The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a uniform blow to small business owners across the country. But with true small business grit, many businesses turned the other cheek, which required speedy adaptation to survive. As the world’s rules of engagement quickly changed, creative and flexible small businesses emerged as pandemic heroes. Kapitus listened to the stories of some of those small business owners who implemented new ideas during the pandemic which have now changed their businesses for the better. These operational changes, or pandemic pivots, represent the determined nature of small business owners and their ability to stay competitive even in the most constricting times. Please enjoy — and, perhaps, draw some inspiration on ways to improve your own business — from this collection of accounts from small business owners to see how they uniquely adapted and grew during one of the most uncertain times in modern history.
A Shorter Work Week
Katherine Brown, Founder and Marketing Director, Spyic, Spokane, WA
“The significant change we made to our business culture at Sypic during the pandemic is initiating a 4-day work week. We tried this as a way of compensating most of our remote employees who were working extra hours daily. Rather than demand that they work five days a week, we realized that most of them could comfortably clear a week’s workload within four days. We, therefore, piloted a 4-day work week, and a year down the line, we are keeping it even as the ravages of the pandemic start to ease.”
New Target Market
Brittany West, Owner, Brittany West Photography, Estes Park, Colorado
“I am a wedding photographer and have been for the past 7 years, before the pandemic I had a strong focus on traveling for destination weddings. It allowed me to see the world and experience different cultures. The past year I changed to marketing to couples that were closer to home and wanted smaller ceremonies with less than 75 people in attendance. This has allowed me to slow down a bit and not be in such of a frenzy, I feel like I can be more creative with a mind that isn’t in a frenzy and enjoy my work more. While I still want to travel for work, I believe for the moment I will only accept destination weddings that are within the United States and not international wedding locations just yet. As a mother of three the pandemic allowed me to focus on my children, I get to attend more basketball games and practices with my 8-year-old son, and I know that one day I will not have that opportunity. Work will always be there but giving them memories of having mom cheering them on is something I want them to have.”
Tony Galloni, Marketing Director, ADS Laser Cutting Ltd, Leicester, U.K.
“ADS Laser Cutting are an engineering company based in Leicestershire, U.K., who specialise in metal fabrication including laser cutting, forming, welding, finishing and assembly of sheet metal.
During the first lockdown we were forced to make some big changes to how we operate in order to adhere to Covid guidelines, keep our employees safe and still be able to continue servicing our current customers and new enquiries.
Prior to this, we had never entertained the idea of flexible working/working from home but we took the leap with anybody who could work from home doing so and where this was not possible, such as in the factory, we quickly changed the setup to provide Covid safe working conditions. In order to make working from home work, we utilised tools such as Zoom for our meetings and quickly implemented a CRM system to enable a single view of the customer from a cloud based system which can be accessed from outside of the office, with this now being used daily by a number of our teams for customer relationship management, project management and reporting.
These changes have now become a commonplace for us here at ADS Laser Cutting, with us being much more open to modern ways of working, allowing our team to work from home if required. Also, we have reviewed since and continued to upgrade our digital infrastructure.”
Leveraging Social Media
Jeff Moriarty, Marketing Manager, Moriarty’s Gem Art, Crown Point, Indiana
“We have a family-owned jewelry business outside of Chicago. One change we implemented during COVID was to run all our jewelry shows online instead of in person. In the past we did all our shows in person once a month and they did very well. With COVID, we had to stop those immediately.
In March of 2020 our company started doing live streams through YouTube and Facebook to our local and online customers. These live streams were both educational and commercial in nature. These live shows allowed visitors to view our items, buy online and ask questions. We advertised these live streams through emails, our website, and social media. We are now getting about 1000+ viewers watching our show each time. Not only has it helped to stay connected with our customers, it has generated a ton of sales ($20,000 from our last month’s show) for our business. It was so successful for us over COVID, that we do it once a month even now through 2021.”
Rethinking Office Time & Space
Seth Price, Founding Partner, Price Benowitz LLP, Washington, DC
“The pandemic certainly had an effect on our workplace, and I don’t see any of my colleagues returning to the office on a full time basis anytime soon. Quintessentially, we’re working in a hybrid workplace, but I think we’ve taken it a bit further. Employees within our firm are allowed to enter and leave the office at-will and are no longer required to let their employer know when they will be in or out of their physical office. I don’t see this rule changing now or ever, and I think it’s for the better. Our firm has grown since working remotely has become a viable option, and it’s allowed our physical office to be used in different ways. Since we don’t need all of our offices anymore, we’ve created a fantastic common space where employees can work comfortably and even chat with their coworkers. This won’t be an option for every workspace, but I’m grateful the pandemic has pushed the traditional office into the past.”
Building a Safety Net
Martin Seeley, CEO, MatresssNextDay, Canterbury, U.K.
“Pandemic has brought organizations challenges that they did not anticipate. Some businesses start to experience bankruptcy and have no choice but to close their business. As a business owner, I have seen firsthand the profound changes that the pandemic caused in the workplace. It taught me
methods I did not know my company was capable of. Since the pandemic started, our business tracked the revenues and expenses incurred meticulously. We began allocating funds for contingency occurrences because no one knows if a phenomenon similar to this will occur again in the future. This evaluation will provide a comprehensive image of a company’s financial position and assist business people in planning for the future in the current inflationary economy. We are planning to do this in the future to avoid any adverse implications for our organization.”
Expanding Supplier Relationships
Brian Bianchetti, Director, People’s Choice Beef Jerky, Los Angeles, CA
“Like nearly all businesses, we experienced incredible disruptions in our supply chain. The volatility in the market made operating nearly impossible at times. This experience **reinforced the importance of having multiple suppliers for each good and service. In the pre-COVID-19 era, we had 2-3 suppliers for primary goods and 1-2 suppliers for ancillary goods. Now we have a minimum of 2-3 suppliers for all goods and 3-5 suppliers for main goods. We will definitely maintain this change in a post-COVID era as it prevents disruptions to our production, while also giving us leverage during price negotiations. We believe that this will be the new reality and want to be prepared for any future changes.”
Pandemic Pivots and the Small Business Owner
The COVID-19 pandemic tested small business owners in ways the world has never seen before. The quick-thinking and innovative nature of small business owners, however, existed well before COVID-19 was an everyday word and will continue to exist long after this threat passes. Those business owners who showed flexibility and resourcefulness throughout the pandemic have only grown stronger as a result.