startup lessons

3 Vital Startup Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic

What will you remember most when you look back on 2020?

While all of our stories are different, if you were an entrepreneur or small business owner, you may remember this year as one full of great changes in business and leadership due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while there is never an ideal time to be faced with an unprecedented event, COVID-19 brought out the best in entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world.

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Here are a few unforgettable lessons that entrepreneurs learned and mastered during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020:

Your business must be agile and you must have the ability to pivot

Businesses did not make it out of 2020 by maintaining the status quo. Companies in industries hit hardest by the pandemic knew they needed to pivot into offerings where they could meet the needs of consumers as they sheltered in place.

This kind of agile thinking helped entrepreneurs to pivot across all industries: Breweries began distilling hand sanitizer and fashion houses sewed masks. Some local restaurants utilized their inventory in unique ways and sold basic pantry essentials to patrons who couldn’t dine indoors. Even eco-friendly toilet paper startups saw a boom in business as toilet paper was bought in bulk.

Agility was also critical for brick-and-mortar businesses, as so many restaurants were forced to close their indoor dining options entirely, or were made to operate at a limited capacity based on ever-changing public health orders. Sit-down restaurants and coffee shops, for example, have been able to create new methods for customers to continue to frequent their establishments. There has been a rise in curbside delivery and takeout options available to consumers this year, as businesses have been swift to create websites and mobile apps to reach patrons.

This year, it became absolutely critical for startups and small businesses to have an online presence, for consumers to be up-to-date on operations and policies, but more importantly, to make purchases.

Health and safety measures are critical

Over the course of 2020, startups and small businesses have closed and reopened a number of times. Entrepreneurs understand what it means to follow safety preparation checklists that reflect our new normal, in addition to standard OSHA guidelines.

Cleanliness is now considered a huge part of safety within businesses of all sizes, for both staff and customers. Moving forward in 2021 and beyond, there will continue to be an emphasis on ways that businesses can create a collective effort that helps customers feel as safe as possible when visiting and shopping at a brick-and-mortar storefront.

For more tips on continuing to keep your employees and customers safe, listen to our WJR Business Beat segment on best practices for maintaining health and safety during the pandemic.

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You must embrace a customer-first mindset to succeed

Despite social distancing measures, small businesses found ways to grow closer to customers throughout 2020. They developed new, hands-off methods for purchasing their products, and online communication was increased through a number of avenues, ranging from e-newsletters to social media updates about any changes customers should be aware of.

In 2021 and beyond, entrepreneurs will continue to adapt to meet customer needs. If you’re not sure how to develop a customer-first mindset, one of the simplest ways to get started is to actually ask your customers.

A customer-first mindset requires feedback, and customer feedback enables entrepreneurs to do better and to keep doing better. Beyond continuously improving the customer experience, regular feedback helps startups establish better relationships with their customers.

In a post-pandemic world, customers will remember the businesses that were there for them through the toughest times, and they will be mindful to shop with those businesses. When you take the time to embrace a customer-first mindset, you are investing in relationships and building trust that can last a lifetime.

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