For small business owners fighting for survival in the pandemic economy, “we’re holding our own” is the new “we’re doing great.”
That’s what it’s all about — doing what you can to survive this crisis and setting your business up for better times on the other side, whatever that may look like.
“Everybody has had to shift their businesses. We didn’t lose any accounts, but we lost business through decreased hours and services but then we ended up gaining business in other ways with disinfecting and shifting to supply sales and other ways of getting revenue,”
said small business owner Audra Berman of Service Keepers Maintenance Inc., a family -run commercial maintenance and janitorial company that has been operating in South Florida for more than 30 years.
We profiled Service Keepers on this blog earlier this year. Let’s check in and see how Service Keepers is doing.
Schools have delayed their openings again and that is a big hit for the business because it services a number of private schools. Many workers are not returning to their offices yet, so that means less work for Service Keepers because office buildings are scaling back on their cleaning needs. “We do a fogging service, we do electrostatic spraying, so we have that revenue coming in that is supplementing,” Berman said.
DEVELOPED REOPENING PLANS
When these schools and office buildings need more service, Service Keepers is ready. “We developed reopening plans that we have introduced in schools and office buildings. They see we are organized and have a plan. We are getting additional certifications and making sure they know we are informed and available,” Berman said.
Service Keepers received a PPP loan, which helped a great deal with payroll. The company employs about 140 people, which includes both full-time and part-time workers. With the help of consultants at Florida SBDC at FIU, Berman has been focusing on staying organized and setting the company up for when business fully returns. “We have focused our efforts on our team, getting the right people in the right seats, and also focusing a lot on our sales,” she said.
“We are hanging on and every day we are focusing on our team and our culture, making sure our employees are safe and letting them know we are here, we are supporting them 100 percent, and we appreciate them,” said Berman, who sent employees blankets as thank you gifts.
Sales are obviously a big focus for the company now but Service Keepers is still being selective about the new clients it takes on. “Clients willing to pay a living wage is important to Service Keepers. We would rather focus on who is going to appreciate who we are as a company and give our employees what they deserve.”
Service Keepers has lost some revenue, thanks to the pandemic, but it is certainly not alone.
SMALL BUSINESSES HARD HIT
According to the most recent Census’ survey of small business sentiment in the Greater Miami area, 46% of South Florida firms said their revenues have declined.
Here are a few more findings of the Census survey:
- 13,5% of small businesses said they have been forced to reduce payrolls.
- 71% experienced supply chain disruptions.
- 47% reported the coronavirus crisis has had a “large negative impact” on their businesses.
Yet South Florida’s small businesses are fighting back and reinventing their businesses, and we think companies like Service Keepers are inspirational and instructional. On this blog we have told you about other small businesses doing what they can to survive and thrive again.
There’s Fish Level Corp. which sells fresh fish to some 70 restaurants around South Florida, and had to pivot hard to home delivery. Prior to the pandemic’s assault on the economy, home deliveries were just 7% to 10% of owner Samy Fischer’s business. At the height of the COVID shutdowns, the home delivery was 80% of his business — as restaurants fell off the chart. Now restaurants are opening up again, but Fischer plans to continue to grow the home delivery business as an additional revenue stream.
ASK CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY NEED
DSignage sells, installs and maintains smart signage for hospitals and health systems, retailers and big enterprises such as Siemens. DSignage asked its customers about their needs in the pandemic and began offering a series of products that could help them, from temperature check kiosks, to people-counter applications, to new ways to use its digital screens to convey coronavirus information. This week it told customers of additional workspace hygiene offerings. “Our goal is to find solutions that help our clients,” said owner Jose Diaz.
Concerned about keeping his employees safe, Alex Sikorski, owner of Premium Tech Coating that specializes in automotive, architectural, safety and specialty window films, began studying ways his company could also manufacture face shields to protect them. After the company started making the shields, it didn’t take long to learn there was a much bigger need and began selling them. Turns out that was a good business decision, too.
This week, the Miami Herald put several South Florida small businesses in the spotlight, focusing on how they have found new revenue streams, pivoted or both. Miami’s oldest comic book store, A&M Comics & Books, is putting valued items, like a vintage “Incredible Hulk” release, for sale to keep the lights on. Mena Catering, which has been organizing luxury parties for 38 years, reinvented its business to focus on home delivery, using a gourmet menu that changes every week. And the Copper Door Bed & Breakfast in Overtown is seeing new life again, helped by its decision to turn its hotel kitchen into a gourmet takeout and delivery pop-up to bring in revenue as well as community support and the loans and rent relief it received, Copper Door hopes to bring a Southern-style restaurant to life at the hotel one day too.
MINDSET IS KEY
the right mindset and the drive to persevere against all odds play a big role in whether a business survives and thrives, says Pilar Guzman Zavala. CEO of Half Moon Empanadas and another entrepreneur we profiled here on Growbiz. On social media this week she shared: “This pandemic has brought back memories of all the chaotic beginning we had at Half Moon Empanadas, fears and anxiety… However, today I decide to see the present, make the changes the business needs, and look to the future with optimism. As entrepreneurs, we fall in love with our businesses, and it’s important to recognize when you need to change. And most importantly, don’t stop.”
Yes, small businesses around South Florida are being successful hanging on during this economy. We’ll continue bringing you their stories as well as advice and resources to help you. Let us know how you are doing.
READ MORE ON GROWBIZ: How to reinvent your small business for ‘the new normal’