The thing you need to know about business strategies is that they have a shelf life. Old business strategies are about as useful as old milk. If something smells funny, toss it. The pandemic has made a lot of once useful business strategies smell funny.
There are only a handful of business axioms that are always true. Honesty is always the best, if not most profitable policy. The customer is always right, even when they’re not. Give service with a smile, even when you feel like frowning. These are truisms that do not go away when the going gets tough.
You always need to be sufficiently capitalized. Get your own house in order before starting your business so that personal debt does not sink your business. Set up a good credit union checking account. Ask for a platinum debit card so that you can have top-flight fraud protection. And get the finance basics nailed down. Beyond that, it might be time to rethink other strategies that seemed like a good idea one upon a time, but don’t hold up well during a pandemic. Here are a few:
Coworking space is one of the hottest real estate trends in recent years. It made a lot of sense in a time when it was hard to lease individual office space on a contract basis. Big companies started looking at that big line item and decided to try different strategies. The coworking strategy made it easier for small teams to have a shared space for work without long term financial commitments.
Unfortunately, Covid changed all that. Coworking spaces tend to be open plan leaving no barrier between one person’s face and another person’s sneeze. That is not a good situation in an airborne pandemic. There is also the fact that many people are now working from home, lessening the need for such spaces.
These innovative office solutions will have to do more innovating even after the pandemic. People might be shy about open plan for a while. And shared office properties will have to be creative to get people to come back. It will be a good idea again. But the idea will need a rethink post-pandemic.
Arguably, doing cash-only business was never a good idea. It is understandable why some chose to do it. There is a movement afoot to get rid of cash altogether. NYC wants a national plan to require all businesses to accept cash. That gives you some idea of how many businesses there are that don’t want to do it.
But the decision to take only cash might be equally detrimental during a pandemic. No one wants to pass around metal and paper that has been handled by half the infected world. They want POS machines that allow one to tap a card or wave a watch or phone to pay the bill. No contact should be required to make a payment. Businesses that rely heavily on cash will need to find other ways to take payments if they want to be successful during the pandemic.
Pack as Many People in the Store as Possible
The big idea of Black Friday events was to make a big deal about big sales and attract big crowds to your store. That simply will not work during a pandemic. Apple is the biggest retailer in the world by revenue and profits. Yet they have enacted policies that limit the number of people that can be in the store at any one time. They also do temperature checks and do what they can to streamline the shopping experience so no one person is in the store for longer than absolutely necessary.
That will not be as easy for small businesses to do. But they have to find a way to limit crowds when their instinct is to encourage crowds. Temperature checks are a good idea, along with gathering contact information if contact tracing is needed. Many restaurants are doing this now. Most retailers are not. Any business that does not prioritize the health of the customer over the daily take is doing everyone a disservice. Customers will only shop where they feel safe.
During normal times, there is nothing wrong with coworking spaces, cash businesses, and full stores. But during a pandemic, these things have to be reconsidered.