Many businesses had to reinvent themselves almost overnight because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Business owners had two choices: take action to change the way they work, or close up shop. Companies that refused to take their company virtual or adapt either didn’t make it or at the very least suffered a loss. Innovation and a willingness to change your business to virtual turned out to be crucial for survival.
So how did successful businesses adapt to the challenge the pandemic created, and how do they continue to adapt as the pandemic lingers? There are a few things those companies—and their leaders—have in common that we can all learn from. Below are a few stories of businesses that took the pandemic by the horns and created change overnight. One business previously had refused for years to offer online services. Today, that same business generates 20 percent of its revenue from virtual services. Never say never.
Taking Music From In-Person to Online
Music Compound, my company, is a membership-based music school in Sarasota, Florida, for all ages and genres. It is a performance-based music school with a 3,000-square-foot concert venue onsite. The 20 instructors it employs are empowered to customize each lesson to the student and use their educational background to do so.
Music Compound continued in-person operations throughout the entire pandemic and never missed a beat. After Covid hit the gulf coast of Florida in March of 2020, our gross sales reduced by 50 percent during the peak of the pandemic. The entire staff was impacted and decided to rise to the occasion. Within 24 hours, we rolled out a virtual music school business model. Nearly 400 members and staff connected weekly via Zoom. Each instructor had individual profile pages, each spruced up with videos, bios, and a Zoom link for members to use to connect with them.
Having one process for all instructors and members provided a seamless transition for substitutes as well. Since schools were either in remote-learning mode or shut down for spring and summer break, Music Compound offered free daytime music classes via their Facebook and YouTube channels. This allowed working parents who were suddenly now homeschool teachers a much-needed break and additional tool for their children’s education. We also launched a virtual concert series Facebook group that generated a new group of followers and possible future clients, and the company hosts regular Facebook Live sessions to highlight local artists, music history, and short lessons.
Prior to the pandemic, Music Compound held four to six events per month to market their services and recruit members, but since in-person events were canceled, that funding was shifted to uses like search, SEO, and social media marketing instead to keep the business running. Being present online was critical during the pandemic due to the number of people stuck at home, looking for an outlet, and wanting to learn since they now had the time. Many businesses were closing or canceling programs while Music Compound was expanding its services and hiring more instructors. The changes that we introduced were so successful that they incorporated its Covid model into its daily operations.
Taking Small Businesses Online When Shops Closed
The Bazaar at Apricot and Lime is a 6,000-square-foot indie market in Sarasota that houses nearly 40 small businesses that sell art, repurposed products, jewelry, cool gifts, plants, clothing, and green products. A majority of the businesses with space in the market are small, and many are startups. Most of the business owners didn’t have an online store or social media presence at all. When mandated to close up shop, many didn’t have an outlet or following to sell their products. In an effort to stay in business and generate sales, Kim Livengood, the owner of the market, immediately turned to Facebook Live.
She went live every day for three weeks, calling her online videos the “Bazaar Shopping Network.” (Yes, she was inspired by Home Shopping Network). She showcased available products and offered curbside pickup, delivery, and shipping. When she mentioned discontinuing BSN, a fan in another state begged her to continue. It brought her comfort in a crazy time, and kept her connected to the community and she thrived in it. With that note, Kim continued to go on weekly.