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To save your business, should you adopt a start-up mentality?

It can take years to build a business up from a garage-based effort to a going concern. For many, all that hard work was paying off until the Coronavirus pandemic came along.

For the past months, you may have been relying on loans, forbearances, rolling up your sleeves and hoping for luck. If you were lucky, you may have been able to bring most of your business online. If you couldn’t do that, you may have been able to pivot to a non-contact model of doing business. Surviving this period has been all about adaptation.

Even with a vaccine on the way, it could still be long months before things return to business as usual.

In the meantime, you may have to act as if you are a startup again. In other words, you will try something and hope the strategy works. If it does not, you need to course-correct immediately. There is no time to complain. You’ll be too busy dreaming up your next strategy.

Consider the case of the Greater Knead, a Pennsylvania business highlighted by the New York Times. At eight years old, the gluten- and allergen-free bagel company was poised for its best year ever until the pandemic arrived.

In early March, many stores closed or focused on delivering basics like toilet paper. Customers stayed home. Supermarkets that had been stocking Greater Knead products didn’t reorder. By May, the company’s revenue was down 60%, although sales were increasing slightly.

Worse, its tried-and-true sales methods, word-of-mouth advertising, in-store demonstrations and store signage, were gone.

When the owner originally started the business, she had decided not to ship directly due to cost. Now it seemed like she would have no choice if she was to stay in business. She signed up with a nationwide fulfilment center and began taking orders on her website. She invested in email marketing.

By September, sales had jumped by 250%. Another advantage was having a direct relationship with customers.

Instead of moving to a larger facility as originally planned, she decided to re-work her existing facility to be more efficient. She invested in automation, including a vacuum-sealing machine that eliminated the need to freeze the bagels for shipping, driving down shipping costs.

The Greater Knead’s profits are expected to be up 5% in 2020. It’s not the 20 or 30% she had originally envisioned, but her business fundamentals are stronger now because of the changes. With a direct-to-consumer model, it’s cheaper and easier to launch new products. The owner is thinking of expanding her line to other gluten- and allergen-free baked goods.

You, too, may be able to restructure, redirect and relaunch your business. A good business law attorney can help you get started.