The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Down the rabbit hole

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Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)
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We’ve been in this strange reality so long that we might begin to wonder what efforts will be required to get us back to a semblance of our earlier routines. The prognosticators are already telling us that some aspects of our lives have permanently changed.

We’ve suffered our own personal scars and losses and grieve for the lives and fortunes ruined by COVID-19. We’re likely to be further dejected by the loss of some establishments that have become fixtures in our lives and pillars in our community.

Now it’s time to begin a gradual reopening. We’ll ponder how altered things might be and highlight where there could be opportunities for imaginative solutions.

One step forward is that we’re likely to be much more attentive and mutually respectful during future cold and flu seasons. Ideally, our behavior will comfortably settle somewhere between today’s paranoia and yesterday’s indifference.

Summertime used to mean beaches and vacations.  It also used to be the time for the internships and fellowships that often laid the groundwork for future careers. Industrious youths are now considering volunteer and community service alternatives that could become new traditions with substantial societal benefits.

Predicting consumer behavior is fraught with so much conflicting data that savvy entrepreneurs recognize they’re just going to have to monitor shifting shopper preferences and make adjustments on the fly. Consumers still look for convenience and place value on the shopping and dining experience. Throughout this crisis, innovative business owners have found ways to deliver. Customers have shown how accommodating they are about all sorts of restrictions when they’re for the common good and have become loyal followers of creative merchants.

Generations of younger adults who have shunned individual transportation in favor of mass transit now face daunting choices because many are now reluctant to travel in crowded conveyances. Coworkers are also wary of working alongside those who do.

With more of our population reaching retirement age and still being active and affluent, upscale retirement facilities with amenities seemed to be the wave of the future. That industry now must make creative adjustments.

“Contactless” has become essential for payments, check-in and delivery and it will be intriguing to watch how all businesses revise such processes. It will be especially interesting to see those changes in the travel and hospitality industries.

Office buildings are engaged now in enormous redesigns for physical layout, social distancing for personnel protection, schedule changes and extra cleaning. Remote working is likely to continue as a prevalent option. There is little consensus on when local offices expect to be opened. Some say later this summer, and others in the fall or even into 2021.

These are just a few examples of some dramatic shifts ahead. Both the virus and circumstances we’ve endured for weeks were novel. The reopening and recovery processes will also be novel. 

Alexandria and its business community are engaged in a wholehearted, collaborative effort to thrive again. 

Business owners can find COVID-19 assistance and recovery updates at www.alexandriasbdc.org

The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

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