By Michael Wynn
After facing the recent challenging months that resulted from COVID-19, Southwest Florida is ready to rebound.
While it is still early, there are clear signs we’re moving in the right direction. Businesses were dealt a sudden blow, but their comeback stories all feature common elements – the ability to listen, learn and adapt.
I recently had an opportunity to share my thoughts with business and community leaders through Restart SWFL, FGCU’s Economic Recovery Initiative. Like every business, Sunshine Ace has been impacted by the coronavirus, yet our company and team remain strong. Below are six factors that can help businesses continue their recovery in the weeks and months ahead:
STAY TRUE TO YOUR VALUES
A leader’s character is revealed when they find themselves under pressure. Your business is a reflection of your leadership. Will you put profits over people? Will you cut too deeply, and thus lose key talent or diminish the value and service your customers patronize you for? Leading in times of crisis is difficult. You are trying to balance protecting lives and protecting livelihoods. If you are honest and transparent with your team, they will trust you as you make the difficult decisions. Not only do we need to support other local businesses, but even in hard times, we need to find ways to give back and support those community organizations that provide for the most vulnerable among us. Making ethics a priority and caring for your neighbors has never been more important.
Employees and customers are hyper-focused on their personal safety, and they will support businesses that do the same. Sunshine Ace requires our team to wear protective face masks. We have also installed sanitizing stations as well as plastic shields around cash registers and service counters, all visible signs that safety is paramount. Many retail stores and restaurants are dedicating extra hours so internal cleaning crews can have ample time to sanitize and disinfect floors, doors, cash registers, counters and other touchpoints. In addition to our own internal cleaning protocols, Sunshine Ace has hired uniformed, daytime cleaning crews that work during store hours, offering visual reassurance that the shopping and work environment is clean and sterile.
LISTEN TO EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS
With decreased sales and increased tasks, time has never been a more precious commodity. However, we all have time to slow down and listen. To be relevant in a business environment with rapidly shifting consumer behaviors and demands, we have to be receptive to new ideas and input. Listen to your team. Listen to your customers. Often the best ideas come from them! What requests are your team saying “no” to? What new services or conveniences are your customers willing to pay for? Listening to your two most important stakeholders is critical to rapidly reshape your post-COVID offerings and ensure your business’s sustainability.
ADJUST STRATEGIC PLAN
When 2020 began, we carefully laid out our goals and annual business plan. Insert a global pandemic, though, and many of those goals are no longer relevant. We can’t change the challenges thrust upon us by COVID-19 or an economic recession. However, we can leverage the talent of our team, and be relentless in tackling each and every issue thrown at us through continuous innovation and embracing change. Whether that necessary change involves new products, services, partnerships, suppliers, curbside delivery or cleaning protocols, I have immense confidence in the entrepreneurs of Southwest Florida to make those tough calls and evolve into a stronger company.
Local and independent businesses understand the critical role they play in the local economy. A dollar spent with a local business will see roughly 67 cents stay in the local community. That’s almost 60% more than a dollar spent at a national chain. Local and independent businesses are the lifeblood of our community. However, while we often make a practice of encouraging our customers to shop local, we also need to be diligent in ensuring our spending is supporting local companies as well. When is the last time you reviewed your business purchases to ensure you were patronizing your fellow independents? That is something our company is sensitive to, whether it’s making sure the meals we are purchasing for our team are directed to local, independent restaurants or verifying that we source from local companies for our day-to-day supplies. If all of us were united in that commitment, we would have a significant impact on our collective economic recovery.
There is no pandemic playbook or business plan outlining a road map to success. However, our region is blessed with collective expertise. FGCU’s Restart SWFL is offering free resources and webinars, and chambers of commerce also are providing information about government stimulus programs, safety protocols, employee benefits and back-to-business toolkits. Don’t forget your peers as a resource, either. I have personally joined Zoom calls with local business leaders to share best practices and success stories.
Business is coming back in Southwest Florida, and it will be stronger than ever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Wynn is president of Sunshine Ace Hardware, a locally owned company with nine locations in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, and Pinellas counties, as well as two Crowder Bros. stores in Manatee County.