In our continuing coverage of COVID-19’s effect on the business community, we caught up with Dr. Lisa, a supply chain academician and scholar, and founder of the Fresh Dolls Collection. An award winning author who has presented to the Clinton White House as well as Congress, she has a successful line of books and toys focused on empowering and encouraging youth through representation, and has been featured in Sister Circle, BuzzFeed, CNBC, BlackEnterprise, SheKnows and many more, with her dolls impacting the lives of consumers and celebrities alike.
Small businesses, in particular, have been hard hit. According to NBC News, “about 1.6 million small companies were able to get small business loans, the Small Business Administration said, out of at least 6 million that likely were eligible, according to census data. Bank of America economists estimate that $650 billion more would be necessary to meet demand.” Further, the post contends, even if companies are able to secure money from the Payment Protection Program, it converts into a low-interest loan if they don’t spend it as they’re required.
Here, Dr. Lisa shares information on what businesses can do to adjust to the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
TNJ.com: No one can really predict when the economy will be back to normal. What can small business owners do to pivot and adjust to the current economic situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Lisa: First, BREATHE. Then try to relax, settle the mind, gain clarity, and allow creativity to emerge. Small business owners must realize this too shall pass and re-engineering to survive in a post COVID-19 world will take creativity. Out of the greatest challenges come the greatest inventions.
Small businesses have a core strength that large corporations may not possess – Agility. The ability to check and adjust to the changing times very quickly affords small businesses advantage in the marketplace. International supply chains have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. The crisis created by the supply chain interruptions has reeked harm to businesses large and small. Pivoting to a supply chain not totally reliant on international channels is critical. For instance, traditionally, we at the World Of EPI, have relied on an extensive international supply chain primarily in one country in Asia. We quickly adjusted to expand our partners to other countries in Asia, Columbia, and the United States. This has enabled us to have an avenue to continue supplying product to our customers.
TNJ.com: COVID-19 is disrupting supply chains. How can small business owners manage supply chain risk and disruption?
Dr. Lisa: Seventy five percent of companies experience at least one major supply chain disruption every year, according to PwC and the Business Continuity Institute. So it’s imperative companies are prepared for this under normal circumstances.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented global pandemic that is teaching us new norms. For instance, just as we are told not to touch our faces, companies by employing a “Don’t Touch Supply Chain Management” strategy can gain efficiencies and savings. Costs are incurred every time products are touched in the production and logistical phases, therefore, eliminating just one point of product handling in the movement of goods from production to customer can yield significant cost savings.
In the manufacturing process, companies can practice a “Don’t Touch Supply Chain” strategy by re-engineering their supply chain to reduce redundancy. Examine your processes, see if there’s just one step you can remove from the process. Every time you do not touch the product; you reap cost savings.
Another way to mitigate risk is to have multiple supply partners for the same services. This not only gives a company more choice, flexibility, and disruption safeguards, it also increases power in negotiation. For example, spreading manufacturing across two or more factories can help firms switch factories in case of disruptions such as, worker strikes or natural disasters.
And lastly, consider purchasing business interruption insurance. Speak to your agent, this insurance covers the loss of business income if your company is affected by a disaster.
TNJ.com: What are some evolving small business trends that will become the new normal?
Dr. Lisa: The “new normal” is going to center around reducing personal contact. In the new environment customers may feel isolated and disconnected. Small businesses, even with limited resources, can incorporate technology to create intimacy with their customers.
Expect to see:
1) More focus on online sales
2) Increase investment in social media marketing
3) More reliance on social media influencers
4) More virtual meetings instead of in person meetings
5) More use of telecommuting with employees working remotely
6) Increased use of live video streams and chat rooms to connect with customers
7) Priority around securing financial sources for protection against business interruptions caused by unexpected disasters such as COVID-19.
8) Companies forming crisis management teams and task forces to develop incident management plans
TNJ.com: What are some questions all entrepreneurs should be asking themselves during COVID-19?
Dr. Lisa: How can we support social distancing guidelines while remaining connected to customers?
How can we meet the new needs of customers?
How can we create a sense of community and increase customer engagement?
How can we be innovative?
How do we incorporate technology more to conduct business?
TNJ.com: What are some marketing strategies you yourself as a business owner have adopted to keep your business running during COVID-19?
Dr. Lisa: We have regular internal meetings to develop creative ideas to grow the business and innovative ways stay connected to our Fresh Family Doll Community. We are leveraging technology to stay connected to customers. We’ve made enhancements to our website and increased our social media presence. We redesigned our site to improve the user experience and rolled out programs to keep the customers engaged and frequently coming back with loyalty rewards programs. We’ve taken full advantage of customers availability by implementing regular live video streams and enhancing social media engagement with contests and promotions. We are creating a Think Tank via Zoom that will allow customers to provide feedback on current products and make suggestions for future products.