A focused reopening strategy is vital

Manchester business leaders share advice

Mike Skelton Headshot Color

2020 has not been a good year for small businesses. The Covid-19 pandemic has shut down much of America and many local, small businesses have felt the brunt of that pain. Read the local headlines and you’d be left asking yourself if any emerging businesses will still be open once life returns to the new “normal.”

But that narrative is a bit unfair and does not tell all of the story. Small businesses are run by some of the country’s best entrepreneurs. They are resilient. They will fight back and reinvent their offerings as they need to. These entrepreneurs tend to specialize in a couple key areas that they are passionate about – but it’s in the other areas, especially amid a global pandemic, where they likely need some expert help to not only keep their business afloat but to push it ahead.

Tech startups and massive organizations benefit from having investors and board of directors. They are surrounded by experienced hands that have operated through crises before. They lay out guides and are a phone call away for tough questions.  Many small business owners don’t have that built-in support system — or they may not realize they do.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of a community; their very existence drives countless benefits to the larger businesses around them – the cultural cache, entertainment value or convenience they provide, for example, is a major selling point for companies looking to recruit new talent to the area. Now, it’s time for that community to come together and support their local entrepreneurs and small businesses in their hour of need.

It is the time to look toward the future. In the coming weeks and months, America will be reopening. What should small businesses, which have been focusing on survival, be thinking about when it comes to reopening?

For example, what steps are you taking to make customers feel comfortable and safe? During the early reopening phase customers will be paying close attention to how businesses are adhering to social distancing and public health guidelines. Businesses that proactively embrace these guidelines and find ways to creatively communicate how they are integrating them into their operations will instill confidence in potential customers at a time when they are just starting to venture back out to shop, dine and support their local businesses.

But what else should small businesses be thinking?

I asked four local New Hampshire entrepreneurs for their advice, each with different but complementary subject matter expertise. These four are living and breathing the life of a business owner and each wanted to share knowledge, experiences and advice.  Here’s what they said:

“Focus on what you can control in your business; what are the levers?  When you intimately understand your business model, then you are positioned to pull whatever lever that can play to your strengths, regardless of the environment. When you know exactly what you can control and have enough understanding of your ‘market’ you can make the instinctive decision at the exact right time to drive success. As our world continues to evolve at a faster pace than ever, it is all about the ability to ‘Adapt or Die’.” — Joe Raczka, co-founder, York IE

“Considering the likely new normal, think about where you ultimately want your business to be so that your phased reopening can actually be the iterative steps that get you there with momentum on your side. Drastically altering your business for short-term gain without thinking about the long-term potential could be more of an unfortunate distraction, as opposed to a benefit that leads to strength on the other side.” — Travis York, CEO, York Creative Collective

“Your internal audiences are just as important as your external ones. Keep your employees informed and engaged so they can help evangelize your brand. Whether you own a coffee shop, clothing store or run a large company, your team needs to be informed and on board with your reopening strategy and comfortable implementing it. When you’re mapping out a communications plan, don’t forget to include the front-line employees who will be doing the work. They are extensions of your brand and often the first point of contact with customers.” — EJ Powers, Executive Vice President & Partner, Montagne Communications

“Slow it down, survey the playing field, be realistic, reimagine your strategy, write it down, collaborate with your peers, sequence out your execution plans and communicate with your constituents. Did I say write it down? Hold yourself accountable and keep at it. This advice we’re giving is always somewhat of an exercise in projecting back to ourselves the things we also need to strategize on, hear and execute. It takes incredible dedication, conviction and resolve to build businesses from scratch that make an impact on their respective markets. You can do this!” — Kyle York, CEO, York IE

It’s a challenging journey for small businesses to process when, how and what to do when they open up. They will need a community and by working together, we’ll all create the new Main Street, built up from the hardships from the start of this year to something even better for our next generation. It all starts with each of us building up each other.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mikes@manchester-chamber.org.

Categories: Business Advice
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