The start of every new year is often one of hope. After what we experienced in 2020, we could certainly use it. But the reality for many small businesses isn’t so clear cut, especially those who struggled to survive and are now left waiting for what’s coming next. Wondering how they modify their business line when our entire economy and way of life has changed. After all, many jobs we once relied on are now gone—possibly forever. Our team can certainly relate.
When COVID hit Ohio in March of last year, ARC’s leadership was at a conference. We got a call from HR that some of our employees were getting sick, and within a matter of days 3-4 of them were homebound. When we realized what was going on, our CTO and tech team spun up a plan to have each employee take their computer, phone, and valuables home, as well as pack up the desks and belongings of those who couldn’t. Going remote was a lot more operationally feasible for us because we’d been pushing to go cloud-based, and were able to balance the concerns of the team and HR with minimal downtime.
June approached but the thought of returning to work seemed unrealistic. COVID cases were still increasing; lockdowns were mandated. I missed the space that we’d all shared, growing and developing our brand and culture over two years. The decision to close our physical offices and go virtual wasn’t an easy one, and certainly not as simple as turning off the lights. Liquidating or terminating contracts for copiers, bottled water, and Internet access were immediately on the table. Not to mention shredding a lot of paperwork. Virtual meetings came courtesy of CoHatch Polaris for ad hoc sessions. It was a start, we thought. We didn’t realize—much less plan on—the next ten months of lost revenue, our reserves depleted, or the heavy layoffs. The last of these was the hardest. From March to December of 2020, we lost 59 employees. The business spiraled to a skeleton crew, something I pray we never have to experience again.
A mentor once told me, “Those who can push through COVID and come out on the other side—those will be the people who can persevere through anything.” It stuck. There were times that I almost considered closing our doors. But I had to believe that the world would return to some semblance of “normal.” As an entrepreneur and a woman whose family hails from the South, the ideals of perseverance, prayer, and hope run strong. So we kept doing the work. The remainder of 2020 was spent on our WOSB certifications, 8a applications and retooling, reinvention, and all of the tasks we’d had on the backburner.
I remember the surveys that would hit my inbox, asking me to complete a questionnaire on how COVID had “impacted my business.” The sum of it? The cons were admittedly first: sleepless nights, negative financials, lost friendships, disappointed employees… But there were positives, too. A clean house. A new, quiet office. We’d certainly become experts at Zoom calls. Sure, we had to reskin our business plan and add a new service line—but we also had a hopeful future, a heart of grit, and relief that an election year was nearly over. And thanks to our steadfast team, we made it. I am forever grateful to them and our friends who stuck it out despite all that 2020 wanted to throw.
Here’s to a better, hopeful New Year. And to all entrepreneurs out there: I pray your business blooms and your goals are met; that you conquer each peak and reach the next valley. Keep on persevering so that we all “push through COVID and come out on the other side”—together.