Surviving the tide

How unprecedented times can be the beginning of something big

One in five small businesses has been forced to permanently close their doors this past year because they were unable to adapt and evolve in response to the pandemic and recession. But some found ways to thrive in the midst of the disruption. Their actions can serve as lessons to light the way forward for those still lost. If your business isn’t thriving, here are some lessons that others did to help grow their businesses during the recession.

Add a new product or product line
When you started your business, you probably focused your business plan on a specific market. And that might have worked for some time. But the pandemic and current economic downturn continues to present new challenges, forcing you to rethink your original plan.

For silicone cookware maker GIR (Get It Right), the best solution was to add a new product line—one that focused on a different application of its core technologies or products. GIR could create vital protective equipment for the public using the same silicone material and manufacturing structure that was already the core of its business. So GIR developed an easy-to-clean, reusable silicone mask with companion filters.

When GIR launched its masks and filters it was rapidly swamped with orders – because the masks and filters filled a real, timely need. Since then, GIR hasn’t rested on its laurels. They’ve listened to its customers and continued to innovate.

GIR’s recognition of what customers wanted led it to update its mask and filter designs to create a better product, even launching an additional product—a mask carrying case to keep masks sanitary when customers carry them out in the world.

The blueprint includes:

  • Develop a product that solves a relevant problem.
  • Choose a product that aligns with your business model and current operational capabilities.
  • Let customer feedback guide your direction.
  • Look for related product opportunities that complement your new product.

Adapt your operations
Normal consumer behavior patterns have changed. Many people are uncomfortable (or unwilling) to eat indoors in restaurants. More people are shopping online more frequently than ever before.

When consumers enter stores they want to get in and out quicker than usual to minimize the risk of viral exposure. Smart businesses are paying attention to these trends by adapting their operations to support consumer preferences accordingly.

Coach, trainer and executive consultant Giora Morein reports that Whole Foods, along with Kroger, turned some stores into distribution centers and temporary warehouses and fulfilment centers. Adapting their operations has allowed them to meet their customers’ needs more effectively. And it’s powerful to deliver uninterrupted service at a time when so many businesses are failing to live up to customers’ expectations.

Here are ways you can adapt your business operations to service customers more effectively:

  • Embrace changing more than one thing.
  • Don’t assume that making a single change is going to be enough to propel your business to success.
  • For some businesses, adding a new product, adjusting operations, or reaching out to a new audience may be enough.
  • But, for many, it won’t be. And, that’s not a cause for alarm.
  • Make the changes that are appropriate to your unique situation.

Take the gourmet cheese retailer The Cheese Shop, which implemented a multi-faceted adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic. First, it expanded its store offerings beyond cheese to include a wider range of groceries, prepared sandwiches and meals. It used social media accounts to engage customers with videos of tasty foods and daily specials.

In addition, The Cheese Shop implemented curbside pick-up and shipping services, which continue to cater to those who are unable or uncomfortable to come into the shop. The retailer now offers “Victory Cheese” boxes to help support the American artisan cheese industry.

Think of ways to rethink your overall brand. Just remember not to confuse your customers and prospects. Careful branding or rebranding can help you tell a better story about the range of products you carry and about your business.

That’s what gift shop retailer Revolutionary Concord did. Like many businesses during the pandemic, it had to close its doors to the public during the early stages of the lock-downs.

In order to keep the store afloat, ownership introduced the following changes:

  • “Virtual shopping” via Facebook live, walking customers through the items in stock so they could place orders via phone.
  • A “no-touch” pick-up service and delivery.
  • When the store reopened, Revolutionary Concord instituted an eight customer maximum, a new sanitation regime, and private shopping hours available by appointment from 8:30 a.m.–10 a.m.

Just remember, changing course is not a weakness. Take a cue from these businesses and adapt your business in smart ways now and you’ll live to do business—and adapt again—to work another day.


Katie Lundin is a Marketing and Branding Specialist at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design and company naming services. She regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business, and design on crowdspring's award-winning small business blog.