Small Business Experts Share the Lessons They Learned From the Challenges of 2020

Challenges force growth, and 2020 brought various development opportunities. 

The ongoing pandemic forced several businesses to shut their doors, some for good. According to the Yelp: Local Economic Impact Report, as of September 2020, over 97,000 businesses have permanently closed.

While that number is devastating, there have been positive aspects of 2020. Many companies have found creative ways to stay afloat and have become stronger and more prepared for the future. 

We asked business owners what they learned during 2020, and we came away with lessons that can continue to work for many years to come. 

Read on to learn about:

  • Adapting to the current landscape 
  • Updating your offerings 
  • Improving your digital presence 
  • Handling inventory changes
  • Checking in on employees and customers 

Adapt to New Working Landscapes

Many companies had to readjust and move their businesses online. This shift caused more employees to work from home and use new tools. Zoom went from roughly 10 million meeting participants in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020

Businesses that were mostly in person had to move to online events. Women’s Weekend Film Challenge co-founder Katrina Medoff says they wouldn’t have tried virtual events if it hadn’t been necessary. But by doing so, they found new opportunities. 

“The silver lining is that virtual events have helped us connect with the top women in the industry, triple our email list, bring career-building opportunities to filmmakers around the world, and create a new, dependable source of income for our small organization.”

The pandemic also saw a spike in new needs for customers like pick up and curbside delivery. Companies like lawn care provider GreenPal reaped the benefits of offering contactless service, says co-founder Bryan Clayton.

“This has caused us to adjust our copy in our Google ad words campaign and Facebook marketing campaigns, and we have seen a lift in conversion as high as 17% in some markets.”

Update Your Offerings 

Some companies have found other uses for their products. Festival apparel companies INTO THE AM and iHeartRaves rebranded their offerings to be used as loungewear or lingerie, says founder and CEO Brian Lim. 

“Pivoting can help you weather the storm and keep your business afloat until things return to some sense of normalcy.”

The companies also started selling masks, which fits into their business and will likely be a continuing stream of revenue after the pandemic ends. 

Home renovation company Builders Interiors also found new solutions by putting its warehouse inventory online, which they had never done before, says owner Ty Mortenson. 

“We pivoted by moving our massive catalog of products online so that our customers can choose the material they like from home. […] The goal is to eventually make each item purchasable online.”

Have a Strong Digital Presence

Clearly, 2020 taught us the importance of having a presence online. Many businesses strengthened their website, social media, SEO, and mobile websites. 

Other businesses took advantage of new tools, like Moriarty’s Gem Art. According to their marketing manager, Jeff Moriarty, the jewelry company started doing livestreams on Facebook and YouTube to promote their products. Now they have more than one thousand viewers for each show. 

“Not only has it helped to stay connected with our customers, [but it also has] generated a ton of sales ($12,000 from our last show) for our business. It has been so successful that we have continued it ([we’re] on the 20th show, I believe), even with our store now being open.”

Make Your Inventory Sturdy

Due to the pandemic, there were disruptions in supply chains, and various products saw spikes in demand. While it’s tough to predict these occurrences, it’s smart to have a plan and prepare for the unexpected. 

Sustainable toilet paper company, Reel Paper, learned this lesson, says co-founder Derin Oykan. 

He has learned to prevent risks to his supply chain.

“Moving forward, I will make sure that existing partners can increase production if demand skyrockets and have contingencies in the form of alternative suppliers in place, should your main suppliers have issues.”

Check In on Your Employees and Customers 

Everyone needed extra support during the tough year. Whether we homeschooled, worked from home, or dealt with health concerns, 2020 asked us to be more patient with one another. 

Supporting and listening to employees was a top lesson for the year. Joseph Salim, founder of Sutton Place Dental Associates, says he spent time checking in with his employees every day, lending an ear and offering help where he could. 

“By so doing, you not only create a positive and productive work environment, but you also give them a voice.” 

Offering more care to customers was also a vital contribution. CMO of Majesty Coffee, Colin Palfrey, says many of his customers in the restaurant industry suffered from the pandemic, and he wanted the company to prioritize customer service. 

“We went out of our way to ask our customers how we could help them. We asked our customers and prospects what they were doing with their forced closures and how we could help them during this strange time.”

Several business owners used this time to build confidence in their services, like Edgar Arroyo, President of SJD Taxi

Arroyo says he and his employees were patient and supportive of their customers, addressing any concerns or questions they had. 

“We learned to see this experience as an opportunity to establish trust and set the tone of our services so that we can build up our branding and reputation for future trips.”

The predicaments of 2020 forced businesses to innovate or fail. Companies implemented updates to inventory and digital practices, and several saw a chance to improve relationships with customers and employees.

By dealing with challenges and adapting their services, business owners learned how to withstand crises. Regardless of what it taught, 2020 brought lessons companies will use for years to come.

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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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