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Small Business Adaptations That Will Likely Last Post-Pandemic

New infrastructure and technology are changing how businesses operate.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Covid-19 forced businesses to pivot quickly to keep customers and stay afloat. Many industry experts and small business owners say at least 4 changes are here to stay, reports Nerdwallet

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1. Creative business models

There’s been a paradigm shift to new hybrid business models that rely on infrastructures like curbside pickup and e-commerce operations, says Meghan Cruz, director of grassroots advocacy at the National Retail Federation. Those versions are likely to stay. 

2. Investment in digital tools

Technology has become a primary source for many small businesses, says Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed. 

For Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the pandemic meant shifting his in-person classes online to survive bankruptcy: repurposing his office into a recording studio, turning the main classroom into a video studio and teaching himself how to produce and edit videos. Wallace was able to recoup about 30% of his business income as a result. He’s now working on launching three more online programs nationally and says, “This change is forever.” 

3. Reconnecting with the community

Small businesses reinforced their role within communities during COVID-19, says Cruz. She shares the story of Cardsmart Greetings in Buffalo, New York, which closed during the pandemic. Owner Tracey Mangano then organized and ran hand sanitizer distributions instead, showing how small businesses are there “when the communities needed them most.” 

4. New opportunities

In 2020, 4.3 million new businesses were formed, according U.S. Census Bureau data. That’s a 24% increase from 2019.

Hall says, “There’s a fundamental shift ... in the demand curve for new small businesses. And I think millions of people are going to benefit from that.”

Along with entrepreneurs, Hall says many laid-off workers became self-employed business owners --- assuming work from other small businesses that now had to outsource back-office responsibilities.

Small businesses still face a long road to recovery. It’s not clear how many closed during the pandemic, according to the latest Federal Reserve report. But Hall says if businesses have learned anything, it’s how to be flexible --- and that builds resilience. 

“If you make it through this, you ask, you learn, you adapt, and I think it only makes you stronger," she says.