This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on August 6, 2020.
We endured the shock and awe at the initial pandemic declaration. Strange new habits of social distancing, shutdowns and face masks became patters we adopted in record time.
We then started to hear about bending the curve and phased openings, and our expectations shifted to gradual improvements in our economy and personal lives. In the interim the scientists have learned more about the virus and have developed interventions that marginally improve survival statics, but nothing they’ve learned so far promises a quick fix.
We presumed Phase I would be followed by subsequent phases that progressively relaxed the precautions and increased business openings. Now flare-ups in pockets around the nation are causing us to re-think all of that and, quite frankly, leave us completely unsure where things are headed.
It would be more reassuring if leaders at all levels were responding to a common yardstick and offering similar guidance, but politics has become just another irritant during the COVID struggle.
Along with the uncertainty, it’s obvious now that this crisis is driving permanent changes to business sectors, our personal approaches and communities.
For all the harm COVID-19 has done, many of the collective actions we’ve been forced to take are benefitting us now and will bode well for our handling future crises. Analysts talk about the imperative for individuals, businesses and communities to be agile in the face of this pandemic. We’ve seen examples of our local government and business community readily stepping up to adapt previously entrenched policies to the circumstances. The Amazon win spawned regional collaboration, which is a huge advantage in dire circumstances – now and in the future.
Crises stimulate innovation. All of us were forced to become comfortable with telework overnight. Zoom is now common for business meetings as well as for get-togethers with family and friends.
Long-resistant businesses were forced into ecommerce. Restaurants have adapted their models to providing meal kits and even cocktails for takeout or delivery. Retailers and service sector businesses have reconfigured their space for safety and comfort of both customers and staff. Parents and schools are developing approaches to children’s’ education online. After pondering the closure of parts of King Street for years we now have a scenic setting for outdoor dining.
It’s not all roses. There are industries that have no idea what their sector is going to look like going forward and all small businesses with thinner margins are rightfully concerned about where things are headed.
Lessons from recent loan programs point to the imperative for businesses to strengthen their relationships with bankers and community business associations. In these uncertain circumstances, it’s also advisable to tap into the free resources of the Small Business Development Center for objective feedback and guidance on matters such as cash management, capital acquisition, personnel issues and optimizing operations.
While our goal posts are shifting and much is uncertain, what we’ve had to endure has not been a wasted effort. We’re stronger for having dealt with it individually and collectively. We ARE in this together!
Business owners can find COVID-19 assistance and recovery updates at www.alexandriasbdc.org.