COVID, Chaos, and Coming Back Strong

I think it’s safe to say that many, if not most, people in the USA, let alone the rest of the world feel a bit like the rug has been pulled from beneath our collective feet. I’ve also seen a lot of people comment that this year has felt much like the movie Jumanji; we’re leveling up to some new, terrible reality with each passing month. (Full Disclosure: I’ve never seen Jumanji, but I probably should watch it if I’m going to reference it in a post, no?)

Business owners and employees alike are on tenterhooks as we watch events around the globe and at home. This is leaving many of us at a loss for words and ideas. I’m a big fan of meditation. In today’s post, I’m going to ask three questions to get your creative juices flowing when it comes to your business in this precarious time similar to what you’d contemplate during a meditation session.

How is your business doing right now?

Honestly, how is your business doing? Great? Alright, but could it be better? Not dead yet? Are you ready to call the coroner?

Thankfully, running a business is not like “Fight Club.” What happens at your business should not stay within the confines of your office. Your customers want to know what’s happening, what you’re doing, and likely, what they can do to help.

In the last few months in the Madison, Wisconsin, area, I’ve witnessed some tremendous steps taken by patrons of various businesses reaching out to see what they can do to help owners stay open. Yoga studios have had members ask about funds to which they can contribute and since news broke about the enormous cuts delivery services take from restaurants, restaurants are reporting an uptick in direct-call orders.

Those are just two of many examples. They are the result of business owners being honest with their patrons about the state of their business. People want to help if they know you need help. The point being: be forthcoming and let people know how things are going.

How did you connect with or push away customers?

This may be a problematic or touchy subject because we all have distinct beliefs and harbor different biases, implicit or learned, and everyone’s level of understanding varies. So, what does that mean exactly?

In “Karate Kid,” Mr. Miyagi said, “Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle … sooner or later you get squish like grape.” Now, he was talking about life-lessons, and they don’t always translate perfectly to business lessons. As a small-business owner, can you afford to pick one side of the road to walk down, or will your business fare better if you choose that middle path?

Many business owners and government leaders chose to downplay the severity of COVID-19 and, presently, many are taking that same attitude to protests over racial inequality. As this post from The RJH Touch covers quite well: your customers and those with whom you do business are noticing what you post. Like that fantastic phrase, “There is a time and a place for everything… and that’s college,” there is a time and a place for everything, but it’s not at your business.

Can your business afford to take, and voice, an extreme view? If you pick the wrong route, can your business recover?

What is your plan going forward?

I know it’s a helluva question to ask during a time of immense uncertainty. Still, as a business owner, I’m sure you’ve thought about it. If your business relies on foot traffic, how are you making those patrons feel safe and, to the best of your abilities, be safe? Perhaps you’ve installed plexiglass safety shielding, are wearing masks and asking your customers to wear masks, you’re offering curbside pick-up, or any number of other methods to allow your customers to keep coming.

In light of the protests about racial inequality, perhaps you’ve posted signs that all are welcome, maybe you’ve contacted your customers with an email, or you’ve just remained silent. Doing something and doing nothing are both options. The decision you make will have an impact, good or bad, on your bottom line.

Since many a small business is slow, now is a great time to look over all of those “rainy day” items, like that long-forgotten business blog, the stagnant website, or even learning about Return on Investment when it comes to your online presence.

We can’t address every issue of incredible import in one blog post, but suffice it to say that right now, you have some time to think about the state of your business and the direction it’s going. You’ve got a golden opportunity. Think about the future of your business and what you’d like to see for it and for anyone you may pass it on to. Seize the day!

Sarah Wilde is a writer, social media manager, and medical receptionist living in Southern Wisconsin. She believes that everyone is entitled to equality. Sarah writes about the end-user experience for website design as well as analytics and social media. She likes to reference old movies in her writing and still pronounces GIF with a hard “g”.

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