How Businesses are Pivoting During a Crisis: New Services and Insight

Glenn Read

Creativity and flexibility are hallmarks of successful businesses, but nothing has ever tested these qualities quite like the current health crisis. As we consider the challenges, we’re also gratified to share client stories of resolve, as well as ways that business owners are banding together – competitors, colleagues and community alike – to help each other.

In this first post of a two-part series, here’s what we recently learned from owners in the food-and-beverage industry (on both the retail and distributor levels), a printing company and a health-and-wellness studio.

The pandemic crisis is hitting small businesses particularly hard. Can you tell us ways that your business is pivoting to meet the challenges for your clients?

“We are completely take-out and delivery right now. We’re offering a limited menu at the Cuckoo’s Nest, offering the most-requested items only, with some rotating specials to keep it fresh. Crave has always been heavy on take-out and delivery, so it feels like business as usual, except for the loss of our college customers.” 

Kaytrin Della Sala, Owner, Cuckoo’s Nest and Crave, Albany, NY

“We’re a beer distributor who sells and delivers beer to over 5,000 accounts throughout New York and New Jersey. When bars and restaurants closed, 70% of our account base closed. Along with this, 55% of our sales, which are draught, vaporized in minutes, leaving $400,000+ of perishable beer and cider inventory in our warehouse. We have in excess of $650,000 in receivables on our books from bars and restaurants. The entirety of those anticipated receipts are now perilously vulnerable.

We knew that our clients were in similar situations and we racked our brains as to how we could help accounts who were sitting on their own draft-beer inventories. So, we bought 1,140 64 oz growlers for our clients to use for in to-go businesses. That was the first time we’d ever purchased growlers.”

Spencer Noakes, Owner, Remarkable Liquids, Altamont, NY

“We’ve been deemed an essential service because of our mailing and shipping services, so we’ve stayed open. We’ve seen a dramatic drop off as far as new work, though, so I’ve had to furlough one full-time and one part-time person. I’ll bring both back as soon as we can. 

We’re calling customers and offering printing and mailing services at our cost for any mailings that relate to the crisis. Many printers in the area have closed or dramatically scaled back. But we keep reaching out and letting our customers know we are here for them. Fortunately, many of our customers are still operating, even if at a smaller scale, and much of what we do can be done easily via email or phone.”

Glenn Read, Owner, Glenn Read Enterprises and Allegra, Schenectady, NY

“With the requirement for all bars and restaurants to only offer take-out and delivery, we were nervous, but wasted no time getting to work to pivot our business model and offerings. Within four hours, my partner and executive chef of Bard & Baker, Bryan Connor, developed a new, contact-free board-game rental home-delivery service, called ‘Bard & Baker at Home.’ It gives us the opportunity to monetize our extensive board-game library of over 750 games, which otherwise would just be sitting there during the on-premise closure. This also enabled us to offer hours to our front-of-house staff, who typically rely heavily on on-premise guests and tips.

Our kitchen team worked quickly to add items to our to-go, Grub Hub and Mealeo menus, including breakfast items and expanded salads, pastries and sandwiches to keep guests interested.”

Charlotte Guyton, Owner, Bard & Baker, Troy, NY

“First, we called our clients to see how they’re doing and to let them know that we’d bring workouts online. Most clients have been very receptive and almost all are continuing. We’re also trying to accommodate their needs at home, with flexible class schedules, knowing that they’ve likely got work, kids and partners at home. We have a diverse community of clients and normally offer programs for kids and seniors onsite, too, so now we’re looking at adapting those to online options.

In addition to classes for our personal-training clients and, soon, Facebook Live yoga classes, the pros that work with us on a contract basis are also volunteering to create videos and online classes. They’ve been amazing.”

 Bill and Nicole Laznovsky, Owners, WellNest Studio, Latham, NY

It sounds like you’re finding ways to keep moving forward, which is great to hear. Do you have any insights you’d like to share with other business owners?

“Support one another. Get creative. Remain positive. This will test us and our ability to adapt to the rapidly changing environment that already exists for small businesses. Our worlds have been turned upside-down. We need to band together to get through this. If you’re ordering food or products, try to support your local small business owners and vendors by ordering from them to keep our money circulating locally. Be there for your guests and community and remain positive. We are a strong force to be reckoned with if we stand together instead of alone.”

Charlotte Guyton, Owner, Bard & Baker, Troy, NY

“From a practical standpoint, contact all of your lenders, both business and personal. We did that right away and they were great, offering to defer payments, which gives us some breathing room in these early weeks of the crisis. With that, we can try to focus on business, on our clients and contractors and their well-being and on ways to help the community. That makes all of this easier to get through.”

Bill and Nicole Laznovsky, Owners, WellNest Studio, Latham, NY

“None of us have been through anything like this before, so I wouldn’t even pretend to have any wisdom as to how best to navigate it. I would just say we’re truly in this together. It’s paramount to exhibit patience and humanity right now and if we can maintain that, we’ll all survive to see the other side of this.”

Spencer Noakes, Owner, Remarkable Liquids, Altamont, NY

“We’re working as hard as we can to keep as many people as possible employed right now and our goal is to stay open as long as we can – and when we can fully reopen, we hope to have a big ‘thank you’ party for this entire community for helping us reach our goal!”

Kaytrin Della Sala, Owner, Cuckoo’s Nest and Crave, Albany, NY

“Don’t panic! Twenty-three years in the Army and multiple deployments oversees taught me resiliency. Stay positive and reach out. We’re all in this together. 

Don’t hesitate to call everyone you owe money to. Be honest and upfront. Ask your lender for a deferment or your landlord for a temporary hold on lease payments. Call your vendors. Ask them to be more flexible in their payment terms. Don’t carry this burden alone. Be honest with your employees and let them know what you’re going through. Tell them you’re fighting every day and have a plan to get through this. Take advantage of everything Pursuit has to offer, and the SBA.

I am worried, but I realize that help is on the way. The most important thing right now isn’t profit, it’s our health, both physical and emotional health. If we lose that, then everything else seems insignificant.

I can’t predict the future, but I do know I have a team, a business and a dream that’s worth fighting for. The sun will shine again.”

Glenn Read, Owner, Glenn Read Enterprises and Allegra, Schenectady, NY

We’re here to help

Our team is dedicated to sharing the most up-to-date and accurate resources and information as we all work through this challenging time. You’ll find the latest in our COVID-19 Resource Center and COVID-19 FAQs. As always, you can contact us if you need additional assistance.

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