Entrepreneurial advice: Navigating COVID-19

Entrepreneurial Businesses of all shapes and sizes have unquestionably been affected by the unforeseen COVID-19 virus. This is truly uncharted territory for small business owners, which is why it’s important to stick together and support each other where possible. We reached out to four small business owners who are going through similar challenges to share their experiences so far and to offer advice which may help other businesses in need.

Entrepreneurial

Tina Mavriyannakis, CEO, The Smile Room

Tina is the Founder and CEO of The Smile Room, a mobile dental clinic which comes directly onsite to offices. Being an Oral Health Care provider, The Smile Room has ceased all patient care as of March 9th. Tina has been using these unique circumstances into transforming her business into a full teledentistry model and is working with professionals in her field about how this is impacting their profession as a whole. Tina offers 5 bits of advice to make the most of this downtime.

  1. There are always projects we wish we had time to look into…this is the time to do it.
  2. Make sure your processes are at their best. What needs rewriting, tweaking, refreshing?
  3. Reach out to clients. Have conversations about how they are doing.
  4. Read and get yourself up to date with all that is going on in your industry
  5. Do you need to make changes to the way your business runs post COVID-19?

Tina also recommends joining online communities with like-minded professionals. She is in several dental forums across Canada and the United States and has used this as an opportunity to ‘Zoom’ with people she wouldn’t have had time for in the past.

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James Laidler, Principal Consultant, Pointerway

James Laidler is a British Academy Award-winning journalist and former Executive Producer for BBC News. He’s overseen large-scale technology and change management projects and coached executives at Reuters and The New York Times. He now provides small business consulting through his company, Pointerway, a certified LGBT Business Enterprise.

The “continuity phase”

For now you need to ensure your business can continue – the continuity phase – in order to weather this crisis, however long that may be. It’s likely you’ll need to think creatively about how your business can pivot to keep an income stream. Think of this a mini-business plan exercise to identify for your special skills, the market’s needs, and how you can solve them.

For example, a client of mine is an events planner for conferences and corporate functions. We have now positioned him as an expert on digital events, as people still need to meet and converse to do business. He’s working as a resource to help his clients identify the best tools/software to match their needs, as there’s an overwhelming array of products on the market. He’s also doing local television and digital media to boost his profile, which is part of the next phase – recovery.

Prepare for recovery

This crisis will end. And when it does you need to be best positioned to return to business as usual although your business model may have significantly changed in the interim. To prepare for recovery you can take time to re-examine your business’s people, processes, and technology; taking a step back to make sure they still fulfill your needs. Consider your marketing channels; do they align with your target customers and your brand’s personality. And why will people return to you and spend money? It’s vital that you maintain communication with your customers, at a cadence that’s appropriate for your audience and for your resources, but become an expert resource for your field, so you’re the first name on your customers’ lips.”

Aliya Ladhani, Founder, Base Pace

Aliya is a finance and tech veteran-turned-founder of Base Pace, which specializes in career and leadership coaching. Aliya is offering ‘pay-what-you-can’ coaching sessions for any type of coaching that people may need to get through this time. Aliya states that she is fortunate to be able to see her clients virtually on a typical basis, however she admits that the nature of her work has shifted dramatically. She has changed the way she runs her day-to-day operations, which includes altering how she meets prospective clients, runs meetings, going to events and networking in general.

Take care of your mental health

It’s so easy for us to sit at our computer all day, everyday and not move, but it’s so important right now to take care of our mental and physical health. Movement keeps the blood flowing (sanitizing door knobs counts), fresh air keeps our minds sharp (I literally stick my head out the window and take a few deep breaths 5 – 6 times a day), and reflection clears our minds (I always say, better out than in!).”

Adaptability is key

Aliya also shares how her adaptability has helped keep her grounded, “I’m trying not to get too hung up on routine, but I do make sure that I’m eating well, doing some form of exercise (cleaning counts), and making sure that I’m in touch with my friends and family over FaceTime and Zoom. Connection is really important for me, and making sure that I’m doing these things and keeping on top of work and what’s within my control right now, stops me from obsessing about the news and social media. I’ve been trying to watch the news once a day, get the info I need, and then move on to something else.”

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Luke Aitken, CEO, Great White Painting Company

Luke is the CEO of Great White Painting Company, which offers premium indoor and outdoor painting through Muskoka, Ontario. Like so many others, Luke’s business has been affected by COVID-19, and he says it’s completely changed the way they do things. Initially beginning with taking necessary safety precautions, they have since stopped all operations until things clear up.

Cash flow is king

From there it is about cutting expenses and doing what you can do to keep cash king. We need to have cash flow in order to ride this out. If it’s not coming in – make sure as little as possible is going out.”

Seek out assistance

The Ontario government website, the federal government website, and information laid out by both of those sources. More importantly the mentors in my life who are helping me navigate through a rare and new time in small business. I also joined a large north american small business forum that has been sharing great information on how to get through times like this. A lot of people on there were affected by the 2008 recession and shared insights on how to get through times like those!”