With lockdown in full swing I have been interested in the different responses by small businesses to the crisis. Businesses that usually operate on a day to day basis and have nothing in reserves for such an unplanned catastrophe. Last year I was involved in the formation of seven new businesses, so I am right in the middle of the fight to survive, and while I have remained positive and focused throughout I hadn’t realised until recently that many who are trying to keep their businesses alive don’t have the belief, confidence or faith that they can.
Looking down our local high street there are two pubs opposite each other. One is shut with a sign up saying they are closed for the foreseeable future and the one opposite? Offering takeaways and home deliveries. Both businesses decimated by the virus but two very different ways of coping. If I was a betting man, which business would I guess is still running in a years’ time?
The open one is evolving to their new reality. They don’t know if government promises for support will materialise, how much debt they will be laden with, and for how long their business will be affected for. So by thinking ahead and embracing the change they have a fighting chance that once the crisis is over their business can scale again. Maybe they too will gain market share as local customers remembered the effort they made when the going was tough.
While pubs are an easy analogy to comprehend, I am a great believer that all businesses need to adapt to the new reality in which to survive. The easiest way to do that is to think forward and plan. Studies show that with more information comes greater confidence, so planning rather than living day by day is an important first step. What is happening in China now – sanctions being lifted. What happens when antibody tests hit the streets in a few weeks’ time – possibly a relaxation of lockdown for those that have had it. What will people need returning to work? What if there are further restrictions on movement – what will people need to make life bearable? Once you have a belief in your ability to help shape your future based on a future plan of action you bring an element of control back into your business.
For the others, who are letting fear and day to day events dictate the actions of their business, are just waiting on Government to tell them what to do next. Unfortunately, Government has never operated well at a macro level and certainly can’t react as quickly as a small enterprise can. Businesses that succeed are those that are run by people who realise that shit happens and we are not entitled to a perfect life, and certainly one where you are protected against failure. While the Government support is unprecedented there is a significant amount of small print meaning the ability to keep a small business alive is purely down to the ingenuity and attitude of those running it.
Another challenge is the social and media coverage which focuses heavily on the crisis. And while the pandemic is tragic, global and creating huge challenges for everyone, it is important to be the optimist, not the pessimist. It seems obvious but it is easy to get into a worrisome state, especially if those around you are negative and feeds into the doom loop. While public opinion would be scathing of businesses profiting from any crisis, it shouldn’t stop small businesses from adapting to survive – especially if they can serve a need and support customers.
Whether you work in a small business or are a customer of one we need to support those that choose to battle on in this new reality. Positive thoughts and positive actions.