With six months of the global pandemic now behind us, many business owners are reflecting on their experience—and what they could do differently to strengthen their business and be better prepared for the next crisis.
We asked business owners the biggest lesson they’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so far and what changes they are making as a result. Here’s how they responded:
Be ready for anything—and stay nimble
My biggest lesson from the pandemic is something that boxing legend Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” While our company had contingency and rainy-day plans, nowhere in our emergency planning did we ever account for a worldwide pandemic that would change daily life as we know it. As the world began to shut down in March, we had to quickly pivot our marketing and operations. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that you must remain nimble, quick and able to adapt to change, as even the best-laid plans are not always practical.
—Mike Charles, owner, Unified Pest Control, Caledonia, Michigan
Learn how to use technology—before you really need it
We serve the senior insurance market, and when the pandemic took hold, it jolted our habits and forced us to quickly adopt certain technologies. For example, while many agents had long relied on paper applications and face-to-face client meetings, they suddenly had to use e-applications and Zoom meetings. So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to make sure we’re always comfortable using our industry’s technology—for those times when we really need it.
—John Hockaday, COO and principal, New Horizons Insurance Marketing, Decatur, Illinois
Deliver products and services in multiple formats
As a solo-preneur who makes his living as a professional speaker at on-site events, the pandemic completely pulled the rug out from under me. What I have learned is that having multiple delivery methods for my intellectual property is not just a “nice to have” but a necessity. The forced time away from the stage has given me the chance to spend time developing other formats and products that are still true to my brand and expertise.
—Steve Haffner, founder, Pinnacle Thinking, Louisville, Kentucky
Keep a cash buffer
We were fortunate to have been managing our finances in such a way that afforded us a pretty sizable amount of excess cash. That cash is now essentially serving as a business emergency fund while we go through a 50% loss of revenue. Not only has this allowed us to keep all our existing staff, we have been able to continue growing and hiring new talented individuals, many of whom have been affected by this pandemic and were in need of work. In short, the pandemic has taught me the importance of having a cash buffer.
—Stephen Weyman, founder and CEO, creditcardGenius, New Brunswick, Canada
Have multiple revenue streams
As the owner of a few small businesses (an interior design firm, a small creative agency and a photography business), I have been told too many times to count, “If you focused on just one of your businesses, maybe you can grow that one a bit more.” Now more than ever, I have never been so glad that I didn’t listen to that advice. I understand the reasoning behind the comments, but this pandemic has shown me that having multiple revenue streams in different fields is the way to go. When one type of business hurts, the others may save you from going completely under. A varied business portfolio is key to ensure that you can stay afloat with the natural ebbs and flows of a small business. I will continue this business model to ensure the longevity of my businesses.
—Luis Carmona, founder, Tripboxx, Irving, Texas
Always be growing
My biggest lesson from the pandemic is never to rest on previous successes and always be in expansion mode. By expanding, not only are you gaining market share, you’re protecting against downside risk if there is a downturn in the market. For example, let’s say you’re growing your business 50% year after year. When a virus or a recession hits and you lose 50% of your business, you’re now back to even. Compare this to a stagnant business coasting along: a 50% reduction would wipe them out.
—Brian Robben, CEO, Robben Media, Cincinnati
What’s the biggest business lesson you’ve learned from the pandemic so far? Share your insights in the comments section below.Print this article