Though it was only last week, it seems like a lifetime ago that Mayor Frank Scott’s secretary called and, most apologetically, canceled the mayor’s guest appearance on Wednesday’s live broadcast of Up In Your Business, saying a COVID-19 case had just been reported in Arkansas and Governor Asa Hutchinson had called an emergency coronavirus task-force meeting.
Though we may all be wishing for something else to talk about, as a business owner, how can I not write a blog about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the effects it’s having on small businesses?
How do Businesses Prepare for a Coronavirus Recession?
During this economic downturn, you may be wondering, “How’s FAB’s business weathering the coronavirus storm?” So far, it’s been business as usual. Unlike restaurants and movie theaters, most of FAB’s customers do their purchasing via phone, email, or online. As rumors swirl, I’ve yet to hear COVID-19 can be transmitted through electronic devices (a little humor, please and thank you).
But FAB will not be completely immune to the recession that is looming. In some ways, our preparation for such an event is, again, “business as usual.” By that I mean, as a business owner, I’m always thinking ahead. We buy inventory and make marketing plans a season or more in advance. We know which months have peak sales and which are the leanest, too.
In addition, we experienced business owners know our customers. The bulk of FAB’s patrons are schools, festivals, car dealerships, the government and the military. As I look at each of these categories, festivals are the only one I see threatened by the coronavirus outbreak. Even though schools are not having classes, many of the administrative staff is working. Thinking critically, I wonder, without the kids, if they may have some extra time for cleaning off their desks and taking care of unfinished business like ordering the extra flag for the podium or repairing the rope on their flagpole.
And as I preach over and over to business owners, this is not the time to stop advertising. When faced with slow sales, too many small business owners cut advertising expenses first. Thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Finding the Balance of Staying Home and Supporting Small Businesses
At our Tuesday marketing meeting we looked for the positive. There is a flag for all occasions. Did you know ships have a quarantine flag that can be used on land too? And we’ve sold several.
Also, in preparation for the inevitable slowdown, we began small cutbacks in employee hours and spending.
In many ways, I feel lucky. What if I owned a restaurant? How long can a restaurateur afford to pay their employees without sales? What happens to the minimum wage employee that can’t pay their heating bill or rent? Homelessness kills, too. As always its the poor who will suffer the most.
I have mixed emotions as, I assume, everyone else does. Where is the responsible balance of staying home to prevent the spread of disease and venturing out to support your local small businesses that, by the way, make up 46% of our American economy?
Advances in Telemedicine During the Coronavirus Pandemic
In talking with my pharmacist son-in-law, Alan, we began to expand on the notion that this may kick-start the needed telemedicine industry. Or that consumerism may hit the reset button and slow the growth of waste in landfills.
Out of all the things it does, the most important may be that it reminds us how fragile the life we lead is. In one day or week, a loved one can be taken, a job can be lost, a crime committed, a war started, or a viral pandemic can change the way we live, maybe forever.
I say old friends, “Stay grateful, act smart, keep healthy, and be brave. “