Posted by on April 22, 2020

I hope that what I’m about to say doesn’t come off as insensitive.

I have friends who’ve lost family members to COVID-19.

I have friends who’ve had to shut down businesses because of the pandemic. In fact, I myself have had to temporarily close two of my own retail stores.

I have friends who’ve lost their jobs and are struggling with depression.

If any of this has happened to you, I’m deeply sorry for your loss.

But my message today is for the small business owners, and the solopreneurs, who have seen a drastic sales drop and are scared.

Some research estimates that the current U.S. unemployment rate may really be as high as 13%, and climbing to surpass the Great Depression.

Many speculate that it could get as high as 20%-30%.

When I first heard these statistics, I was frightened. Our revenue came to a screeching halt as colleges closed, and major events got canceled.

My business makes branded apparel and merchandise. About half of our revenue is related to the collegiate fraternity and sorority market; the other half is largely driven by mass gatherings, like conferences and trade shows.

So like most businesses, we immediately stopped our marketing spend and started cutting expenses, big time, in every area. We applied for every grant and disaster loan we could find.

These were reactive moves, fueled by fear. Necessary? Perhaps. But then I heard something that sparked an “aha” moment:

Even if the unemployment rate does get as high as 30%, that would mean 70% of people are financially unaffected. And some of those people are actually doing better now, than they were before coronavirus hit.

In my mind, this translated to…

“The majority of people are doing just fine, and want to keep shopping with you. Focus on them, and sell to them.”

Once I made that mental shift, we switched back on our advertising, and even cranked it up a bit more (remembering to keep the verbiage sensitive, and not exploitative, of course).

Because of this, online sales are way up, and we are not only surviving, but thriving in this social distancing economy.

The classic optimism-vs-pessimism comparison refers to the glass being either half empty or half full.

What made the difference for our business is just to focus on the water. Period.

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