Let’s face it. Despite a wide range of efforts, COVID-19 and all of its current and future variants aren’t going to go away for a long, long time, if ever.
As business owners and managers, we can lament that fact and focus on all of the negative aspects of it, longing for the “good old days.” Alternatively, we can see the multiple opportunities that the current and likely future situation presents. Yet, many business owners seem frozen in their tracks and are still not doing what they need to be.
Here are some of the opportunities that I can see right here in Northwest Arkansas:
Restaurants: You all need easy online ordering, delivery options, outdoor dining (preferably covered with space heaters for cooler weather) and drive-up windows. Do these things, and you’ll probably be OK.
Banks: You need excellent, user-friendly apps that facilitate doing 90% of what people need to do online. It would be best if you also had good drive-through banking lanes and windows. Those who do these two things will gain business at the expense of the other guy.
Hotels/Motels: You need super-easy reservation systems and touch-free and person-free check-in with mobile phone keys or keypad entries. It would help if you also had food options for your guests that are good and convenient so they can dine in their rooms.
Education Providers: You need to be ready to accommodate students who don’t want to be there in person, as well as those who do. Hybrid teaching is the buzzword. Self-directed learning with teachers who are super-responsive on-call resources is the future. Also, less testing. What’s the point of it when anyone can cheat so easily? You need to find new ways to assess learning.
Retail Businesses: Get everything you sell online using every means possible. Maintain your websites constantly, and take all credit cards, including American Express. It would help if you also had super-rapid delivery options, like same-day on local orders. I would be a relentless promoter on social media and have multiple daily emails going out to all past customers. They have already bought from you and will again. Too many retailers are not doing these things.
Businesses With Workers Traditionally in Offices: Keep your best people by giving everyone you can the option to work from home. For those in the office, give them more space, more privacy, better ventilation and anything else that makes them feel better about being there.
Home Improvement: People are spending more time in their homes, so they want to improve their environment. Paint, wallpaper, kitchen and bath, deck, yard, pools, and home office projects face record demand. Garage cleaning, deck staining, power washing, window washing, gutter clearing and more are all desperately needed.
Cars, Motorcycles, Scooters, RVs, and Boats: There’s a huge demand all around. Businesses selling these things need to focus mainly on sourcing inventory because demand is high and not showing any signs of abatement. You also need better photos, more willingness to work with long-distance buyers, and super-rapid delivery. If you are in this business, you should also be touting more “we’ll come to you” service options.
The bottom line is that there are just as many opportunities posed by COVID as there are constraints. So much depends on your orientation. Do you see things as opportunities, or are you more inclined to see the threat? I’d choose the former and get to work.
Mark Zweig is the founder of two Fayetteville-based Inc. 500/5000 companies. He is also entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, and group chair for the Northwest Arkansas chapter of Vistage International. The opinions expressed are those of the author.