Adapting Your Business in These Challenging Times
Michael Tashnick owns restaurants and a party bus company, Ninja Buses, in Austin, Texas. The COVID-19 outbreak has hurt his companies badly. The crisis has forced his restaurants to close and his buses are no longer ferrying people to bars and entertainment venues.
Like many other small business owners, Michael is trying to make the most out of these tough circumstances. He’s trying to convert his buses into something that can be used for good while keeping his drivers working: he’s transporting emergency supplies on the buses.
Finding a way to keep a bricks-and-mortar business running when the government has shut them down is a daunting task. It requires creative thinking. Necessity is the mother of invention, and entrepreneurs all over are reinventing themselves.
Here are some ideas to adapt your business to a world of social distancing.
Go from Doing to Showing
Yoga instruction. Personal styling. Massage.
These are all services that are usually done in person but are off-limits in many areas because of social distancing.
The needs don’t go away when people are quarantined, but they can’t be delivered in person. This makes it very difficult to run a business providing these services. Difficult, but not impossible.
Laurel Kinney, a personal stylist in Texas, can’t see clients in person right now. So she organized a live virtual closet sort.
Laurel usually provides these closet sorts one-on-one and in person. During these visits, she helps clients organize their closets, determine what to donate to charity, what to keep, what to alter, and what additional clothing they need to complete their wardrobe.
Since she can’t meet clients in person, she organized the virtual closet sort over Zoom. She walked through a closet sort to teach her clients how to do it themselves and then opened it up for questions and answers at the end.
While the virtual closet sort doesn’t make up for all of her lost business, it brings in some revenue and helps clients.
Think about how this can be applied to your business. Can you teach yoga over Skype? Instead of giving massages, can you teach clients how they can give a message to their significant other?
There are lots of platforms out there for setting up recorded teaching lessons, too. Udemy is a popular online course system that pays you every time someone purchases your course.
Many retail stores already sell online. The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing others to get online quickly.
The good news is that it’s very easy to start an online store. You can register a domain and set up a hosting account with WooCommerce. Or you can choose a service like Shopify, to which you can point your Namecheap domain.
Take some photos of your inventory, upload them to your website and start generating sales even when your store closed.
Can’t easily ship your product? Create a simple online store to sell gift cards. This will bring in some cash to pay rent while you wait for your store to reopen.
Market Stay-at-Home Stuff
Pickleball Central is an online retailer for paddles, nets, and balls for the fast-growing sport of pickleball. Pickleball is like a miniature version of tennis played with a hard plastic ball.
Pickleball is usually played with four players, and pickleball courts around the world are shut down because of stay-at-home orders.
This obviously impacts sales of paddles and other pickleball gear. But there are products that are in higher demand than usual. Pickleball Central is promoting “stay at home” pickleball gear such as miniature nets that can be used on a driveway and tape to create court boundaries.
Even if your company sells online, it might find that sales are dropping because people can’t use your products right now. Figure out which products can be used, or even are in higher demand as people find themselves with more downtown around the house. Promote these items in a marketing email to your customers.
Get Other Things Done
Even as you hustle to find ways to keep the lights on, you might find yourself with more downtime because you aren’t meeting with customers. Use this time wisely by tackling some of those projects that you told yourself you were too busy to do. Get them done today so you can focus on your business when it can return to normal operating status.
- Taxes – Tax deadlines have been extended for many people and businesses. You can still complete your tax filing now and pay later, tough. Also, if you have a refund coming, it makes sense to file your tax return as soon as possible.
- Refresh your website – How long has it been since you published a blog post on your site? Updated your “about” page? Take advantage of the downtime to upgrade your website.
- Plan a post-crisis marketing strategy – We are in the abyss of a crisis right now. It will end someday, though. Take this time to plan a strategy for what you’ll do when the cloud is lifted and people go back to work, play, and shop.
- Boost important skills – Now’s the time to work on continuing education or learning new skills or software. What can you work on now that can turn into a new service later, or improve an existing service or marketing effort?
- Write a book – What do you know how to do that you can share with others? Writing a nonfiction book on a topic related to your business can help establish you as an expert in your field, which will pay off handsomely when people once again are looking to hire you or buy your products.
By using your down-time wisely now, you’ll be in better shape to bounce back when things go back to ‘normal.’
Lend a Hand
These are difficult times. Know that you aren’t the only small business owner or solopreneur figuring out how to make things work. Contact your friends in a similar situation. Brainstorm ways that your companies can keep moving forward during the pandemic.
Do you have additional ideas or a personal story about how you’re transitioning your business? Please leave a comment below.
Why Not #CreateFromHome
When you’re stuck inside, it can be a frustrating time. Turn that frustration into something good and #CreateFromHome.
Great article Andrew! I’ve been refreshing my website for a few days now and it’s definitely kept me busy and engaged through this difficult time.