The Creativity Of Entrepreneurs Is A Bright Spot In A Crisis
The business world is always full of curveballs. A rent increase, a regulatory change or a change in consumer demand all pose challenges even in the best of times. Smart business owners plan ahead to be able to handle the unexpected. Still, few of us could have anticipated the speed and magnitude of the changes to economic life caused by COVID-19.
And yet, many entrepreneurs have found ways to keep their businesses and their employees afloat even though the doors of bricks-and-mortar shops are mostly closed. The creativity and innovation of these business owners provide a welcome dose of inspiration and hope.
You don’t have to look far to find a business in your community that is giving back or stepping up in new ways during stay-at-home orders. And for marketers and business owners, there are ways to apply these forward-thinking approaches to shift your own business mindset during this time.
Finding Creative Ways To Continue Operations
The first job for businesses that can’t be open to the public right now is to find ways to stay in business for the weeks or months that they’ll need to keep their doors closed.
There are wonderful examples of this all across the country. For instance, I recently heard about a cycling studio in Georgia that had to close up shop, and the owner decided to rent out some of the studio’s stationary bikes and delivered them to clients’ homes. Many restaurants now offer curbside pickup, delivery and gift cards. But others have expanded beyond those options by offering cook-at-home meals and items from their stock, including bread and, of course, toilet paper. And a Seattle business that takes photo booths to events had to completely switch gears when all its events were canceled. To avoid layoffs, the team decided to create mail-order gift boxes filled with items from local businesses around the city.
If your business has been thrown off course or shuttered completely, consider it an opportunity as well as a liability. The most difficult circumstances can foster thinking outside the box. The ideas you generate now could change the course of your business in ways you never imagined.
Here are some principles to help you keep your business going.
• Get creative. Brainstorm ideas for reorienting your business model. The only rule is that you aren’t allowed to say no to a good idea. You can refine your strategy later.
• Draw on your passion. Your passion for your business is what got you started in the first place. Draw on that energy to drive your work in new directions.
• Get online. Your customers want a way to support your shop, even if it’s closed. A small online store with a few items can give you some revenue. If you’re having trouble with the technical details, reach out to those in your network to find help.
• Ask how you can be of service. The cycle studio owner who rented his bikes out wasn’t just bringing in extra money. He was also helping his clients stay fit while they stayed at home. How can you help your customers experience the things they love about your business?
Pivoting To Service
You don’t have to be chef José Andrés to make a difference with your business. Many small businesses have reoriented their business models to serve their communities in a time of crisis.
For example, an ad agency in Virginia did some quick branding and created a website to connect the community with some of the many local eateries that were forced to close. The website helps people buy gift cards, order food or make donations. An electric scooter company in Arizona donated 10 of its delivery e-bikes to help out local restaurants quickly start delivery services. An Oklahoma distillery raised money through a crowdfunding platform to switch its production to hand sanitizer. And an ice cream company partnered with other local businesses to turn its Los Angeles-based food truck into a rolling corner store called LA Bodega on Wheels.
Finding ways to be of service can make it easier to get through this challenging time. Business owners have more resources than most to bring to the task. The first question to ask yourself is how you can contribute. Can your products or services help out someone in need? Be wary of projects that seem primarily intended to highlight your business. You’ll get more and better goodwill (and press coverage) when you find a way to genuinely fill a need in your community.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other stories like these throughout the U.S. If you look around, there are probably several in your community. While not every business is able to quickly shift gears, those that do remind us of what gives our economy its strength: the ingenuity and the resilience of small business owners and entrepreneurs.
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