What are small businesses doing to stay afloat? 3 Business owners share their stories
At a time when many of us are asking, "When will this be over?" it is comforting and encouraging to see how others are navigating this period from a professional and personal standpoint. Hiscox recently reached out to three of our customers to find out how they are adapting, what business as usual looks like right now, and even how their personal lives have been impacted.
We knew that small business owners are ingenious and resilient, but never did we expect to find so much appreciation, gratitude, and energy from three people who are being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Handling the ‘pivot’
Small business owners Emily Charette of branding and design studio We Are Charette; Josh Hays of the digital marketing firm New York Ave; and Cheryl Smithem of Charleston Public Relations and Design told us how their businesses are adapting to the new environment. Each of them shared with us how they are learning as they go and finding new ways to bring in revenue and meeting clients’ needs.
“No idea is too big. Nothing sounds too crazy,” says Josh Hays. ”You need help researching the new programs the SBA is rolling out? Sure! You want to live stream a board game with your team? Heck, yes! You like the idea of sending personalized daily encouragement via email? We do too!”
For Josh, being there to help, no matter what the ask, has allowed him to remind clients that New York Ave is open for business and available to address a myriad of requests.
Adapting to meet client needs
To show customers that her business is available to help, Cheryl Smithem is offering discounts on services and she even “revisited a couple of quotes for work … and lowered the price hoping to get jobs in to keep us working.”
Emily Charette is seeing project requests from customers in two categories: “Projects that help businesses adapt to the new climate” and “projects that business owners have had on the back burner for a while and now that their day-to-day work has slowed down, they are able to devote some time to developing some new ideas.”
New working hours
Emily’s working hours have changed too, to bend with employees’ schedules and customer demands. “With the downturn in work, we’re taking the opportunity to take some mental health days and working hours when we’re mentally focused, instead of a 9-5 routine. We’re working more evenings and weekends, too, since daytime hours are better spent getting fresh air or gathering supplies now that there are no social activities in the evenings and grocery stores close early.”
Going above and beyond
Besides making it easier for customers to buy, these innovative and resilient business owners are finding ways to help their clients, even if it has nothing to do with making a sale.
Showing clients they care
In Emily’s case, they have turned off certain messaging that no longer feels appropriate. As a branding studio, it was important to Emily to be “sensitive to the current climate.” So they “promoted messages and programs that are more about taking care of the community.” As she puts it, “Caring about others has, in some ways, became more important than making a sale.”
Cheryl has created a new webinar that answers marketing questions. “We have started a new, free, weekly virtual “Ask Me Anything Marketing Round Table.” We want to help people who are business owners and who have been hurt in this pandemic. We want to be able to share some insights, advice or help as [much as] we can during this round table.”
Cheryl also reaches out to her customers with an email or call “not to offer or sell, just to say ‘hi!’ All of them have appreciated this,” she says. In addition to the webinar, Cheryl created a blog post early on, “about what we felt businesses should be doing to help support communications during the isolation/social distancing process.” So approaching customers with something to share instead of asking for something from them has been Cheryl’s method of staying in touch with her customer base so her business stays top-of-mind.
Keeping communication lines open
Josh’s approach is to make it easier for customers to get in touch: “What we have done is temporarily removed some of the traditional barriers we had in place, like answering the phone or responding to email only during work hours in an effort to rapidly respond to urgent requests our customers may have. Being available to serve our customers when they need us is a top priority.”
“The time we've spent connecting with our clients through COVID-19 has been 75% proactive by way of simply calling or emailing, checking in on their needs, and asking how we can be of service beyond what we are contracted to do.”
What’s making business owners feel motivated right now?
Motivation can be a challenge with so much uncertainty. We wanted to know how entrepreneurs are keeping their spirits up.
Gaining strength from customers
For Emily, staying strong started with her existing customers. “I have decided to maintain hope, to be brave and to support my brave customers who are choosing to continue to build,” she said.
“Asking ‘How are you doing? Staying well? How is your family?’ It helps a lot with the isolation that we’re all feeling, as well as reinforces the trust that we’ve built over the years.”
The strength and resiliency that her customers have displayed have also served to motivate Emily. “My clients, who are all entrepreneurs, are the most prepared for a disaster like this. These business owners never stop inventing new ways to serve their customers. I entered my career because I wanted to help businesses succeed. So right now, as so many are struggling, I find my motivation is easy to access emotionally.”
Focusing on the work
In Josh’s experience, sticking to his company’s mantra "Do great work, don't be a jerk,” has never been more true to stay productive and motivated.
“We pride ourselves on an excellent work/life balance,” he told us. “We're less interested in time logged and more interested in the quality of work put out.” This has set his business up to respond to customer inquiries that aren’t typically in their wheelhouse but are quickly becoming new offerings because of his team’s ability to hunker down and get the work done.
The little things
Cheryl says that it’s the simple things that are making it easier to get through the day. “We have enjoyed our backyard and the beauty of spring as well as the wildlife that visits us frequently … I've done Hangouts with my grandchildren and children and try to speak with my 91-year-old mother every couple of days.”
Physical exercise makes a big difference, too. “Taking a daily bike ride is critical to my mental health. And physical health. I'd previously set my annual goal as 650 miles for the year and now I've upped it to 800.” For Cheryl, these are the small things that have become big things to keep her going.
To find more inspiration from business owners and our customer, visit our celebrate courage page, where we share stories about the entrepreneurial spirit.