This Is How Small-Business Owners Can Thrive in a Post-Pandemic World With an uncertain future and many parts of our business landscape permanently changed, an entrepreneurial mindset is critical for small-business owners hoping for success in the post-pandemic economy.

By Brett Sigworth Originally published

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic was especially hard on small businesses. More than half of U.S. small-business owners surveyed last October reported a significant decline in sales and over 200,000 businesses closed in 2020.

Lately, optimism among small-business owners has been on the rise thanks to the vaccine rollout and economic recovery. However, uncertainty remains both because of the lingering threat of Covid-19 and concerns over the trajectory of the economic rebound.

As an investor in and founder of numerous businesses myself, I believe that having an entrepreneurial mindset was one of the most crucial factors determining whether small businesses survived the chaos and disruption of the past year. An entrepreneurial mindset means thinking about the big picture, developing innovative solutions to customer problems and being willing to take risks in order to grow.

Now, with the future uncertain and many parts of our business landscape permanently changed, an entrepreneurial mindset is critical for small-business owners hoping to recover and thrive in the post-pandemic economy.

Related: 9 Strategies to Boost Small-Business Profitability

Shifting strategies during Covid-19

The importance of adopting an entrepreneurial mindset was apparent during the pandemic. When the crisis forced millions of businesses to shut their doors, small-business owners had two options: hunker down and try to weather the storm until life returned to normal or aggressively pivot to operate in a world transformed by Covid-19.

Unfortunately, many small businesses that took the first approach eventually ran out of money and temporary closures became permanent. For example, many restaurants closed in March 2020 and used funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to scrape by during the first several months of the pandemic. While some establishments pivoted to group ordering, meal kits, virtual events and other innovative offerings, others mostly held their breath and waited for the lockdowns to end. As capacity restrictions wore on and additional relief funds failed to materialize, however, thousands of these holdouts closed their doors forever.

Small-business owners who adopted an entrepreneurial mindset and were willing to reimagine their businesses generally fared better than their peers. Unique Markets, a startup that organized pop-up shops for local retailers prior to the pandemic, switched to shipping subscriptions boxes of products from those same retailers directly to consumers. Golden Catalyst, an event-planning business, pivoted to consulting for small businesses to help them navigate the federal pandemic aid process.

The demand for these types of services may seem obvious in retrospect, but at the time, they required an enormous leap of faith on the part of small-business owners. No one knew how long the pandemic would last, how wide-reaching its effects would be or how public-health rules would change as time went on.

Instead of continuing with businesses models that had been made less relevant by the pandemic, entrepreneurially-minded owners looked for ways to solve the new needs and problems facing their customers. While some small businesses that tried to reinvent themselves for the pandemic failed, those that came up with solutions for the new environment found consumers who were flush with cash and hungry for Covid-safe products and services.

Related: How Your Small Business Can Survive the Covid-19 Pandemic

An entrepreneurial mindset for the post-Covid world

As the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, it's essential that small-business owners continue to approach their companies with an entrepreneurial mindset.

That's because uncertainty will remain long after the pandemic's end. Even if the U.S. can achieve widespread vaccination, public-health experts expect Covid-19 outbreaks will be a regular part of our lives. For small businesses, that means temporary restrictions on shopping and dining could be imposed with little advance warning. At the same time, it remains unclear whether remote work is here to stay. Whether or not millions of people are physically tied to major cities by their jobs has enormous implications for where people choose to live, shop and eat.

Small-business owners need to learn to live with this uncertainty and remain flexible enough to respond and adapt when circumstances change. For businesses that can return to operating as they did prior to the pandemic, owners should ask themselves whether it still makes sense to. Many consumer habits have permanently changed as a result of the pandemic. For example, nearly 60% of consumers say they plan to continue using curbside pickup or food delivery. Small businesses that aren't willing to shift strategies run the risk of finding that their business no longer resonates with customers.

In addition, the pandemic has produced some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for those willing to seize them. Rents in many cities have dropped and commercial spaces have opened up where other businesses closed. At the same time, interest rates remain historically low, and the federal Paycheck Protection Program until recently offered grants to small businesses looking to expand. In order to take full advantage of the current moment, small-business owners need to continue to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset.

Related: 5 Things to Consider When Starting a Covid-19-Era Business

Small-business owners suffered tremendously during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it will be tempting for those who made it through the past year to return to business as usual. Instead, they should recognize that the business landscape has permanently changed and seize new opportunities while they can. To survive and thrive in the post-Covid world, small-business owners need to embrace uncertainty and be willing to pivot, innovate and take risks. In other words, they need to think and act more like entrepreneurs.

Brett Sigworth

Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship

Brett Sigworth is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Bentley University who holds an M.S. in entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona. He's launched 13 businesses and is the co-founder of Quibbli, a startup designing educational toys for children.

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