Let’s face it. Around the world times are more difficult and uncertain today than they have been in decades. The impact of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the life consumers in the U.S. were accustomed too, and often took for granted. In order to protect everyone’s health, mitigate spread and observe social distancing recommendations, much beloved public venues and gathering spaces have had to close their doors or operate at a reduced capacity. This has predominantly affected small businesses across all industries which heavily rely on foot traffic.
These difficult times have placed a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of community leaders to guide us through it. Without a doubt, the pandemic and the global response to it have caused an economic downturn and what the long-term effects will be is uncertain to many experts. However, we are still inspired by the stories of perseverance, innovation, and adaptability small businesses have shown to respond to the needs of their communities to help support each other to get through the pandemic.
Local Businesses Continue to Serve Their Communities
We’ve spoken with many local small business owners in the past few months to learn firsthand how they have adapted to the pandemic. Peter Boulware, the owner of a Tallahassee, Florida, dealership, Legacy Toyota, shared his thoughts on the uniquely challenging situation most local businesses find themselves in today. He said, “When difficult times hit, you have two options: You can get frustrated and upset, or you can try to find a way to make something positive out of it.”
In Legacy Toyota’s case, customer traffic was down in their showrooms and service center as a result of stay-at-home mandates and business closures. The team wanted to find ways they could contribute their time and resources to continue to serve their customers and community. Realizing there was a shortage of protective face masks they converted space and brought in sewing equipment to create a full-blown mask-making operation. Peter shared that the experience further strengthened his team and gave them a renewed sense of purpose during the pandemic. Ultimately, what they do best is serve people and making masks allowed them to help people and do their part to prevent the spread.
Bill Welsh, the owner of a Fish Window Cleaning franchise in Springdale, Arkansas, shared his story of empathy and courage with us. Within two weeks of the coronavirus crisis, 80% of his clients cancelled jobs, and he understood: Window cleaning was the least of their worries at the time. He simply re-affirmed to clients that he would be there for them when they were ready to re-open. He also took a personal risk in paying for his employees salaries out of his own pocket, but he also wanted to keep their morale up and skills honed, so they cleaned windows pro-bono at nursing homes, hospitals and local nonprofits.
These are just two examples of small business owner’s stories. We spoke with coffee shops, bookstores, hair salons, photographers, gyms, and so many other small business owners who share a similar sentiment about the current situation: Community matters now more than ever. Communities are aware of the pressure that is on small businesses during these times, and are looking for ways to help support them and help them get through this, just as much as they are eager to support their communities.
Why? Because the community makes up your business: They are loyal customers and brand advocates, they are your employees, they are your partners. The health of small businesses and the community are intertwined at the root, and if one suffers it will stunt the growth of the other. In difficult times, we must lean on each other for a helping hand or support. Where we live and who we live with matters. As we navigate this crisis, now is the time to focus on our communities and ways we can continue to serve them so we can get out of this situation together and better than before.
Community Brings Everyone Together, That’s Why It Matters
At the core of any business, there is a set of values that guide its purpose. During our talk with Peter Boulware, he pointed out something else that probably helped drive the success of his mask-making campaign: Now is the time to show our community the values of our business.
From our conversations with small business owners, and supported by data from our 2020 Spring Into Kindness Small Business Study, we know that small business owners have huge hearts, and they contribute to their communities primarily because they want to help their neighbors. In fact, 69% of the small businesses surveyed told us that the personal satisfaction they feel from giving back to their communities is the number one positive result they see from their charitable giving. Based on this finding, it is clear that serving and supporting the community is a guiding principle for most small businesses.
Finally, as we said before, the community is aware of the difficult situation small businesses are in and are looking for ways to help support them. How you respond to this crisis will be remembered after it passes (hopefully soon, if we focus on supporting one another). In the case of Bill Welsh, he prioritized keeping his employees, he treated clients with compassion, and donated cleaning services to the community to let them know they have his support. Despite all the hardships he faced as a business owner, he chose to be there for his employees, clients and community.
Showing your values and your heart during this time is important to your relationships with the community. Although there are safety guidelines that prevent many small businesses from functioning normally, finding ways to adapt and transform their resources into something that helps the community at this time will be not only appreciated, but remembered. Whether it’s creating a customer-sponsored gift package to give back to frontline workers like Enlightenment Coffee in Walton, Kentucky, did with their coffee and pastries or offering virtual storytelling to children like River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury, Connecticut, these stories about businesses helping their communities during this crisis are memorable.
At seedership, we care about the growth of small businesses and communities. We believe that kindness and community can help us get through this crisis together. To all the small businesses and owners out there today doing the right thing and showing your community your values, we are offering a free 30-day trial of our digital sharing and community storytelling platform. We can help you track, measure, and share the stories of how your business is giving back to the community, so that your kindness gets the visibility it deserves. Share your stories directly with your customers on your website, social media accounts, email newsletters, and wherever else you connect with them.
Keep showing your community that you care, and keep doing good. Hopefully, when this is all over your kindness during this time will be remembered and paid back by the community. Until then, stay positive and remember that kindness has a way of coming back.