Small business owners are problem solvers.  It’s an inherent skill set either learned or acquired as entrepreneurs who aren’t given a road map but must figure out their path through education, asking questions and simply trial and error.

As small business educators, the staff at the Miller Business Resource Center teach small business owners to have a plan, a backup plan, and the ability to make data-driven decisions based on metrics and financial forecasts.

Never have we seen, nor could we have foreseen the circumstances small businesses find themselves in today.  As I’ve spent hours upon hours on calls, webinars, and information sessions the past 3 weeks, I’ve listened to numerous small business owners and the array of questions they have and problems they are facing.  Those that are beginning to pivot and chart a new course are those who already had some semblance of a solid plan, a backup plan and a solid understanding of their finances.

The modules and learning objectives we have for all our entrepreneurship programs are focused on helping small businesses solve problems that arise, as they inevitably do, but to do it with the tools of knowledge, resources, and the ability to access capital.  Our team has done a remarkable job in trying to triage the urgent needs of businesses who find themselves in deep and unchartered waters when they’re faced with 100% revenue losses due to shut down.  Looking for pivots and alternative revenue streams, as well as short term gap financing has been our full-time focus these past few weeks.

Of the many webinars I’ve attended, one by Jeff Hoffman helped me put into focus an effective 3-point strategy that makes sense for those businesses who are looking to survive the current crisis.  They are:

Repurpose, Retool, Redeploy.

Repurpose:  Companies who understand their capabilities and how to redirect resources into new products, new delivery systems, and new potential customers are re-learning how to take their core capabilities and capitalize on new markets inevitably caused by disruption.  We see restaurants completely re-thinking their pick-up and delivery systems as an example.

Retool:  Determine how your company can take advantage of new technologies, programs and potential markets and research how to become better equipped to serve them in the future.  Can you re-educate your staff through e-commerce delivery systems, on-line educational platforms?  The opportunity is to come through this crisis as a much more capable company.  Training and education companies who never held online classes are quickly learning how to reach their audience and potentially new ones by introducing online and recorded curriculum.

Redeploy:  Can you take the skillsets your personnel have and re-deploy them in other areas of your own company or to assist with non-profits or community needs during the current crisis?  Determine how you can take your greatest asset, your people, and retrain or re-deploy them in areas of greatest need.  Building loyalty and demonstrating your desire to retain your staff will inevitably help small businesses who won’t have to retrain new hires but can redeploy workers on a short-term basis.  As Personal Protective Equipment companies are in high demand, employees are transitioning to help manufacture, package and distribute medical products to help their communities while on temporary leave from their regular employment.

Those who rely on solid business principles, data-driven decisions and creative thinking will likely come through this situational business down-turn as even stronger companies.  My hope is that small businesses get the assistance they need short term, but also learn to become self-reliant in the face of the inevitable next small business challenge, whatever that may be.