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Where Do Independent Local Small Businesses Go from Here?

It’s been a few months since my last blog post, so this one is a bit longer than usual. There’s been a lot going on recently so read on... Well, you’re finally “open” again. Hopefully, your family, friends, and coworkers made it through the past few months safely. As a father of two doctors working on the frontline, this is a stressful time for my wife and me, but both boys assure us they are taking all the necessary precautions. While I have faith in the good judgment of my kids to stay healthy, I can’t help but worry about the health of our business and that of our customers’. From talking to other business owners, it is evident that how we do business and the companies themselves have changed since before the pandemic hit the U.S. The short-term scramble to reopen, to secure government-backed grants and loans, and to comply with new business guidelines, has caused most businesses to focus on the day-to-day rather than the tomorrow. To survive and thrive, businesses must adapt to changing consumer demands and market conditions. If you think business practices will return to pre-COVID-19 status, then by all means stay the course for the short-term and wait for things to return to “normal”. However, if you believe business as we knew it has changed permanently, then now is the time to start shifting your business practices and product mix to ensure you remain relevant in the long-term.

Cleanliness and Safety

I believe one thing is for sure – customers want to feel safe when doing business with you. A lack of cleanliness in the workplace may now become a deal-breaker for some, as might pushy salespeople that invade your personal space, the absence of clear guidelines for doing business together, coworkers who insist on coming into work when not feeling well, or the inability to conduct business in a virtual environment. The challenges (and costs) to become CDC compliant will vary by industry. Restaurants, theaters, bars, airlines, sports venues, hotels, cruise lines, gyms, and schools are just some of the institutions facing paramount changes to their operations that may, in the long-term, drive consumers to find alternative solutions. In just the first 2-3 months of the recommended home-quarantine period, many people have discovered (or rediscovered) the enjoyment of cooking at home, riding a bike, reading a book, or fostering a pet. Boat and motorhome sales are booming, as are Netflix, Peloton and Amazon. The stock price for Zoom Video Communications (ZM) – which most of us had never heard of prior to March – was trading at around $68 per share prior to the pandemic and is now over $250. To think everything will go back to the way it was seems naïve. Iconic brands like JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Hertz, Pier 1, Gold’s Gym, and J. Crew have all recently declared bankruptcy, but what about all the small local companies you don’t read about that are teetering on the edge of extinction or have already shut their doors?

Support Local Business

When you’re concerned about the risks of leaving your home, online shopping makes a lot of sense. While that may seem good for you, it’s bad for our local economy. When you shop locally – and by locally I mean with businesses that are independently-owned and based here in Central Florida, not chain stores that just have a presence in the community – you are supporting local jobs and contributing to the tax base that pays for our roads, police, and fire protection. In fact, every dollar spent at an independent local business returns three times more money to the local economy than a chain store or from shopping online. When you support local businesses you help create (or save) more jobs, putting money back into the pockets of your neighbors. Business owners and their employees will then spend that money in the community – supporting other local merchants, service providers, schools, churches, and charities. Many local merchants provide unique products, local expertise, customized products, and unparalleled customer service. That’s what oftentimes sets them apart from the online sellers and mass merchandise chains.

Do What’s Right Today for a Better Tomorrow

I know it can be challenging to think about tomorrow when there’s so much to be concerned about today. We are all unique and have our own sets of concerns and problems – be it kids returning to school, job losses, elderly parents and grandparents, health issues, money, etc. While I don’t have many of the answers to today’s problems, I do possess a little wisdom, having been through the ups and downs of life for the past six decades. Attitude is an important element in making it through difficult times. So too is surrounding yourself with positive influences, people, and messages. It is better to approach what is unknown in the future with faith rather than fear.  As one blogger recently said, “It’s not that optimism solves all of life’s problems; it is just that it can sometimes make the difference between coping and collapsing.” Stay safe and keep the faith. Our team here at AlphaGraphics Lake Mary is here for you whenever you need us.

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