Lately, we’ve been focusing on small businesses that have figured out how to navigate these unprecedented times. We talked to Elizabeth at Sift+Pour Bakery who created a social distancing survival kit to help bring in a new stream of revenue and Frank and Peggy Tavarez, who completely pivoted the Wine and Liquor Mart to a virtual sales space to make sure they were following social distancing guidelines.

Killroy Pest Control Family Run Silicon Valley Business

Courtesy: Killroy Pest Control

This week, we look at essential business Killroy Pest Control, which has served Silicon Valley for more than six decades. Lynn Olavarri-Schmidt and Richard Schmidt have seen almost every economic twist and turn imaginable while running Killroy Pest Control in Campbell, CA. So they knew what to do when business in California stopped because of the stay at home order.

Even as an essential business that deals with pests such as roach, spider, and rodent control, Killroy found itself with no revenue coming in. Lynn and Richard sent everyone home and began formulating a game plan for the coming weeks. They contacted customers to make sure the demand was still there. They adjusted the office to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Employees now take trucks home and go directly to customers instead of meeting in a centralized location. Administrative staff have laptops and home offices to do their work. They now email bills to customers instead of sending them via mail or delivering them in person.

Four weeks later and the essential business is running at about 75% to 80%. Lynn and Richard are already looking at new potential business avenues so Killroy can be #buildbackbetter when the order is lifted. They say the changes have worked, but they’re hoping to be back to the old ways soon. Social distancing has forced them to cut one of the most important aspects of their business, the camaraderie.

Great job Lynn, Richard, and the entire Killroy family!

During times like these, it’s always interesting to see what new and innovative ways small businesses are working to reach out to old and new customers alike. About a week ago, we highlighted the Sift+Pour Bakery in Dallas, Texas. This week, we want to take a look at a shop that’s a piece of the Towne Advisory extended family.

frank peggy tavarez wine liquor mart poughkeepsie new york small businessesThe Wine and Liquor Mart in Poughkeepsie, NY is a family business opened by Frank and Peggy Tavarez in 1999. When the novel coronavirus started closing down non-essential businesses, the couple had the opportunity to stay open as an essential business located between two hospitals. Competitors were remaining open and it might have made sense for Frank and Peggy to follow suit.

Instead, they chose the health of their employees and patrons. They shut their doors for the duration and pivoted their business. They invested in a new website, upgraded their inventory system, and added an online ordering system all in under 10 days. They used social media to highlight the business changes and it’s paid off, allowing The Wine and Liquor Mart to continue serving the community once again since the new site launched.

Frank and Peggy have proven that it’s possible to stay in business while still keeping employees and the community as healthy and safe as possible. Way to go Frank and Peggy!

If you know of a small business that’s found a new or innovative way to serve its customers, let me know.

I need a quick break from the madness, don’t you?

I wanted to highlight a small business in our circle that has taken this opportunity to think outside the box. They have brought smiles to faces while adding a helpful new stream of revenue during this time!

Elizabeth Ging, the owner of Sift+Pour Bakery in Dallas, makes custom cookies and treats. She started playing around with the idea of everyone buying up all of the toilet paper in stores. Elizabeth drew toilet paper on a cookie and said: “There is no shortage here!”

coronavirus business success story toilet paper masks cookies

As the news evolved of potential shutdowns and a decrease in foot traffic, Elizabeth realized it was her job to find ways to bring her product to her customers. She has created “The Social Distancing Survival Kit” and a Rice Krispy Treat Decorating Kit!

Check them out at siftandpour.com.

Kudos to Elizabeth and Sift+Pour for taking steps to be Disaster Proof!

If you have a story of a small business doing something fun, novel, or just extra caring that is helping make them Disaster Proof, I’d love to hear about it. #DisasterProof. #TASC

No one wants to see something like the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus make headlines around the world, but it happens. It’s undeniable that the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus has had an impact not just on our everyday lives, but in the way that we do business. World markets have felt the impact as well as supply chains and to a lesser extent, consumers. And with the full impact of the virus still unknown, the economic impact could get worse before it gets better.

Now businesses can react to this impact in a few ways. Some businesses will conduct business as usual, operating as if the novel coronavirus will have little to no impact on what they do and how they operate. Other businesses will plan for the worst and lose sight of what they’re doing in the present.

And some businesses will see the novel coronavirus as the unfortunate business roadblock that it is. It’s something that exists whether we like it or not and we can either run from it or find a moral and ethical way to make sure our business comes out on the other side of it stronger.

Never take advantage of the customer

Before I get into the ways a business can overcome novel coronavirus and come out the other side stronger, I want to make sure people understand what I’m talking about. In no way, shape or form am I suggesting that a business take advantage of the consumer. Price gouging, also called profiteering, is not only bad karma but it can be illegal.

If you own a company that makes hand sanitizer, by all means, advertise but don’t price gouge.

No matter what you do as a business, remember that human decency should always come first.

Do satisfy a new, temporary need

However, your business can still use a world issue like the novel coronavirus to its advantage. Ruth Fisher, economist and CEO of Quantaa says, “During pandemics and other such crises, people avoid crowds and public spaces. A company can commercialize on this by tailoring products or services to this situation: enable people to access or use the product or service at home or in a venue that’s physically separated from others.”

A great example of this is Netflix. As the New York Post reports, while the S&P 500 lost points in the final week of February, Netflix’s stock rose. Netflix is a company that’s specifically set up for people who want to seclude or quarantine themselves. “Social distancing” as a business model.

Think of this in terms of yourself. What would you do if you were stuck inside all day, whether it’s just for one day or a series of days? There’s a reason why companies like Amazon, Zoom Video, and Netflix as well as work applications like Slack are gaining so much attention during this outbreak.

Sometimes a temporary method becomes permanent

The spread of the novel coronavirus could be the opportunity a company needs to infiltrate a saturated market.

“When the pandemic subsides, a lot of people will have found that the stopgap (temporary) product/service fills their more general needs, and thus adopt that measure permanently,” says Fisher.

In particular, Fisher sees the novel coronavirus as having the potential to speed up current trends in home delivery of products and services, as well as employees working from home.

Company goodwill

Sometimes your company is not in a position to fill a commercial need during a pandemic or crisis. That does not mean that you should pretend that the crisis does not apply to you.

“A company can earn reputational benefits or goodwill by putting the needs of its employees or the community ahead of its own,” says Fisher. “This will increase loyalty of employees or community. For there to be real value (and not just empty virtue signaling), however, the act must be costly to the company.”

Johnson & Johnson, for example, is a leader in the health industry. To date, the company has donated 1 million surgical masks to impacted areas of China, 48,000 bottles of alcohol, as well as money and other supplies necessary for battling the outbreak in China.

Companies like Facebook and Google, who don’t have the healthcare inventory that Johnson & Johnson does, can use its buying power to build company goodwill. According to CNBC, Google will donate $1 million to Mountain View organizations to support small businesses after the company canceled its annual Google I/O conference. Facebook is donating $500,000 in San Jose after canceling two of its conferences in the city. Both companies are also donating millions of dollars in free advertising to help the World Health Organization (WHO) battle misinformation on the internet.

As these actions show, goodwill doesn’t have to be a concept thrown around by valuation professionals, it can be real positive karma that your company builds by the actions it takes in the world.