Pivoting a Small Business During COVID-19
By Lorena Schott | November 6, 2020
Small businesses make up an essential part of any economy; they are crucial in creating jobs and providing services and products that larger businesses sometimes cannot. Small businesses in New Mexico are no exception to the rule, but in recent months local businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have been forced to shut down entirely for months or have seen a sharp drop in business. These unprecedented times have seen some of our favorite and beloved shops and restaurants closing their doors permanently, eliminating needed local jobs.
Despite these challenges, some consumers are looking to spend on discretionary and luxury purchases at a lower rate. Recent articles convey spikes in consumer spending on comfort-related products, like pajamas, housewares, and services, such as landscaping, coffee subscriptions, telehealth services, and fitness equipment services.
Once again, every crisis is an opportunity; however, sometimes, small businesses need to strategically pivot their business models to discover and meet evolving consumer needs. Here are some steps to take to accomplish a pivot for existing customer retention, a focus on gaining new customers, and increased overall engagement. Remember that a “pivot” does not just apply to your products or services but can come from a change to ANY of the nine building blocks of your business model. You can make adjustments to your payment methods, the customers you typically target, key partners you usually work with within your business, etc.
First, develop a short-term action plan with different scenarios to guide you through the next few weeks and months. Think deeply about how your business will pivot to meet new customers—and then act. Apply these strategies with the goal of surviving, if not thriving, as a small business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Next, pick new goals that align with your vision. Examine how COVID-19 has changed your outlook, if applicable. If the path you were on before the pandemic hit doesn’t feel right to you, perhaps step back and evaluate your mission in life, ensure that your new vision for your business is the right one for you.
Thirdly, don’t scrap that work you’ve already done. Because pivots don’t necessarily require a radical change, it’s important to identify what aspects of your company can be salvaged, kept, and reused once you’ve settled on the new direction.
Finally, there’s something that you probably already do – Listen to your customers: The feedback you receive from customers is a great indicator of where you need to focus your pivot. Be careful to consider the “return to normal times” as your pivot may not be permanent.
Any of the above steps are worth a few moments of your consideration. The examples below demonstrate how our clients have been working with WESST to develop a pivot strategy that’s right for their businesses.
- Carmen Bolivar, WESST client for over
7seven years and owner of Hamiel’s Bridals, a local event planning company, faced a potentially devastating business downturn due to COVID-19. She pivoted her business operations and went back to a previous passion of hers: food service. She is starting a food truck business with the help of a $10K WESST loan and financial guidance. She is scheduled to open in a few weeks in the parking lot of Hamiel’s Bridals.
- Liam Kimball, Owner of La Tuerta, has been operating a restaurant in downtown ABQ. WESST has assisted him with marketing, keeping up with regulations, and guiding him through updating his business license and applying for grants. Downtown has been a tough location to generate income during COVID, but he has been able to keep his doors open by implementing creative ideas such as monthly pop-up dinner food events that have been wildly successful, even though his is usually a “lunch only” dining establishment.
- Ginny Hatfield – Roswell Power Tumbling – When COVID shut down her tumbling studio in March, she had to move her equipment to a storage unit because she could not pay the rent. We assisted her in finding a bigger and better location, and she reopened on August 1st. Through her husband, she connected with a stranded circus performer who then trained Ginny to offer aerial scarves workouts to her existing “product” offerings!
- Sara LaMontine – #bowbymom – Started her business in January 2018, making and selling bows to friends and family, and successfully grew her business. Driven by COVID, she pivoted her business because she was concerned that discretionary income might not be spent on bows and so she added dolls and doll clothing to her product mix. With children and families spending much more time inside their homes, this was a great new product direction. She recently completed her largest revenue month ever!
WESST has been busier than ever, providing business consulting and training since New Mexico issued its COVID-19 shelter-in-place order. We immediately restructured our service delivery methods to effectively assist our clients remotely and in-person, using social distancing procedures. We collaborated with other providers, sought community support for our clients, and have begun planning for a post-COVID-19 future.
Our promise to you is that we will continue to be here to help rebuild our community. To meet with a WESST advisor, please complete the Business Assistance Request.
About the Author
Lorena Schott is a native New Mexican that brings a wealth of experience to the WESST team. Before joining WESST in 2009, she worked for Intel where she was acknowledged for her establishment of Intel’s centralized on-line system, rewarding and recognizing employees worldwide.