The Coronavirus has forced us all to make uneasy decisions, many of which keep small business owners up at night. From layoffs and lockdowns to building new business models or shutting their doors for good, local businesses are more adversely affected by the pandemic because of their thin profit margins and disruptions to the customer buying cycle.
Even during the best times, local businesses don’t have the firepower to keep up with their national counterparts and withstand the turbulent economic heat. And yet, those who’ve swiftly adapted––rise above.
This period has made us pause and reflect on everything that’s happened thus far, including the ups and downs and what we can take from it all.
Here are 5 lessons we’ve learned about small business resiliency and how each of us can make life better as we continue to recover from this global health crisis.
1. We’re more capable than we think
We have to hand it to small businesses and give them more credit for going through wave after wave of lockdowns, re-openings, and uncertainty as the only constant they can be sure of. Millions of Canadian small businesses have changed their footing to make ends meet, and the good news is: things are only going to look up from here.
While the pandemic has cast its shroud of dark days, it’s worth recognizing that we will bounce back better from it. Small businesses have already faced some of the biggest uphill battles, and there’s good reason to believe more economic stimulus is on the way.
Adapting to the climate and customer needs, drawing up contingency plans, and getting organized will only help small businesses tackle the next curveballs. No matter how harsh the lesson is, companies are walking away with valuable business insights that could pay off for generations to come.
2. Flexibility is a life-line–don’t be afraid to get creative
Pivoting can sometimes feel like jumping ship, and while it’s scary to do, it may turn out to be the best business move. We’ve seen local shops use the health crisis to their advantage by expanding their product lines and services to address what their customers are concerned about and need at that very moment.
Clothing boutiques have produced locally-made face masks, local breweries have concocted hand sanitizers, and many restaurants that can’t offer dine-in services have restructured their staff to facilitate takeout and deliveries.
A lesser-known secret about small businesses is that they’re more agile than the average national conglomerate. They’re better suited to make pivots because they have fewer hoops to jump through from the time they make a decision to when an action gets implemented.
Even beyond COVID, having the flexibility to adapt to changing needs can help business owners keep a tighter pulse on their customers and where they have opportunities to delight them.
3. Our buying decisions have big impact
Each business’ struggle is different, but many times throughout the pandemic, we’re reminded that we’re all in this together, which means our actions–no matter how seemingly small–have ripple effects across our entire nation.
Overwhelmingly, 90 percent of small and medium-sized businesses are family-run, so it’s not just their jobs at stake, but their entire livelihoods, children’s future, and their lifelong dreams. Business isn’t just business; it’s a very personal matter close to their hearts.
Many local businesses have had to make difficult decisions between choosing how to put food on the table to support their own and which family member or friend’s pay to cut, and worse yet, to pull the plug on their lifelong legacy.
The pandemic has reinforced the need to support local businesses regularly. Instead of spending your money on national enterprises that are better positioned to brace the impact, consider shopping at local vendors and choosing friends and family first.
4. Value everyone’s work equally
Somewhere along the way, society developed a bias against unskilled labourers, who are often judged or whose work is unfairly cheapened. But at the height of the pandemic, these people became our everyday frontline heroes and are celebrated for providing essential services.
The grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, bus drivers, and other similar labourers have kept us afloat and provided us with some semblance of normal during unpredictable times.
The lesson here is a necessary reminder to empower and appreciate all workers, no matter their experience or field. It takes all kinds of people to build and serve our communities.
5. Tech is for all
The tech explosion we’ve experienced during the pandemic chalks up to much more than just video calls and streaming TV (although they have their glory too). More food delivery apps are popping up, local stores offer rewards programs managed from devices, and businesses are launching e-commerce divisions to their otherwise brick and mortar sales.
Today, technology eliminates any manual and location-bound efforts usually required, and consumers everywhere expect hypersonic expediency. While the world has always been on the path to digital transformation, it’s now clear that using technology will be everyone’s first choice for all matters related to life, work, and play.
The pandemic put us on the fast track to integrating digital tools in every aspect of our lives. And the small business workforce has realized how adopting innovations can drive revenue and generate new opportunities to connect with their customers.
Small business makes our communities go round
Over the past year and a half, COVID-19 has tested the world’s infrastructures and redefined our notions of running business. What may have once been important may not hold its weight anymore, and the things we value, we’ve learned not to take for granted.
Most of all, we’ve learned that there’s nothing small businesses can’t do. A little flexibility goes a long way, and it’s a matter of getting creative and knowing when to call the tough shots.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t still need us. Local businesses bring unique and rewarding experiences to your city and count on our regular support to overcome the challenges of working expenses, labour shortages, and unpredictable events. Now’s the time to make a habit of pitching in where we can.
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