The COVID-19 outbreak wreaked more havoc around the globe than anyone could have anticipated. Business owners, big and small, struggled to cope from the beginning.

For small businesses, the window of opportunity to react to the pandemic was smaller than the businesses themselves. The crisis is still unfolding; however, in the past five months, small businesses have proven they have grit, heart and staying power. Plus, they’ve learned some fundamental lessons on the road to discovering our new normal.

Don’t count small businesses out.


We learned our first lesson when the government issued its first directive: “Business must close their doors.” How could restaurants, studios and shops everywhere survive? Consumers still needed their products and services. Going dark was not an option.

Businesses quickly pivoted to work at the speed of the consumer. The shift from brick-and-mortar to hybrid business required a digital facelift — pronto. Sending emails was the bare minimum, yet for companies that never collected customer data, like coffee shops, emails were not an option.

Savvy companies began updating their websites and posting updates to social media. Companies and organizations with a handful of Instagram posts were now pushing out video content to promote their company like hotcakes.

Local bakeries were able to create an online ordering system to continue to get products to customers, and the empty storefront offered time to push innovative ideas, like online baking classes over a Zoom call.

Businesses didn’t expect a health crisis to interfere with their companies and organizations yet they still adapted their communication efforts and managed to increase engagement with their customers like never before.

Small Businesses, Big Thinking

There’s an assumption that big businesses dominate because they have deep pockets and access to more technology. That theory carries little weight now.

It seems the only thing startups needed was more time on their hands. Small businesses put their knowledge, skills and capital, no matter how little, to use and shook down big businesses. They were leveling the playing field and winning the loyalty game by improving their customer experience, communicating more and connecting on a personalized level.

They re-thought their business models, customer needs and began implementing CXM. In no time they were able to identify and leverage the right platforms, data and add-ons.

Think, Plan, Execute

Often the greatest lessons are the ones we’ve known all along — the “ah-ha” moment when everything clicks. Perhaps grandma’s saying, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” applies to more than having your shoes on when it’s time to head to the grocery store.

Those who had a plan in place — or quickly jumped into action — were able to figure out where to begin despite the litany of COVID-19 uncertainties.

In March, we learned it’s not enough to stay one step ahead of the game. Step one is simply to identify the infinite number of possible obstacles.

Step two is figuring out and readying various innovative solutions. The most significant step is three — testing and swiftly adjusting. Keeping an eye on key metrics like profit margin, customer retention and conversion rates help when determining experiment success or the need for prompt change.

We can’t predict the weather, but we can plan multiple picnics just in case.

Small businesses didn’t learn to survive a pandemic. We learned to successfully compete with well-known industry giants during a crisis.