The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Lessons from dire circumstances

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The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Lessons from dire circumstances
Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)
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To the editor:

The pandemic has upended our lives for 19 months, but it’s taught us some worthwhile lessons to reflect on.

We’ve been reminded of essential business operations principles. We now practice self-care. We’ve adapted to – and are benefitting from – technological applications to solve our problems. We’ve learned the importance of relationships and community. We’ve altered our downtowns for the better. Most importantly, we’ve learned just how resilient we are.

First the business lessons. Applying for pandemic relief demonstrated the essential of keeping accurate books – but far too many weren’t. There are a variety of bookkeeping methodologies, but the critical point is to employ one you’ll actually use. An accountant can advise you.

That’s the next business essential – having a professional team: accountant advice on record keeping, business structure and tax matters; an attorney for business entity and liability issues and lease considerations; and a forthright relationship with your banker.

The key is to get professional advice when you’re unsure. Another lesson from the pandemic – owners who hesitated or guessed instead of consulting experts, missed deadlines and made costly errors.

Anyone unsure about engaging professionals can contact Alexandria SBDC at [email protected], where our role is to understand your business and then point you to pertinent resources and reputable professionals.

The pandemic taught us self-care – handwashing, masking, distancing, staying home when not feeling well. Our cold and flu seasons will be less severe if we continue applying those lessons.

We became more comfortable with technology and learned how useful it can be. It’s eliminated distance as a barrier. It now means that work can be anywhere.

Medical technologies, particularly mRNA, bode well for future therapies, and telemedicine offers much more accessible care. COVID-19 brought both of these to the forefront.

We’re learning to pursue better work/ life balance and relationships matter more to us, not only with our families, but also between employers and employees, between companies and customers. Also, greater appreciation and respect for healthcare professionals, first responders, frontline workers and delivery people who have been so critical to our safety and well-being.

In response to isolation, many of us have explored more outdoor surroundings – our own neighborhoods, parks and trails, as well as state and regional sites. We’ve also cultivated our yards and even window boxes into oases.

We’ve learned greater appreciation for the community. Neighbors pitched in to help one another. The city made quick adjustments to mitigate business challenges. Our sidewalks and streets have become better landscaped gathering spots. Downtowns are more people-friendly and attractive, lively places to visit and are likely to stay that way.

Yes, we’re all understandably tired of these strange conditions, and our capacity for resilience has been tested over and over. But we’ve met that test at all levels, and exercising those muscles bodes well for us handling whatever is thrown at us in the future. This was, after all, a worldwide crisis that required enormous effort, quick thinking and innovative approaches. Through all the travail, we’ve learned lessons to apply to a better future.

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

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