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Productivity - 4 min READ

Staying agile as an entrepreneur: Lessons learned over 2 tumultuous years

Unique landscape requires adapting to thrive

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Author photo: Katrina Oko-Odoi

Katrina Oko-Odoi

Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Entrepreneurship during a pandemic can seem daunting to many, but with upheaval comes new opportunities for those who are poised to seize them.

Some employees became entrepreneurs during Covid thanks to the most fluid job market in history. Turnover, job openings and hiring hit record highs in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and people haven’t stopped changing jobs since. While many in the Great Resignation jump to the next vine of possibilities at new companies, a sizable portion are ditching corporate jobs to start their own businesses.

Hayya Lee-McDonald, chief executive of Next Chapter Property Solutions and founder of the Women Small Business Owners Network group on LinkedIn, told the LA Times: “The pandemic just created a little more space for people to pursue the things they’ve been thinking about or wanting to do but didn’t have the time or capacity to do when they had to commute to work or sit at a desk or just be in the office.”

Some people, though, were forced into entrepreneurship during Covid out of the need to survive. A recent survey from Gusto and the National Association of Women Business Owners found that nearly half (47%) of businesses started by women in the past year are minority-owned, and minority business owners were twice as likely (35% vs. 17%) to start that business because of financial need compared to business owners that aren’t minorities. Many were furloughed or let go and found themselves forced to come up with creative income alternatives on their own, quickly.

Whatever led people to become entrepreneurs — or continue their entrepreneurial journey — over the past two years, they’ve learned to take advantage of the unique market conditions to adapt and thrive.

The state of small businesses in the pandemic

While some entrepreneurs have thrived during the pandemic, this success has come with huge challenges. Business leaders have faced new issues that require them to act without a clear roadmap, including:

  • Revenue loss: The ebb and flow of Covid cases has hit small businesses hard. Goldman Sachs found that 71% of small businesses’ revenue was negatively affected by the recent Omicron wave, with many consumers hunkering down yet again and brick-and-mortar businesses suffering the consequences. Still, optimism on Main Street is trending up compared to the beginning of the pandemic, and small businesses are looking ahead to what many believe will be brighter days.
  • Unpredictable consumer behavior: Supply and demand have been thrown off by rapid changes in consumer lifestyles and impacts to the global supply chain that make it tough to manage inventory and order fulfillment.
  • Employee turnover: Worker mobility during the Great Resignation means companies are having trouble keeping employees — causing businesses to lose critical sources of knowledge and experience.

But some positive developments have also emerged that are propelling small businesses forward:

  • Shop local movement: Consumers have become more conscientious about shopping at local businesses, with 57% choosing to shop local during the pandemic to keep money close to home, while 37% motivated to shop local to connect with the community. For entrepreneurs competing against big box brands and e-commerce retailers, the ability to connect one-on-one with consumers and provide personalized customer experiences offers a critical advantage.
  • Resources at their fingertips: It’s never been easier to create your own business and brand and get it out into the world. Whether it’s personal branding on social media, or utilizing technologies tailored towards small business, entrepreneurs have more resources than ever to help tell their story and sell their offerings.
  • Lower barrier to entry: With the pandemic upheaval, people are more accustomed to doing business in other ways. Virtual meetings, e-commerce adoption and subscription services are helping keep small businesses afloat and opening up new areas of potential for the future.

Whether they’re facing business challenges or opportunities, successful entrepreneurs today are navigating both with agility. Businesses that have been able to bend without breaking and establish new connections are poised for growth as the world finds equilibrium with Covid.

Lessons for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs have long been known for their hustle and determination, but the pandemic made it more important than ever for entrepreneurs to not go it alone. It can often feel like you’re being pulled in different directions to accommodate customers, employees and market forces. But taking cues from how society has transformed over the past two years, individuals can channel a more empathetic approach to entrepreneurship and prepare to meet the challenges of a still uncertain future.

Transparency in the face of instability

One of the most frustrating parts about being an entrepreneur today is the lack of control. While you might not be able to control whether your goods get stuck in port or inflation drives up your prices, you can be transparent and communicative with your customers. Take advantage of the customer information you have in your CRM to create targeted, empathetic communications that bring a personal touch. Make sure to create consistent messaging across all your channels that reflect a similar tone, including social media and email.

Flexibility for your workforce

The old rules of doing business were thrown out the window when everyone was forced to work from home and abandon face-to-face meetings or in-person sales. Avoid turnover by remaining flexible with how your employees work. A recent survey found that 74% of employees were looking for some sort of remote work setup to convince them to stay in their current job. Invest in the infrastructure to maintain a hybrid workplace and increase employee satisfaction.

Implement a flexible tech stack

Small businesses faced with shifting workforces and processes need a flexible technology stack supporting their every move. Tools with built-in flexibility and customizability allow you to adapt it to your business processes and workflow, instead of the other way around. As you grow, technology that’s capable of scaling with your biz can save you tons of resources down the line.

Nick McQuire, vice president of enterprise research at CCS Insight, explained to IT Pro how small business technology will transform in response to the pandemic: "More SMBs will have fully embraced the cloud, from SaaS tools in workplace productivity and collaboration, CRM and infrastructure to support e-commerce, customer contact and application development.”

Small things can have a big impact on your agility when it comes to the technology you choose. For CRM software, choosing one that integrates with your productivity suite of choice (whether Google Workspace or Microsoft 365) can simplify your employees’ experience and help increase adoption.

Expand your network (and your resources)

As an entrepreneur, you’re selling an image of yourself as often as you’re selling your goods and services. Invest in your own personal brand through social media — each platform has its own unique benefits — and connect with like-minded people. With the move to all things virtual, mentorship is more accessible and there are more communities than ever for you to join.

Building relationships as an entrepreneur during Covid

With the world “reopening” in fits and starts, people will be looking to reconnect — with their local businesses, their neighbors and the activities they once loved. Many people are acutely aware of what was lost over the last two years, and are anxious to build new connections.

As an entrepreneur with a small business, tapping into this very human desire for connection can help sustain your business now and set it up to thrive in the future. Make every connection count with a relationship-centric CRM like Copper that blends ease-of-use, flexibility and automation to help you win customers for life. Try us free for 14 days, no credit card needed.

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