This was originally published on AllBusiness.
If you’re like me, you’re a bit stupefied at how the world has completely changed in a few short weeks. And you dread what it’s going to look like once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic dies down. So many small businesses have been impacted, and the small business landscape is going to be forever changed.
I’ve had my moments of despair, as have we all, but I find myself looking for the silver lining. There are always lessons to be learned in chaos; it’s up to us whether we heed them or not.
1. We’re Not Alone
I was laid off a few weeks ago as a direct result of COVID-19. It stung. It felt like being broken up with in a relationship that had been completely healthy and happy.
But I am not angry or bitter, though it would be within reason to be so. Why? Because I know I’m not alone—20% of my company was laid off. Millions of other people have been laid off, furloughed, or seen a reduction in the number of hours they can work.
We’re all panicking. We’re all afraid of how we’ll make ends meet.
Because I’m also a business owner, so I see the other side as well. The few clients I’ve kept have asked for a temporary reduction in rates. Do I give it to them and be glad to make some money? Or say no and make none? You might be struggling with the same decisions.
This pandemic has made me keenly aware of how connected we are. There’s never been, in my lifetime, something that has impacted every human on earth like this has. There is some comfort in that, in knowing I’m not the only employee laid off, nor the only business owner struggling.
2. What We Do Now Will Determine Our Future Success
What are you doing right now in your business? Are you curled up in a fetal position, waiting for things to get better, or are you proactively finding creative ways to market your business? Are you mired in the process of applying for financing, or are you also keeping an eye on how you can keep employees working?
It’s scary. We can agree on that. But doing nothing isn’t going to help the millions of small businesses in this country weather this. We’ve got to be proactive about planning for right now—even if that means veering off of the business plan path—and also think about how we need to pivot for the future.
3. The Future Has Already Changed
Speaking of the future, we keep talking about how we hope things will get back to “business as usual” soon. But the truth is, things won’t be “usual.” Not for a while. Maybe not ever. I feel sick to my stomach when I think of how many businesses will shutter because of the COVID-19 pandemic, never to open again. Entire industries will change how they operate.
The way you’ve been doing business? That probably needs to change. Thinking about that now will help you come up with a plan for how those changes will happen.
One good thing that’s come out of all this is that many businesses have learned how to operate remotely. At my former employer, we had a customer service team that was held to strict financial industry regulations and had to operate behind a locked door because of the access those employees had to sensitive customer data. And yet, thanks to the crisis, the company figured out how to encrypt that data so that team could work from home and continue to help customers.
So maybe there’s been a silver lining in this for you as well. Maybe you now know that you can have a distributed workforce, which can save you money. Maybe you can offer working from home as a perk to new hires. Use this glimmer of hope to change how you operate for the better.
4. We Can Never Over-Prepare
No one could have seen this crisis coming. But what could we have done if we had foreseen it? Last month, I wrote about what a potential recession would look like, and how we could prepare for it. I think keeping that advice in mind is good any time, especially given that we now realize that we can’t always predict disaster. But we can, at least marginally, prepare for it.
I remember how unprepared I felt in the last recession, and it changed how I operated moving forward. Thankfully, I already learned that lesson. You might not have.
A lot of business owners are realizing exactly how unprepared they are as they apply for SBA loans. I have friends that only input their income and expenses once a year for tax purposes who are now scrambling to tally those numbers for their loan applications. That’s a great example of something you can do monthly or quarterly so that your finances are shipshape, should the worst happen.
5. This Pandemic Too Shall Pass
I tell myself this every single day. Things suck right now for most of us. Many of us are stuck at home with kids who are climbing up the walls. We might not know how we’ll pay next month’s bills. We’re even limited in being able to get out and enjoy the great outdoors if it puts our health in jeopardy.
But this pandemic will be over soon. Think of those who survived the Great Depression. Or World War II. Or 9/11. Name your devastation, and they all have one thing in common: eventually things got better. Yes, the trauma and financial impact may live on longer, but we will survive this. We’ve just got to keep positive and know that good things are coming.