Want to Thrive in Unfamiliar Territory? Find a Fresh Take.

None of us has a plan—or a roadmap—for the current environment created by COVID-19. Business models that worked flawlessly for decades, or even centuries, on end are suddenly floundering or even failing entirely as the world races to manage a virus it has never seen before. 

Though it’s a great time to be a grocery store owner or cable service provider, at least in terms of profit, nearly every other business is facing a grim prognosis. While physical restrictions are crucial in slowing the spread of the virus, they have also forced local and global entities alike to shutter, at least temporarily. In this day and age—or in the one that existed just weeks ago—when so many of us don’t leave the house without our technological devices, we are learning just how much our businesses depend on us, well, leaving the house. 

 

Everyone from retail store owners and dry cleaners, to dentists, musicians, and motivational speakers is feeling the impact of shelter-in-place rules. Even those businesses that are deemed “essential services,” like restaurants, which can still provide takeout and delivery in all states, struggle without the ability to fill their dining rooms. And for many, the financial toll this pandemic is taking will mean they won’t be able to open their doors to the public even when state and Federal governments give them the green light to do so. In fact, the National Restaurant Association estimates that 75 percent of the country’s independent restaurants that close in the midst of this crisis will be gone for good. It’s a harbinger for many other businesses too. 

 

But all hope is not lost. While things are almost guaranteed to be different than they were even a few weeks ago for your organization, there are likely opportunities out there—they just require a fresh take. 

 

How do you see your business through new, lucrative eyes? Think about what the world needs—and what you can provide. Keep in mind too that it may not be about shifting your process entirely. Adding to your current offerings may be just what the doctor ordered. 

 

If you have a factory, could this be the time to start thinking about whether manufacturing medical supplies, or even cloth masks for the general public, is possible and/or a good idea? 

 

If you own a restaurant, would tapping into your supply chain to offer hard-to-find groceries to your customers—bulk beans, pasta, and more—in addition to your regular menu items be a way to close the gap for everyone during this difficult time? 

 

And if you typically provide a service in-person—fitness classes, coaching, consulting, concerts—determine whether it’s simply time to move everything online. If your marketing is on point, you can do more than just sustain your current roster of clients; you can also court new ones. You may not be able to charge the same premium as you do for face-to-face meetings, but maintaining and even growing your connections during this time is no doubt priceless. 

 

Plus, you can’t overlook the power of what social psychologists have dubbed the law of reciprocity, the concept that when you do something for someone (whether in the form of a free product, service, or even some high quality advice), they will be compelled to do something for you in return. It’s just human nature (and worth thinking about the next time you accept a sample at your local farmers’ market or even Costco). 

 

With that in mind, it may be worth it to share some of the insights you usually reserve for paid speaking engagements or client sessions on Instagram stories, start a wide-reaching podcast to offer up lessons learned over the course of your career, or hold a free concert for 500 of your biggest fans on Zoom. You never know how that one act of service will pay off when it comes to maintaining the well-being of your business long term. 

 

And the fact is, we could all benefit from connecting more during this time—even if those connections are forged on social media. After all, that’s the way most of our communication is happening these days. Creating an online platform for your in-person service will probably have a positive impact on your mental health as well—an outcome of your efforts that is truly invaluable. 

 

And if you’re still unsure of how to view your operation through a different lens, you can always get started on that book… 

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