The coronavirus has affected small businesses
July 14, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting small businesses in different ways.
I asked business coaches and health and wellness experts five questions:
- What has changed in your non-business life?
- How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business so far?
- What have you implemented in response to these business impacts?
- Have you contributed to the pandemic response?
- What gives you hope for the future?
I want to thank these small business owners for sharing some of their good and bad, personal and professional experiences with the coronavirus in this post. ❤️
Here’s what they had to say . . .
1. What has changed in your non-business life?
While many enjoy having more quiet time with family and partners, we miss others and feel more isolated and stressed.
It’s also difficult for parents of younger or higher-needs kids when schools and childcare aren’t available. And for those who have teen/young adult kids, it’s tough if their work is considered essential.
Grocery shopping and working out has changed. A lot.
And, supporting local businesses is more important than ever.
Childcare, grocery shopping, and fitness have changed dramatically for many
We had a mom in our 4th grade pass from COVID early on and that set the tone for a wake-up call to all of us!
We have been taking quarantine and precautions quite seriously in this house, and have learned to really lean on one another in our nuclear family for all things.
In general, now that we are nine weeks out, I have to admit that I have welcomed the lower stress lifestyle. I love not waking up to an alarm, stress, and pushing the kids to rush their morning. Instead we’re baking, cooking and eating as a family and not stressing about bedtime to wake up—and do it all again!
My husband has been the designated grocery shopper and 4th grade teacher and I am doing telehealth, teaching our PreKer (he gets a lot of work!!), and finding fun and silly ways to spend time together that don’t include a screen (although we do enjoy our popcorn movie nights twice a week where I let them stay up way past bedtime!)
My husband is unable to work so we are able to spend more time together with our 9-month-old. It has been wonderful being able to work together to parent, instead of being just me as a stay at home mom. This time has also allowed the opportunity for me to work on starting up my online business. I feel like we are healthier and appreciating the slow down pace of life, although, we are missing our community.
I get groceries delivered instead of shopping. Since my toddler’s preschool is shut, she’s stuck at home and cranky most of the time. It’s exhausting taking care of her and I feel like I have no time to myself.
I avoid takeouts now and instead cook and bake at home. My sleep has taken a hit and I sleep at 1:00 am and wake up four hours later. I feel more anxious due to all these changes that are happening because of the pandemic.
Grocery shopping is definitely different; uncomfortable going out to get groceries. Working out at home and running more; enjoying the outdoors.
I work with clients online and I’m fortunate that my husband is the grocery shopper in the family. I have a bit more time to spend on marketing and on writing my book. I guess the one thing that I’ve missed is my fitness routine. I train with a partner and we haven’t been able to meet up, so I’ve had to create another routine on my own.
It’s been MUCH harder for me to move my body. For one thing, I had developed a walking routine around my out-of-the-house work which ended; and for another, the first 4-6 weeks of our shutdown saw terrible weather.
On a positive note, my partner and I have had more quiet time together since neither of us can do our nightly routines—me working, him at the gym. This has been great for our relationship.
I have had to adjust my working schedule and have discovered that I can actually still get a lot done in less time. I have had to take half-days to look after the kids and to be honest, it’s been really nice not working so much!
I am now home full time with three kids and facilitating education with all three. Our life is busier in some ways but in general, it is much slower and relaxed. Because we don’t have any extracurricular activities we now have family dinners together every night and more downtime together.
My life has changed in many ways since the pandemic began. Fortunately, I was able to transition to working at home full-time in my day job but on top of that now had to home school my two young sons, one of which receives special education. Trying to fill in for eight different teachers is no easy feat, especially as a single parent. During the first few weeks, I was so overwhelmed. Making one quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some essentials resulted in such high anxiety.
I’ve learned to adjust and take breaks. I’ve learned to make fitness a priority and non-negotiable, hitting my elliptical most days of the week. I’ve learned that my sanity is the most important factor and to have gratitude for each day.
Mostly the grocery shopping and my fitness routine. Luckily, I’ve adapted easily and this feels like the new “normal.”
My first loss of the pandemic was a long-awaited sailing trip over the March Break. Adding to that, the anxiety of a daughter working at a grocery store, another daughter away at university, and I was a mile high into baking. For a while, it seemed I was baking a pie a day . . . which was lovely. Fresh hot cross buns at Easter; Homemade pizza dough. Bread of many varieties.
We had to lay off our nanny and housekeeper, isolated at home, homeschooling daughter who is in kindergarten, doing grocery pickup, and generally, a lot more isolated than we’d like.
The coronavirus has made it especially difficult for those of us with relatives who are ill or are in assisted living
I’ve definitely spent more time securing food and cooking at our house! My Dad has leukemia, so it’s been really important to me that I keep him out of stores and from needing to interact with anyone outside his hospital visits. That’s meant a lot of time ordering from Instacart and other local grocers to get what he needs.
In my free time, I’ve always been an avid cook. But this time has allowed me more time to slow down and make things from scratch: from pizza dough, to pasta, to all fresh sauces—it has been nice to focus on slowness during this time.
Not much has changed in my personal life due to COVID as I was already working from home in a remote location and I don’t have any children. That said I live far away from my family and when my grandfather and sister were sick it was very hard to be so far from them. Also, I was trying to plan a wedding for next year . . . and it turned out to be difficult due to all the 2020 weddings pushing to next year.
The new normal is one that has affected all aspects of life. Grocery shopping once a week is a bit stressful with shortages, distancing, and keeping safe. Cooking and preparing all meals at home is a total change. My husband and I loved dining out on a regular basis and we would pick new places to patronize—no longer! Laundry has increased exponentially as trips outside where there are others means clothes to be laundered.
Not seeing my mother on a regular basis is difficult as she—and other older family members—are in assisted living. This means conference calls, FaceTime, phone calls, posters (when visiting at windows), and cards. Updating photographs and making videos from pictures to help them remember the good times and not dwell on this isolated time.
I am sure I am no different than others. Though, I must say the days go by quickly with all the added safety responsibilities.
It’s an opportunity to support local small businesses and clear the clutter
We always shopped locally or at local farms. We certainly are not eating out at all, but we are supporting our favourite local restaurants by ordering and picking up curbside occasionally.
I have had the opportunity to get clear on what I need and reduce the clutter. In both my physical space, business, and most importantly, my mind!
In the past, I’ve been someone who has taken action by first consuming, i.e., the right clothes, the next course, books, information but now I realize: I already have everything I need.
2. How has the coronavirus affected your business so far?
Many—but not all—small businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in various ways. This is especially true for brick-and-mortar and in-person businesses. And even online businesses whose clients have been affected personally or professionally.
My work was all in-person, so it came to a dead stop. Some of it needs to be rescheduled for later dates, but most of it is simply lost revenue that can’t be recovered. I’ve adapted by creating an online program that I hadn’t planned on developing until at least Q3 of this year, taking it from idea to mini-launch in almost exactly 2 months. It’s not ideal, but I feel much better knowing I can nurture this into something that sustains me no matter how challenging a time we’re in.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been (incredibly fortunate) to see my business continue to grow. I’ll admit: I was ridiculously nervous in March when I started to get emails from clients about how *their* businesses were being impacted. But I haven’t lost any clients—and I’ve brought on several new ones since the pandemic began.
I know this hasn’t been true for everyone, and, yes, I consider myself really (really) lucky to be experiencing growth right now. But I honestly believe this is the result of having solid business foundations, leaning into my connections and network, and staying committed to and consistent with my marketing strategies.
I work with a population who are so stressed out—whether to lose their job or because they lost it—that they don’t feel like they can interact as much anymore. I know what I offer is useful to them but I have to accept that they can’t even talk about what’s going on in their life and health because it’s too overwhelming.
My business has been doing as well as it normally has, which I’m grateful for. At first, I needed to take some time to process what was happening to the world. But afterwards, I decided to go on with the normal compassion and empathy I’d have anyway.
I have always been a virtual business, seeing clients virtually via Zoom. I guess when the pandemic first drove people to work from home (those who were able to) there was a slowing in video recordings from Zoom. This delayed some course output by a day, but really nothing has impacted us. I made a decision to run a virtual business many years ago, enabling me to operate from anywhere in the world. It has worked beautifully.
I have a blog which I’m struggling to work on now that I’m stuck home with the toddler 24/7.
We’ve been a lot less productive than we’d like—because of lost childcare and general mental paralysis.
At first, it seemed to slow things down, and I did put a launch on the back-burner, but now things are picking up again and I have a lot of hope for the future. I’m hoping people realize just how important their health is now, more than ever.
I teach part-time, so that has been a huge change since it is all online now. Learning the technology and overcoming my discomfort with being on video has been a challenge, but I am glad that this is something I have faced since I would like to have more of an online presence.
My private practice office closed to in-person visits at the beginning of March. With no experience in virtual care, I began a journey to learn about the ethics, efficacy, and practicalities of online assessment and therapy. It was a way of working that I had never considered. Our professional colleges and associations, as well as colleagues, provided tremendous professional development resources for us move forward into this new way of practising. In 20 years of practice, I have never felt such a sense of community and support within my field.
It took me a few weeks to be prepared to offer secure virtual care. The most lovely part for me was to see my clients’ faces after being isolated those first weeks, and it continues to be such an important and valuable part of my week. Most of the children and adolescents who I see quite enjoy connecting online. Although some would prefer in-person sessions, there are some who have really embraced it. Families appreciate the flexibility as well as the ease of not driving to appointments. For some clients, they seem more at ease at home, and it can open up new areas for discussion, that might not ever have been explored. Virtual connections have been critical for professional and personal support as well as collaboration on projects.
3. What have you implemented in response to these business impacts?
Many small businesses are being forced to move online because of the coronavirus—and it’s not always as simple as moving in-person sessions to video calls! Let’s not minimize the challenges of investing in and learning new tech, some of the inevitable issues that can happen, as well as becoming more comfortable on camera. Plus, creating new onboarding processes for new clients has been necessary for some.
I’ve had a positive response for doing a trial run of my online business. It seems like people (women) are curious for change in their health and this is a great time to focus on that.
My pre-pandemic work was all collaborative to some extent, so now that I’ve pivoted to an online program that is exclusively mine I’ve had to step up ALL of my business processes at once, even while learning about many of them simultaneously. I’ve been working to re-position my online presence, build up social media and SEO awareness of my new program, develop onboarding systems for new clients, and flesh out all the details everything requires.
So far the only service I’ve invested in is a paid Zoom account, but I am looking into a Pinterest service and I’ve tried out some Adobe product free trials as well.
Having less time to work on my business has forced me to be more discerning on how I am spending my time and how I am prioritizing my work. I’ve hired an apprentice to help me stay on top of social media marketing and engagement in my Facebook group.
I’ve been able to get more clients and launch my new group program in the past month.
From the beginning, I’ve made a conscious effort to keep my business streamlined and simple so I (fortunately) haven’t had to cancel any services or drastically change how I do things. I’ve continued to show up, create valuable content for my audience, and be as human and authentic as possible (flaws and all).
I get prone to burnout and so I decided to release the pressure off my shoulders and go part-time for the time being. I too needed to get a better perspective on what I was doing and why, and stepping back helped me recentre on my own needs as an individual more than a business owner.
I have made myself available for 1-on-1 coaching sessions for my community when I usually only do group coaching.
I’m going to discontinue membership to online blogging groups and stock photo subscriptions to cut costs.
Learning and creating new online material
I’ve moved all of my classes online (which I like more than I expected). The rest of my business was already online!
I’ve invested and haven’t slowed down. In fact, I feel this is an opportunity to propel forward in my business more than ever.
I was already working with clients online and offering webinars, however, I quickly pivoted to meet the current demand. I offered several (public and corporate) webinars and launched a group program during the first six weeks of the lockdown.
My business was a face-to-face forum and I felt participants gained more from feeling the energy from an in-person workshop. It has evolved to recorded and live webinar presentations. It is a change that works, but I look forward to getting back to meeting my audience one day!
I have also invested in learning more about two of my most requested subject matters. As a result, I have upgraded some presentations to reflect my new information. I have also made free content materials to share with others.
I have invested in some online courses for personal and professional development. I have been finding it a bit hard to concentrate, but like the distraction and love to keep learning.
I recorded more interviews with experts at the onset of the pandemic and produced a 2-hour free webinar. But for me, everything else was business as usual because I am an online business.
Creating new and more affordable options
We made the decision early on to cancel all in-home visits and switch to telehealth. Our 1:1 patient care model is optimally suited for the utmost safety and best possible care, we made the decision that no risk is worth taking. We have been doing telehealth services and frankly, I’m surprised at how well they are going! We have also turned to doing a lot more free education online on platforms like Instagram and Facebook on what parents can do to keep their children active while at home.
We are putting a lot of content online to help parents to try some activities at home. We have significantly decreased our rates to allow any parent interested in help to access our care. We have also done a lot of much-needed collaboration with other professionals to continue to provide education to anyone around the globe!
It has also forced us to have the much-needed conversation of how to develop other streams of income when 1:1 in-person sessions are not an option.
It caused me to pause at first. I felt the need to stop selling and instead support others by giving away access to Q+A, free office hours and being of extra service. Honestly, it did take a few weeks to figure out how I wanted to move forward. However, as online business owners, we have an opportunity to help others build their businesses, help solve problems for others and frankly, keep money circulating in the economy!
I’ve added value and flexibility to my programs. I have a smaller option as an entry point to work with me, I’m giving more value by copy bonuses and more access to me. I’ve also given away coaching sessions for free. Right now I want to offer more support to my clients at every level.
I created a longer-term payment plan option for one of my programs which helped those who needed a bit more time, but still needed my products.
At first, it seemed like there were fewer new people reaching out; now there are more. I immediately took measures to create cost-friendly instantly downloadable resources for people who might be needing support but maybe couldn’t afford it.
Communicating differently because of the coronavirus
We’ve really focussed on appropriate messaging. Other than that, just trying to support our members!
Just more sensitivity to the current environment really, not too much else.
4. Have you contributed to the pandemic response?
I volunteered immediately to be included in the tele-hotline for the emergency response team in New Jersey. Thankfully (for the community), my services were not needed. I have also donated to the local NJ fundraising campaigns, NY PPE donation, and given away free evaluations to several non-profits among our community.
I’ve made a few contributions to the pandemic response and the business community. I’ve continued to support local and small businesses, I purchased masks from a company that donates face masks to first responders with every purchase, and I ran a giveaway and offered pretty significant discounts on some services and products. They feel a little small in comparison to some of the amazing support I’ve seen, but I think every little bit counts.
I have donated to a number of organizations close to my home and heart: from the food banks, to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, to my undergrad university (who’s supporting students in need). I also secretly bought & sent lunch to all of the staff at my Dad’s blood cancer unit at the University of Pennsylvania hospital, which was really rewarding and SO well deserved.
I’ve also been even more intentional about my buying behaviour—which has been the most rewarding thing during this time. Instead of shopping on giant websites or major shipping services, I’ve almost turned it into a little game to find what I need from a local or small retailer instead. I also prioritize socially and environmentally conscious companies, too.
I donated $$ to a centre to sponsor mental health services for people who can’t afford it.
We went through a mask-making phase where we were mailing masks to family who are in the healthcare industry.
We’ve donated to a few different charities, but the one that fills my heart the most is the Victoria University students. Having three young adult children, it breaks my heart to think of young adults struggling financially, not knowing how’ll they’ll buy groceries or pay rent, never mind pay for tuition. I told my son to let us know if he knows of any youngsters that may be struggling and I would anonymously drive by and slip grocery cards under their doors! Then I heard about the University of Victoria establishing a fund for their students, so this was a great opportunity to help.
Probably the most important thing I’ve been doing is to amplify credible and trustworthy information about the pandemic as well as sharing tips on how to identify misinformation. I’ve also connected several Canadian researchers to each other on Twitter, donated money to Food Banks Canada, and applied to Service Canada to volunteer to do contact tracing (although I haven’t been contacted about this yet).
5. What gives you hope for the future?
I do really feel that this time was a gift given to us to reconsider our introspective. What is important to us and how are we choosing to spend our time are questions that I will carry back with me when things start to return back. I do hope and pray that we are better as a society and have been able to really understand how much we need one another to thrive!
Slowing down and caring for ourselves. Spending time with family and realizing that we don’t need all this stuff, and all these things and to go to all these places to be happy.
And, the reduction in pollution during this time is amazing.
My hope is that more and more people will realize that they are responsible for their own health. That they have a little more insight into how their food and lifestyle choices can keep them healthy and ward off future illness/disease.
Personally, I have hope in the sheer stubbornness and optimism of people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned working with all kinds of people for decades, it’s that many of them will absolutely surprise you when faced with adversity, in the best way.
Professionally, I’ve had several conversations with friends who are finding themselves in a surprisingly great place financially, since their jobs have transitioned to home and they’ve retained their salaries, but discretionary spending opportunities have all but disappeared. This gives me hope that businesses like mine will become popular and successful!
That some people in my community have really enjoyed this forced isolation period and rekindled with their needs and desires. For these people, I know this is an opportunity to get out of the burnout vicious circle of exhaustion/anxiety/overwhelm and really figure out how to take all the benefits of isolation into their normal daily life.
I believe in the resilience of people. I also feel that this is an opportunity for a collective reset. New ideas and innovation will come out of it.
I also think it will give people an opportunity to tend more to their physical and mental well-being, slow down and really evaluate how they want to live and contribute.
The farmer from Kansas who sent Gov. Cuomo a face mask in the mail, even though his wife only has one lung and is at higher risk. I’m so glad the Governor of Kansas gave him an honourary college degree. Very well deserved.
Any crisis has positive results that follow the horrific event(s). I see a future with better public health, education, work environments etc. Change will be for the better and I hope to be part of that positive change.
1. I believe remote working and telemedicine will become the norm. That means less travel, less vehicle emissions, and less pollution.
2. People can now access mental health services online at an affordable price because it’s becoming the norm.
The community mindset and the way our immediate family has supported itself. We are also encouraged by some of the positive numbers coming out of the sector we’re in.
That this has woken people up to the importance of many things, including the importance of prevention instead of focusing on “cure” when it comes to our health.
People becoming both self-aware (about their own health physically and mentally) and being compassionate toward others through this as well.
I know how resilient people are and watching how kind and caring communities are during this difficult time shows how we will come through stronger.
I hope that this pandemic will raise basic hygiene awareness. I’d love to see fewer people cover their mouths with their hands in public. Ick.
What gives me hope are the many ways that we have come together to support each other through the pandemic. From buying groceries for neighbours, the risks and sacrifices of essential workers, to the many scientists around the world working towards vaccines and treatment, humanity is showing some of its finest moments.
Seeing experts across the globe all working together for a common goal: to help us get through and minimize the impact of COVID-19. This includes researchers, health care professionals, hospitals, universities, professional associations, companies, non-profits, charities, media outlets, governments, and countries collaborating as I’ve never seen, nor imagined.
We’re watching science grow our knowledge base about this virus, epidemics, human behaviour, and science communication every single day. People are seeing how what we know today builds on what we knew yesterday and how this informs many public health messages (wash your hands!). It can be confusing when things change, and it underscores how important it is for experts and governments to keep on top of the latest and best information and have consistent public health messaging that pivots when absolutely necessary—just as these businesses have had to pivot.
We all have a role to play and I see many people taking on the challenge and doing their best. What we do today will affect us and our community over the next few weeks and months. We will get through this and the best results in the long-run will happen with the best research, messaging, and actions we all take every day.
Want to download these coronavirus colouring sheets?
- Coronavirus colouring sheet from the Protein Data Bank
- COVID-19 colouring book from the Biochemistry Department at UW Madison