Optimism is defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something — a sentiment many small business owners could agree to feeling when they first start their business. But, as we all experienced in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic shook the ground, optimism now serves us to wake up every day and overcome the new challenges we now face daily.
Reality is defined as the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. If you follow the news, reality nowaday, is in stark contrast to the optimism once felt by small-business owners who had to shut their doors for good or continue to hang on to a thread every day to stay open. Optimism and reality mean different things to different people, creating a paradox that makes it very difficult to financially project the future of any business.
However, there is reality to the optimism felt in the air as we see the new administration rollout vaccine efforts to the masses, provide much-needed stimulus checks to families, and invest in community services to help combat the pandemic. But the reality is, the positive impact of these investments are yet to be seen although they are projected to show an effect by the end of this year or next.
It is nearly impossible for a small business to survive an economic fallout of this magnitude without any sort of financial assistance. And the reality is, if the business does not generate money in this current market, it will have to close. So, what should an optimistic small-business owner do?
Here are a few tips to help small-business owners prepare for the economic comeback that will come, eventually.
- Essential really means essential. The phrase “essential services” took on its true meaning when the government ordered shutdowns of non-essential services. For many who started a business through 2020, essential was not a common term used in a business plan; now we are realizing how valuable essential businesses and workers truly are. So, if you plan to start a business that is recession- and pandemic-proof, consider investing or pivoting to an essential industry.
- Monitor trends in your chosen industry closely. There are so many trends starting to develop in everyday services, such as nail salons now providing customized, mail-ordered nail sets and restaurants selling their popular meals for customers to cook at home. This form of service innovation may seem like a temporary move, but many reports are showing that online orders to small businesses have gone up and may be here to stay. Monitor trends happening in your supply chain as well. There could be revenue opportunities you have not explored yet.
- Invest wisely and spend conservatively. No one wants to hear that someone else’s loss is another person’s gain. Unfortunately, that is the reality of investing, and having cash during a down economy will be one of your greatest tools to prepare for an economic comeback. So, if you have cash in the bank, make your moves wisely and try to grow your cash pile any way that you can. The reality is, investment opportunities will always come and you want to be ready for the right one for you.
- Polish your digital strategies and be consistent online. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to a small business to have a digital strategy. A digital strategy does not have to be too complicated, but it does need to be organized and consistent. Monetizing your social media efforts will require that you provide value to your followers and future customers.
- Know what resources are available for small businesses. There are many resources available to help small businesses ride out the hardships of the pandemic. Explore resources in your community to access forgivable loans, get technical assistance and find educational opportunities.
- Plan, plan, and plan some more. Planning is the act of matching your optimism with reality into a strategy that will result in achieving your goals. One cannot solely rely on optimism to have a successful business; reality is the flip side of that coin. Spend time planning out your strategy, talk to business advisers, read business publications, understand the geopolitical shifts and, most importantly, listen to your customers.
Optimism and reality have a place in business, in any market conditions. Remember, your optimism is defined by you and reality is the way things are. Not all reality is dark and gloomy, it is also bright and exciting. There are so many new opportunities and industries rising as a result of our global crisis. Sometimes, accepting the current reality allows you to see a future more optimistically, the same way you would see better when you clean the smudges off the lenses of your glasses.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
Para la versión en español de este artículo, haga clic aquí.