One thing we learned from 2020 is how insufficient our contingency planning really is. Yelp did a survey that suggests businesses are closing at a rate of 800 per day. That is catastrophe of biblical proportions. It is the cowboy steak of catastrophe: too much for any one person to take on.
The businesses that make up this terrible statistic can hardly be blamed. They didn’t see it coming. No one did. Like the rest of us, they got caught up in a surprise tsunami and did their best to hang on as long as they could. They tried to do right by their employees. But at the end of the day, they were forced to let go and be swept away.
AMC is an example of a company with no contingency for a global pandemic. Its primary business requires lots of people in packed rooms, eating popcorn and drinking drinks for 2 hours at a time without the benefit of a mask for most of that time. Take away the popcorn and drinks and you will lose your audience. You also lose all your profits.
Fortunately, there were other businesses that not only survived, but thrived during COVID. And they have a lot to teach us. Here are a few of those lessons that will help your business thrive no matter what challenges you face in 2021 and beyond:
Get the Word Out
If you are going to buck the trend and remain open while others are closing, you are going to have to go the extra mile and put the word out to let people know. Otherwise, they will just assume you have closed along with everyone else.
There are many ways to get the word out. One is to set up a 10 x 15 canopy in the parking lot of a major supermarket where people will see it. Hand out flyers and coupons so they know you are open, have your hours and services, and have an incentive to give you a try. Just be sure to get permission from the store.
Redouble your ad spend. You are going to have to work hard to cut through the noise of bad news. Don’t let your old sign fall into disrepair. Get a new one. Don’t stick with your old billboard. Get a bigger one. News about business closures during the pandemic will drown out everything else if you let it. Commit the necessary resources to get the word out that you are still in business.
Be Prepared to Pivot
The Londoner by Anthony Morrison is an excellent example of a business that was able to pivot when others couldn’t. During the pandemic, people have been too afraid to go to the barber shop or stylist. COVID haircuts have become a point of pride.
While other barbers gave up, The Londoner moved outside and made their service even more of a luxury than it was. Instead of laying off employees, they have been hiring through the pandemic as their business skyrocketed. Part of contingency planning is to imagine how you would do business if you couldn’t do business as usual. You have to find ways to do business as unusual.
Make Your Customers Feel Special
Another one of the things The Londoner did right is go out of their way to make their customers feel special. That effort didn’t end when the customer left the shop. Customers received hand-delivered birthday cards and even flowers. You will need to find your own ways to make your customers feel valued.
The good feeling your customer has when they leave your establishment is valuable. But if you can help them maintain that good feeling over the next several days, that’s priceless. Not even COVID can derail that kind of momentum.
We don’t know what lies ahead in 2021. We know that COVID is not quite done with us. And we know that political and economic unrest is not going away anytime soon. However, we do know that your business can survive it all if you get the word out that you are not going anywhere, are prepared to pivot, and make your customers feel special long past the visit to your shop.