Originally printed in the American Press, May 26, 2020
As business owners race to open and begin servicing clients and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, some are trying to figure out if their enterprises are viable while others are closing permanently. In recent weeks, economic developers, investors, business strategist, life coaches, etc. have been sharing a message with the world business community. Essentially, the idea is that times are changing and common business practices and models are quickly becoming part of our past. This is not the first time business sectors have had to reshape and customize themselves to societal shifts and economic downturns. In fact, such times have given rise to the birth of companies like Disney, General Motors, Microsoft, and Slack in different decades in the not too distant past. What we all know is that no matter how trying times get, human ingenuity typically rises to the occasion. Now is the time for the believers in free enterprise to think about new businesses that serve the needs of customers now. New businesses are being formed nationwide as entrepreneurs and investment groups are paying attention to how the public is adjusting to COVID-19 life. According to the United States Census Bureau, 500,000 applications for employer identification numbers have been filed since March. The Small Business Administration has provided 300 start-up loans totaling $153 million during the pandemic. Aggressively minded entrepreneurs building business plans that take the following into consideration:
• The new business environment with less competition for resources.
• New customer needs.
• Easier access to talent (many specialists are home).
• Low-interest rates on start-up capital.
• Decent rates on equipment and supplies.
• Lower lease/rent costs. None of those potential benefits will guarantee an enterprise will succeed. Even in good economic times the federal government reports that up to 20 percent of businesses fail in the first year. Yet, great ideas are what is needed now. Business is about finding problems, inventing a solution, and getting someone to pay for it. Advances in technology -- which admittedly are not comfortable for traditionalist -- are paving the way for brand new business possibilities. If a person researches current business trends during COVID-19, they will find that many thinkers are trying to figure out how to:
• Educate children now.
• Improve the working from home experience.
• Manage the supply chain
• Clean homes and businesses safely and efficiently.
• Provide more access to virtual doctor visits.
• Provide more entertainment options and content on an assortment of digital platforms.
• Provide dining experiences within the confines of our new normal. Those problems are just a few that are out there looking for answers that may lead to economic opportunity for the adventurous business mind. Through research, observation, listening, and keeping an open mind, a person may find the current state of the world to be conducive to avant-garde and fresh enterprises. Here are a few questions that a person may want to consider as they allow their mind to brainstorm about new opportunities:
• What do customers need now and in the future?
• Can I create a system to serve their needs better?
• Do I have the qualifications to serve their needs in whatever enterprise I focus on?
• Can I get facetime with experts on the idea I am considering?
• Am I willing to compete for funding? The SEED Center Business Incubator is open with a staff willing to help anyone needing assistance in business planning and development. Meanwhile, the Alliance/Chamber SWLA is working with economic development agencies in state and around the nation to advocate for policies and laws that support business owners at all levels. The moment may be difficult for all of us, those who adapt and evolve mentally will have a better chance to thrive tomorrow.
Eric Cormier is the Vice President of Policy and Strategic Development at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. He can be contacted at 337-433-3632 or .