4 Tips for Discovering a Great Business Idea During the Pandemic
Necessity is the mother of invention, and we've rarely needed great ideas as much as we need them now.
It's been a struggle trying to remain optimistic throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Between adjusting to new routines and facing so much uncertainty, the crisis has definitely taken a toll on us emotionally, mentally and physically. And it's probably going to be this way until the foreseeable future.
But, as a resilient entrepreneur, that's not exactly a bad thing. Times of crisis, after all, drive creativity and innovation. Some examples throughout history include:
- Adding more cars to trains to limit the number of passengers in each during 1918. The 1918 influenza pandemic also led to the establishment of a national disease reporting system.
- During the Great Depression, patents spiked. These inventions included ballpoint pens, photocopying, the first working helicopter, the discovery of nuclear fission and the car radio.
- As Bill Gates noted in a blog post, "During World War II, an amazing amount of innovation, including radar, reliable torpedoes and code-breaking, helped end the war faster." The mass production of synthetic and vehicles like the Jeep also came out of this period.
- Airbnb succeeded following the Great Recession, since it was an alternative for anyone who had been priced out of hotels.
More recently, we've witnessed this as well. Whether it's clothing companies pivoting to producing facemasks or Dyson designing a new ventilator, there are opportunities to hack the COVID-19 crisis.
"In good times, companies get fat, dumb, and happy when it comes to innovation," said Jay Rao, author and professor at Babson College. "There are no boundaries, and it's chaos." During turbulent times, however, entrepreneurs are forced to think differently to solve problems.
Let's take a closer look at how you can make the most out of COVID-19.
1. Follow the three Rs
No. I'm not talking about reduce, reuse, and recycle; this is something different: It's actually a rapid-recover-revenue. And, according to McKinsey, the three Rs is one of the strategies you should use if you want your business to come back stronger.
"Speed matters: it will not be enough for companies to recover revenues gradually as the crisis abates," write Kevin Sneader and Bob Sternfels. "They will need to fundamentally rethink their revenue profile, to position themselves for the long term and to get ahead of the competition."
How can this be achieved? Well, your company is going to have to SHAPE up:
- Start-up mindset. Instead of extensive research, take action. action.
- Human at the core. "Companies will need to rethink their operating model based on how their people work best," Sneader and Sternfels explain.
- Acceleration of digital, tech, and analytics. It's to just make the shift to digital. You need to go further by enhancing and expanding your digital channels.
- Purpose-driven customer playbook. "Companies need to understand what customers will value, post-COVID-19, and develop new use cases and tailored experiences based on those insights."
- Ecosystems and adaptability. There's a good chance that your supply chain has been disrupted. As such, you will probably have to change your ecosystem and think outside the box.
"Rapid revenue response isn't just a way to survive the crisis," say Sneader and Sternfels. "It's the next normal for how companies will have to operate." And, when you're in good SHAPE, you'll be able to rebuild operations and rethink your organization, accelerating digital adaptation.
2. Update how people and processes work
Considering that things have probably slowed sown at least somewhat, it's an opportune time to reevaluate how your team works. Are they more productive working remotely? Or, do you think that they still need face-to-face interaction -- even if it's just a couple of days a week.
Moreover, take the time to see where there are any bottlenecks, financial waste or inefficiencies within your organization. For example, maybe you were using ineffective tools, a flawed product strategy or not managing their time effectively. Knowing this, you can improve these areas so that you can come back even better than before.
3. Search for local, state or federal assistance
Regardless of whether you're having difficulty paying your bills or hoping to expand your business, you should take advantage of local, state or federal assistance. Funding options are an excellent start point. These can include:
- The Paycheck Protection Program
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans
- SBA Express Bridge Loans
- SBA Debt Relief
Additionally, you may want to look into the following small business grants from agencies like Grants.gov, Challenge.gov, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. But, don't forget to consult local and state agencies as well.
You can also check out:
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs
- STEP Awardees
- EPA Grants
- USDA Rural Business Development Grants
- Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Program
You should also meet with your accountant or tax advisor to see what tax relief is currently being provided. One example would be payroll tax deferral relief for the self-employed. Another would be tax credits to cover COVID-19 related employee paid leave.
4. Be proactive, not reactive.
There's a good chance that you have had, and will continue, to have some spare time on your hands. Some people haven't had a problem spending their valuable time wisely. I've had friends and family who have learned to play a musical instrument, get back in touch with nature, and engage in some much-needed R&R.
But, you should also dedicate some of this extra time to reflect on your company's future and what it will take to get you there. Will that require you to update your business plan? Do you need to expand your online presence, interaction, and capacity? Should you take some classes to develop or strengthen your skills?
To put it another way, don't ease up on the gas pedal. Use this time to get your business in a prime position to jump on opportunities and stay ahead of your competitors. Just be mindful that you don't burn yourself out. You don't want to be exhausted when the business world awakens.
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