How can I keep my business going during and after this pandemic?

by Ken Sethney, Volunteer Business Mentor, SCORE Kitsap

Every business owner I’ve had a conversation with in the last month or so is struggling to answer that question. It doesn’t matter what they sell, products or services, they are struggling to find answers to very difficult questions. Almost everyone in start-up mode has simply stopped. 

So, what should they do? What should you do? My suggestion is to keep moving forward. 

One of my SCORE clients owns a well established business with several employees. She and her team provide therapeutic services, but they don’t qualify as “essential.” 

After giving the shelter-in-place problem some thought, she decided to focus on the sale of complimentary products the customers used to purchase at the front counter as they left her facility. 

The products are promoted online. Orders are placed online or by telephone, and they are delivered by a very essential delivery service. Her team is working. Revenue is being generated. Her client base feels like they are being served by people who really care. 

A friend of mine owns a coffee shop/café. She didn’t have to close her doors, but she had to stack up the tables and chairs. People walk up, place orders, and take their coffee and treats out the door. Sales aren’t normal, but they are a lot better than zero. 

Many years ago, I had to deal with an emergency. The fellow I worked for gave me a call and told me that he was closing his advertising agency for medical reasons. There wasn’t a pandemic, but he lost his company and 36 people lost their jobs. I wasn’t a happy guy. 

That said, after two days of wondering what I should do, I had a plan. I couldn’t afford to buy the agency, so I would create my own. I decided to create a virtual ad agency staffed by creative people willing to be independent contractors. 

I knew lots of artists, illustrators, photographers, and more, that didn’t want to work for anybody full time. I would call the VP’s of Sales & Marketing for the top 50 companies in Orange County California and see if I could get some projects. 

I had never made a sales call in my life, but I knew I would have to do it. In three weeks, I had my first job. In a few months, I didn’t have time to make any more sales calls. I had lots of projects and my clients were calling me to see if I could help with something new. 

As a volunteer business mentor, I’ve met with hundreds of people in Kitsap County over the last 6 years. Many have started businesses or grown the ones they owned. 

If you asked me for advice, I would encourage you to find a new way to use your skills and abilities to serve your customers or find new ones. I would ask you what you might do differently now than you had done in the past. Maybe your idea would help a little while we’re all waiting to get our economy back up to speed. Or, maybe it would open a new path that would help you make your future bigger and better than it had ever been. 

If you would like to meet with an experienced business person who has volunteered his or her time to help people like you, reach out to a SCORE mentor today!

Ken Sethney is a volunteer business mentor and branch manager for SCORE Kitsap. He started his first business in 1976, and several more after that. Contact him by email at ken.sethney@scorevolunteer.org.

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