I recently came across a startling fact: climbing Mount Everest can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $160,000, and that doesn’t include the $10-15k on gear, airfare, insurance, satellite phone service and 18 months of training required to put in a summit bid.
At first, I thought to myself, “This is crazy. Why would you spend so much money on a guide, equipment, permits and training if there’s a chance that it could all go south while you’re up there on that mountain?”
Then I thought to myself, “Oh yeah. That’s exactly why. So you’re prepared if thingsdo go south and you’re up there on that mountain.”
2020 hasn’t been particularly kind to anyone, but it especially hasn’t been kind to small businesses. The thing is, if small businesses are going to survive, they have to be equipped with the proper knowledge and the materials to do so. You don’t venture out to Nepal or Tibet to climb Mount Everest without doing any training. You definitely can’t go up there without a native Sherpa guide. You know ahead of time, quite firmly, what to do in case of a snowstorm, or an avalanche, or a nasty bout of altitude sickness. You pack enough oxygen.
The pandemic was, as we have all heard time and time again in various forms, from emails to strained, desperate-for-human-contact conversations in the grocery pickup line, “unprecedented.” (Is it just me who is utterly tired of that word?) But that doesn’t mean that contingency plans aren’t a good thing to have in place. And to do so – to make sure you’re ready for anything at the top of that summit – you have to prioritize the art of fostering small businesses and opportunities for these businesses within the region. That is your contingency plan. That is what you do in case something unprecedented drops in the laps of our small businesses, our communities and our lives.
Take Pinnacle Marketing & Advertising, LLC (a very fitting business name for my metaphor, no?) in Jonesboro. Touted as a one-stop shop for personalized promotional products and business gifts, Pinnacle’s CEO, Donna Wheeler, quickly realized that the pandemic would seriously threaten her small Craighead County business if she didn’t act fast. People and local businesses that the company usually relied on for sales weren’t looking to market themselves or give away freebies – they were too busy trying to stay afloat themselves. Many events and orders were cancelled. So Pinnacle pivoted.
“We immediately moved to promoting PPE products,” Wheeler said. “We saw there was a need for these products, no matter how much your business might be struggling, and we jumped in.”
Pinnacle saw the avalanche approaching, grabbed something sturdy and created an air pocket to keep them breathing for the foreseeable future, until the rescue helicopters descended.
“Staying in business through this pandemic is all due to our switching gears in the midst of a pending crisis,” Wheeler asserted. “We were still able to meet our clients’ needs, and we even expanded our customer base.”
So how do we prepare for the next avalanche, the next crisis, that could be coming our way? How do we hold onto communities that are infinitely enriched by these small local businesses who run the risk of growing fragile in times of economic uncertainty?
We can offer them opportunities that can help them through to the other side. Look at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), which recently kicked off a multi-year project to help small businesses in various counties in Arkansas grow, through the pandemic and beyond. The ASBTDC helps established businesses with completing and implementing a strategic growth plan that requires them to think beyond the now and prepare for the future. Programs like this are so crucial to maintaining not only a sense of confidence, but a sense of calm that small businesses can rely on to weather out the storm, in whatever form it takes.
Instill that confidence and calm in small businesses now. Foster relationships and mentorships. Host seminars – over Zoom for now (yes, we know you’re tired of staring at the screen, but hang in there) and events that can connect us together in times that have the potential to tear us apart. Believe in community. No Sherpa required.
Brittany Roe is a business consultant with the Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center at Arkansas State University.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in op-eds are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or About You Media Group.