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How the Pandemic-Related Changes Small Businesses Made Are Impacting Their Bottom Lines -- In a Good Way Tough times can drive innovations in business. But small businesses have been surprisingly malleable in the wake of the global pandemic.

By Thomas Smale Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Now that a year has passed since Covid-19 first made itself known across the U.S., many small business owners are taking a step back to process how the virus has impacted their business models. It's no secret that it was a challenge to transform everyday practices into ones that met government mandates and kept people safe — but now, looking back, some entrepreneurs are recognizing that the changes they've implemented have helped their bottom line. Here's how.

Small businesses have upped their digital presence

One of the toughest barriers small businesses have faced over the past year has involved brick-and-mortar operations: Specifically, businesses have had to close to the public, reduce occupancy or implement changes like frequent sanitization in order to comply with state and municipal guidelines. In response to these challenges, many businesses rapidly shifted operations to the virtual realm. Companies that were previously on the fence about refreshing their landing pages or starting social media accounts finally bit the bullet; storefronts began debating their ecommerce options; and service-based businesses found "contactless" ways to help their customers. And consumers shifted, too; now that just about anything can be done online, consumers are far more comfortable doing everything from telehealth visits to finding their next home on the web. Digital presence has always been a must-have even prior to the pandemic, but today, it's a bigger opportunity than ever.

Related: How to Adapt in a Rapidly Changing Economy

More teams than ever are working from home

Boutique firms, small creative agencies, rapidly-growing technology companies — you name it. If they don't have to meet customers in person, they've likely found a way to let their teams work from home. Not only does this provide a slew of informal benefits for employees (like improved work-life balance, enhanced disability accommodations and time and money saved on commuting), but it also provides major cost-cutting opportunities for the business itself. Businesses that know they'll be working remotely for an extended period of time can avoid signing leases for pricey office space, and trendy startups can pause their snack subscriptions (for now). It's a win-win.

A lull is a clean slate in disguise

Some entrepreneurs who have found themselves in a slow period during the pandemic have used deceleration as an opportunity to reassess and refresh. Though it's always disappointing to see business decline, it can also be a blessing; companies that were previously in nonstop scale mode might benefit from a period of reflection on what really works and what doesn't. While not a small business, GoDaddy notoriously took 2020 as an opportunity to reinvigorate its logo and renew its commitment to corporate responsibility. Other businesses are turning a break in brick-and-mortar operations into a chance to revamp their spaces and provide exciting updates to customers once circumstances dictate it's safe to do so.

Related: How Retailers Adapted to Work-From-Home Shift in 2020

Many small business owners are stepping outside of their comfort zones

They say diamonds are formed under pressure, and the old adage rings true for business owners who are serious about helping their ventures thrive under unusual conditions. As contactless sales and services rose in popularity throughout 2020, many businesses found themselves capable of expanding into new markets and offering more customizable shipping options. Heightened social awareness has provided a catalyst for businesses to promote racial justice and gender equity, offset carbon emissions caused by shipping and delivery services and develop transparency in their daily practices. And because people tend to shop with both their needs and values in mind, this added level of consciousness has the ability to bring in waves of new customers and clients.

The obstacles presented by Covid-19 haven't been easy to overcome — nor are they gone from our economy and from the world at large. But if time has proven anything, it's that small business owners are persistent, innovative and creative. Pandemic or no pandemic, that hasn't changed.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in an Uncertain Climate

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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