How Entrepreneurs and Proprietors are Addressing the Challenges of the Pandemic in the Midst of Unprecedented Economic Uncertainty
Due to the global spread of COVID-19, many traditional venues for conducting business have been severely restricted. Most restaurants are unable to offer table-side dining services and now must resort to delivery and pick-up models. Salons, hairstylists, massage parlors, and other businesses whose trade is dependent on human-to-human contact are mostly shuttered.
Depending on the nature of the business and where it is located, business owners are coping with problems ranging in severity from a drastic drop-off in walk-in traffic to a government-mandated order to temporarily cease all operations. Needless to say, companies are feeling the financial pinch. COVID-19 and the accompanying fear it is inspiring in consumers is wreaking havoc on bottom lines across nearly every industry. So, what is being done to counter this? How are business owners addressing the problem of providing quality goods and services to their clients and customers during this unprecedented situation? Seasoned entrepreneur Chad Everett Harris provides a concise run-down of the different ways that businesses are maintaining operations and mitigating financial losses through the pandemic.
Recalibrating Focus to the Digital Realm
Although the economy is taking a downward turn, the demand for products has not diminished. Of course, due to mounting job losses countrywide, it has decreased. However, the main factor negatively impacting sales in the past few months is not unemployment; it is the unwillingness of consumers to practice in-person shopping for fear of either contracting COVID-19 or unintentionally spreading it to others. Demand still exists, but the traditional method of satisfying that demand has been interrupted.
Inevitably, a mechanism has emerged to cater to this problem: the internet. Over the past decade, consumer trends in shopping were already shifting more to the digital realm, but the spread of COVID-19 kicked the process into overdrive. According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, daily online sales in the United States jumped by twenty-five percent in March 2020. Without a doubt, the online marketplace is king. Wherever possible, savvy business owners are transitioning whatever elements of their business they can to digital platforms, websites, and smartphone apps. This approach best fits with the retail business model, but it has also been adapted to at least partially accommodate other industries such as foodservice and entertainment.
Emphasizing Health and Safety Measures
For those businesses able to reopen, a significant factor in winning back the confidence of in-person shoppers is proper attention to health and safety matters states Harris. Companies that enforce physical distancing, put in place rigorous cleaning procedures, and require employees to wear personal protection equipment will undoubtedly fare better in that respect. These practices, of course, have the added benefit of decreasing the likelihood that shoppers and staff alike become sick with all manner of viruses—not just COVID-19. Beyond simply employing these measures, however, business owners also promote that they are doing so, to reassure would-be customers. Some early data is indicating that businesses who run advertisements touting thorough health and safety practices have proven better at increasing foot traffic and in-person sales during the process of re-opening.
Taking Advantage of Government Relief Programs
Presently, all levels of government—local, state, and federal—have passed, or are in the act of passing legislation meant to ease the overwhelming burden currently felt by the business community. Among the contents of such legislation are specific programs dealing with everything from lowering property taxes to partially subsidizing the wages of employees to deferring rent payments. Any smart business owner would do well to research and take part in these programs.
While it is true that no business owner likes to take a handout, the current situation is something of an anomaly in recent history. Except for those companies that have been deemed essential services, almost every business across every industry has felt the negative effects of the events of the past few months. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting societal shut-down is different from a typical business-jeopardizing event. For example, it differs from a traditional recession in several ways. It was not brought about by inflation, rising wages, or poor fiscal or trade policies, and the economic downturn is not the result of a bad business plan, poor marketing, mismanagement, or human error.
Under such circumstances, proprietors and entrepreneurs who take advantage of government relief programs should not feel any shame or stigma. The rapid, global spread of COVID-19 cannot be blamed on them in any way, and they ought not to be punished for it by losing their businesses.
At this point, if brick and mortar businesses are allowed to open at all, they are operating under strict physical distancing rules. Some allow only a limited number of people in their store at a time. Some require their customers to use face coverings to even enter in the first place. Inside shop doorways, complimentary hand sanitizer is now a ubiquitous sight. Although this is preferable to the total and indefinite shutdown of earlier weeks, it is far from an optimal state of affairs when it comes to growth and profitability.
Additionally, the general public is being encouraged to stay home whenever possible, further aggravating the business situation. Sales are down across the board. Recently, Goldman Sachs published a survey that found fifty-one percent of small business owners claim their business can only survive under current conditions for a maximum of three months. In that same survey, seventy-five percent of respondents say their business has been impacted by fewer sales. If these declines are to be reversed, businesses must adapt rapidly to a world steeped in fear of COVID-19. According to Chad Everett Harris, the most effective ways for business owners to address this strange and unprecedented problem are recalibrating their focus to online sales, emphasizing health and safety measures for in-person shoppers, and taking advantage of the wide array of government relief programs.
Chad Everett Harris is a successful, serial entrepreneur. From an early age, he felt a passion for creating and running businesses. Like many children, his first foray into entrepreneurship was a small, front lawn lemonade stand, but it was enough to ignite a fire of inspiration. By his teenage years, Chad Everett Harris had developed a venture mowing neighborhood lawns into a profitable company, the proceeds from which he used to help his mother pay the family’s bills.
Upon entering the professional world, Chad Everett Harris made a splash with his contributions to the Audubon Park Golf Course, the New Orleans Sculpture Garden, and the Long Vue House & Garden Discovery Garden. As a result of these and other ventures during his thirty years in the green industry, he has accumulated expertise in the fields of construction, retail, and e-commerce. More recently, Chad Everett Harris assisted in the construction of the world’s largest data centre in Rockdale, Texas—a one hundred acre facility used to house high-speed computer servers.