How are small business owners adapting during COVID-19?
Some are just surviving while others are setting themselves up to truly thrive.
Those who are able to be resilient, adapt, and even reinvent their companies are the ones who are going to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic era.
Small business expert Barry Moltz is a pro at helping companies get unstuck. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to understand why his unique perspective provides inspiration for leaders across industries.
Barry recently interviewed 10 small business owners to talk through how they have reimagined their companies during COVID-19.
You’ll have to watch the full clips to score all of the actionable advice packed into each video. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite moments and takeaways from Barry’s interviews with imaginative leaders:
1. Rohit Barghava, Founder & Chief Trend Curator of Non-Obvious Company
“When things change this quickly or this much, there’s a temptation to either panic or wait it out. I don’t think either one of those works for a small business, because when you panic you do dumb things, like, for example, you take what you used to sell and randomly discount it hoping people will buy it because it’s cheaper and you make less money or maybe no money. And waiting it out doesn’t work either because who knows how long this is going to be and when it comes back it’s not going to be the same as it was before for any industry.”
2. Genevieve Thiers, Founder of Sittercity & Co-Producer and Tech Trainer of RUN the Series
“The three industries I’m in have gotten pummeled the most…I’m a live performer (opera and theater), I’m a political activist (we run rallies), and I run a lot of conferences lately…We could be looking at realistic graphics within the year for an Oculus Rift experience…You can at least get a graphic experience in there that might be more exciting. Do I think we’ll be doing meetings and shows in Rift soon? Absolutely.”
3. Scott Case, CEO of Upside Business Travel
“I think the trick for founders and owners of small businesses is to step back and do a couple of things. Look at your core values. Why did you get into this business in the first place? Who are your customers and who are you trying to serve? Are those things still true or will they be true in the future? If they’re not, you really have to make a hard pivot. If they are, now you have to say ‘how do those values and problems apply in the new reality?’”
“And for those that are winning in this reality, there’s a trap. The trap is that right now is pandemic time, and what’s working now may not work again, so you may be in trouble in the future if you don’t make sure you build a bridge to not just take advantage of what’s going on now but do you really have a sustainable business if the patterns we see today of being trapped at home don’t happen anymore or they move to a new state. You’re winning now, but the question is how to make sure you win for the long-haul.”
4. Sonat Birnecker Hart, President of Koval Distillery
“I think it’s valuable that it’s not just Koval doing this. There are distilleries all across the United States that are shifting their businesses to be able to do this to help their communities.”
“The intention is that we will continue making [hand sanitizer]. I mean, the ability to make it 100% for free for people indefinitely is not going to happen. We need to keep the lights on, so we’re going to start charging for it at some point. We started a GoFundMe page so we can provide this for free for first responders, and we’ve actually received $50,000 from people all over the world…A lot of people have come together to help us do this. I don’t think we could really do this alone. We’ve even had bottle companies offer to donate some bottles. We’ve had so many people offer to help with delivering free product. I mean, my best friend who works for an elevator company, KONE, donated their truck and his time to help us deliver it out to the fire department and hospitals. We’re seeing all of Chicago come together for this. Even the Chicago Tourism Board (Choose Chicago) offered to help us with delivering product around. We even have a medical delivery service, MedSpeed, that is offering to deliver to all of their medical places that they go to normally and to make sure that they have some hand sanitizer, as well.”
5. Tony Drockton, Founder and Chief Cheerleader of Hammitt
“In our 12-year history, we always balanced brand integrity, product integrity, and price integrity anyways, so that helped when this hit. We’ve got a lot of trust with our partners on how we do business, so when Corona hit, we decided to maintain those three integrities and find new ways to connect.”
“Even though the specialty stores were closed, we knew they could sell through email, they could sell through social, so we’ve given them more and more tools—imagery, videos, virtual trunk shows. Our major department stores, we knew they were going back up, so we negotiated and worked out, so they can take all their purchase orders which they’ve done even on a delay, adjust the forward orders versus canceling them, so we’ve kept new product being made from our suppliers and manufacturers to keep their channel full which they need to stay in business and kill it for the rest of the year.”
“Then we also focused on that direct relationship with all the things I mentioned. It’s a pivot, but it’s a short term change that we had to do which will now become a permanent change since everything seems to be working.”
6. Haley Capri, Owner of Blush Boutique
“Try to look at your business model and simplify it. Cut out maybe the extras that aren’t necessary, whatever that looks like to you…Try to have those reserves if you can as you always hear to have 3 months’ reserves, which is not always easy to do. Try to re-look at your business model, see what’s going in and what’s going out, where you can make better, sharper, tighter decisions on money going out.”
“This big pause that we’ve all been put on has brought this big magnifying glass of the money that goes in and out. We see it in our personal life and our business, so maybe if we can take that and take time with that to regroup and recenter.”
7. Andy Beck, Owner and CEO of Viper Imaging
“We had been around long enough to know [thermal imaging] had been used for that in the past. Well, we have all the structures in place to measure things that are usually like 1,000 degrees, but we can also measure things that are 98.6 degrees. It was a little bit of an easy transition in terms of how technology goes, but it was a much larger pivot as far as any type of marketing and manufacturing.”
“I think the biggest thing for us was depending on our staff that we have here and depending on where we came from. That’s the thing you have to leverage, the strengths you have. We were able to look back and see what we know how to do, how this fits into the current situation we find ourselves in, and we’ve operated our business that way. We’ve been opportunistic on a lot of things. It was very good to be small…We were using what we had known in the past, what our team here at Viper can do, and leverage that.”
8. Wendy Piersall, CEO & Editor in Chief of Woo! Jr. Kids Activities
“You have to diversify your income. I truly believe that every business should have and can have some sort of passive income. Restaurants can have subscription models. There’s lots of ways a business can produce passive income, and I think that those are ridiculously important now more than ever before. But, the diversifying income part is critically important because you never know what part of your business is going to fall off, and then my other little bit of advice is that you can always find if you have diversified income sources what little part is working and scale that.”
9. Michael Forgus (Manager Partner) and Jerin Dunham (COO, Partner) of Funky’s Catering
“It’s a cumulative effort between our managers, Michael, myself all sitting around and recognizing ‘what are the current guidelines that are available to restaurants in the state of Ohio?’ We considered ourselves more falling within those guidelines because the venues that we have have full working kitchens, full dishwashers with high temp boosters on them, and being able to reconfigure our floor plan to be able to follow the restaurant guidelines. That’s the genesis of where the Funky’s Restart Program started from, and then as more adjustments were made by the state of Ohio opening back up, we kept adjusting and updating it. We looked at it as ‘we’re following all the guidelines that they’re setting for restaurants, we look at ourselves as a restaurant, so we’re going to design and put the backbone of this restart based on that program.’”
10. Sean Riley, Chief Executive Dude/President of DUDE Products
“The business right now is in a fortunate position that we sell a product that people are looking for, so especially as toilet paper ran out, flushable wipes and, in particular, Dude wipes were the only stuff you could get on the shelves. It’s been great to help out in that aspect. We’ve been trying to evolve as quickly as we can to get people more of our products as toilet paper and flushable products are in higher demand. As Amazon and the stores ran out right when the pandemic hit and panic buying hit, we made a pivot to sell more on our website, so having a direct-to-consumer relationship during a time like this is really crucial. We were able to ship wipes out to people within 24 hours…Having that direct-to-consumer has allowed us to get in touch with people and get them product quickly.”
Heard other stories about how leaders and businesses are pivoting products or strategies during these pandemic times? We’d love to hear—comment or tag us on social media to share!