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Whether a result of a lack of capital or changes in shopping behavior, the pandemic has forced all businesses, and people, to take momentary pauses and make thoughtful pivots. This is especially true for small businesses. Over the course of the pandemic there have truly been countless examples of small businesses who pivoted in ways large and small — from embracing new tools and channels to launching new businesses or completely transforming business models — ultimately redefining resiliency in the process.
Here are three ways small businesses have pivoted, innovated, and adapted to persevere throughout the pandemic, showcasing how business owners (and aspiring entrepreneurs) can rethink their approach and bounce back in new, imaginative ways when facing challenges of any size.
Know When It’s Time to Make Changes – Or Step Back
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when you should stay the course and when you should pivot. To be sure, there are risks in either scenario as a business owner, and sometimes the best choice may even be to take a step back, shutting down a business so you can alleviate debt, reassess and focus on the future. In other circumstances, however, an unexpected idea or strategy may present a path forward.
Related: 6 Pivots All Startups Must Consider to Sustain Business Growth
That’s what happened for Dr. Divya Raghavan, owner of Right Stack Physical Therapy, which launched right as the pandemic was beginning in March of 2020. As a first-time business owner, Divya was skeptical of keeping her business and considered closing it for good. However, after taking the time to re-evaluate her business model, she discovered that moving her business online could work for herself and her patients. In place of the in-person clinic, she created an online presence and began seeing her patients virtually through online video sessions, as well as communicating with them through Messenger. She was able to talk about her patient’s problems online prior to their virtual appointments where Divya would guide them through at-home stretching exercises and techniques.
This decision provided flexibility for her patients, primarily office workers and dancers who were dispersed throughout the country while their offices and studios were closed. Additionally, working virtually allowed her to expand her customer base to clients all over the world. Pivoting her business online gave her the time to hone her social media skills, such as sharing content and ultimately growing organic social engagement through informational videos on Facebook. Moving forward, Divya plans to continue this new hybrid business model.
Engage Customers Creatively
Over the last decade, more and more businesses continue to build their presence online, as well as engage with customers through social media – but the pandemic made it a necessity — almost overnight. With so many businesses pivoting online, it’s important to ensure you break through the noise by creating unique content and experiences that will speak to your specific audience. For example, small business J. Landress Brass, a brass instrument repair and supply store in New York City. The clientele for the business is niche by nature, so when the store closed for 115 days during the height of the pandemic, reinventing how they obtained new clients was crucial to the business. To generate interest in their posts from potential customers outside of New York who didn’t know their name, J. Landress Brass began featuring the people who made the business special in their social posts. The business uses Facebook Live to share special performances from well-known brass musicians and guest posts on Instagram from prominent figures with a goal to showcase the strong community of brass musicians that the business is a part of, furthering their credibility and inviting new customers to take part.
Related: Why Founders Should Always View Pivots as Opportunities
Prioritize Personal Growth and Mental Health
As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate beyond operations. Employee livelihood, customer safety and social isolation are all things that can affect you and your business. Prioritizing your mental health is just as important as keeping your business going. Leaning on other small business owners in your community for support can help alleviate mental stressors by talking to other business owners about common obstacles and brainstorming solutions. Additionally, spending downtime with your family can not only help shift your focus to things that truly matter, but also it allows you to invest in special memories with loved ones. Lastly, creating work-life boundaries will not only reduce your own tension but will set a precedent for your employees to focus on their own personal growth as well.
In a normal year and on any given day, businesses are continuously working on challenges in marketing, sales or operations, while also trying to build a life as an entrepreneur. Add in one of the worst economic crises in history brought on by the global pandemic and those challenges have become amplified. This has made many small businesses face tough choices, whether it’s downsizing staff, pivoting online, selling new products, or even closing their storefronts. No matter what you decide as a business owner, learning to pivot quickly by finding new and creative ways to reach customers is imperative, just as much as prioritizing your own mental health are all key ways to persevere through the pandemic and redefine resilience.