I’m sick of hearing about COVID-19, coronavirus or whatever euphemism the media using at the moment. Sick of it. But, much like a toothache, I really can’t avoid it until the problem gets fixed.
I’m going to guess you’re in the same spot right now. So what can we do? In the immediate term, what you can do to stay in business depends on what the government will allow you to do.
If you are dealing with a shelter-in-place order or a dictum that requires your “non-essential” business to close (“Non-essential?” It’s pretty dang essential to me, but I didn’t get any input into the government mandates.), there are things you can do. No. 1, push selling online. If you don’t have any online sales markets operating (Amazon, Reverb, eBay, etc.), go to a computer, open the needed accounts, and start listing products. You can package the sales and drop them in a postal pickup box, and never see a human in the process. You can do this without opening the store. You don’t even have to turn on the lights, just work in the back.
If you are in an area that has not shut you down yet, good. Start using social media to push curbside service. Tell folks all they have to do is pull up out front, phone in the order, and you’ll run the card and hand deliver their order to them at the curb. Tell them they can call it in ahead of time.
If restaurants in your area are doing home delivery, so can you. Right now, Amazon Prime has a five-day delivery lag, but you can deliver same day. You’ve got Amazon beat, but you have to use social media to get the word out so others will know. Oh, you’ve never done that before? Neither have we, but we can’t continue to live like it’s four weeks ago. We’re offering free home/office delivery on all orders of $10 or more.
If someone calls and wants to know what instrument to buy, lay the phone down and play different models for them, then offer to bring some to them so they can decide. If you have a Square account (or something similar), you can stick the little white tile in your phone and process customers’ cards while standing on their doorsteps. (Make sure you wear gloves to keep your customers at ease.) If you make a home delivery, don’t forget to carry some accessories they might like to buy as well. We need to play “The Fuller Brush Man” for the next few weeks, and make our communities love our door-to-door efforts.
Use your smartphone to video someone sterilizing the door handles and touchscreens in your store, and post it all over social media.
Hey, I saw that. You, the guy in the back … Stop shaking your head and muttering. Do you want your store to stay open and survive this pandemic? Nobody else is going to do this stuff for you, so get off your duff and get busy. Start early, and work late. Ask your employees for ideas. Make the home deliveries yourself.
Honestly, if your response to all of this is to gripe about how unfair this situation is, and not improvise, adapt and overcome, then there’s a good chance you won’t have to deal with this situation much longer. Commercial natural selection is a thing, too, and whether you rise or succumb is purely up to you.
Marines are, by training and instinct, somewhat cocky and self-assured in their approach to life. “Improvise, adapt and overcome” is an attitude they are very comfortable with. They’ve trained to be confident and calm in crisis situations. Most of us have never had that training, but we have to adopt that same view of approaching life and work at the moment. Let’s call this OJT (on-the-job training) in crisis management. If the government or social distancing impedes your usual revenue stream, think outside the box and do whatever it takes to get customers taken care of. Right now, you can do what Amazon, Reverb and eBay can’t do, and won’t do. Will you do it?
This crisis is not going to last, and to borrow a term from the politicians, we don’t need to let a good crisis go to waste. We need to adapt to the situation, and be the stores our customers need right now. Go ahead and do it today. Decide which side of commercial natural selection you’ll end up on, and get busy making it happen.
Does this approach guarantee you’ll make it and still be viable when things return to normal? No, it doesn’t. But, it sure beats the heck out of fretting over things as they are now, and trying to conduct business as usual. And, if you don’t make it, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you went down swinging as hard as you could.
Now, decide what your approach is going to be, get busy, and remember to wash your hands. We have a lot to do today, and it’s time to get started.