started to apply for disaster assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA) this summer. Money was available for working capital and payroll to help small businesses survive until the economy leveled out. However, some business owners found that their payroll or financial statements were not up to date, which caused a delay in getting the money they desperately needed. To keep revenue coming in, some businesses had to modify the product or service they provided. This necessary pivot in their business took them in a temporary and new direction.
An excellent example of pivoting is The Lankford, a popular farm-to-table restaurant in Tifton. The owners reached out to Rob Martin, area director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Albany.
The restaurant owners remember March 13, 2020, as the last “normal” night of service. At this time, the coronavirus pandemic had begun impacting people and businesses around Georgia. The business owners pivoted their business model to provide takeout but soon realized their business did not easily adjust to the switch. They built their business and brand on the experience, presentation, and atmosphere, which was difficult to convey in a takeout model. The owners had to make the tough decision to close temporarily, and then they took time to assess damages and develop a game plan.
During the planning phase, the restaurant owners created several innovative ideas to generate revenue, including a new takeout model called Local To-Go. The owners partnered with another local business to develop “Quarantini Kits,” and opened a farmer’s market to support their producers. Not only were they using innovative new ideas, but they also used social media and found a new market for natural dog treats, which generated another temporary revenue stream.
It’s important for a small business owner to reevaluate their strategic plan and look for new markets that they can tap into until the pandemic is behind us. Regardless of creating a new service or product, strategic planning is crucial for a business owner right now. Examining current market trends and customer behavior will help guide a business to a more profitable outcome.
The UGA Small Business Development Center can help small business owners with their next steps. Along with strategic planning, our consultants may help with a variety of other business-related topics. Our confidential, no-cost consulting will help business owners make the right decisions moving forward during the uncharted waters we are faced with.