Rolling with the punches: Reshaping your small business to fit the new normal

By Mark G. Auerbach

As we all know, it’s been a wild ride, since the pandemic shut down so many businesses, and the economy tanked. I don’t know anyone who was untouched by the fall out, no matter how well they might have anticipated any outcomes.

For my company, which began in 1987, no recession, economic roller coaster, or even my leg-breaking accident and resultant time away from work in 2019 was anything like 2020. One client managed two performances in early March, before shuttering. My two other “major” clients, performing arts groups, went on hiatus before March 15. One kept us on to handle social media until they realized that performances wouldn’t likely resume until 2021.

In my other life as an arts reporter, as performances stopped, so did my assignments to write reviews. My weekly arts column morphed into a list of cancellations and postponements, and online happenings. I was able to increase my radio and TV output, maintaining one arts program, producing a 10-part series about how people were coping with the pandemic, and ultimately a non-arts talk show.

My major concern, aside from my clients’ survival, and enough cash flow to keep the business and me afloat, was keeping the two part-timers who work for me on payroll.

So, I had to reinvent the business model, and re-evaluate my skills. I got a couple of calls from small businesses wanting to boost their social media or to fundraise during the pandemic. I also got inquiries about podcasting (something that requires the skill sets I use every day in radio). I branched out to do the marketing and public relations for a new podcast series, and to help other podcasters refine their product.

Flexibility is key

I’m fortunate that some quick thinking and some assessment of our company’s skill sets have kept me relevant in the marketplace, and the change in roles put my work out there on a national level in new areas.

Flexibility is the name of the game. If I, in what I consider to be the later years of my career, can change and adapt, someone relatively new to their business can as well. Here’s how:

-Know who you are and what your skill sets are. How can they adapt to new clients and business models? For me, radio = podcasting skills. Copywriting is a great skill set for social media posts. Advertising proficiency in print, radio and TV can be used for social media and more.

-Let people know you have these skill sets. I found that sending out a self-promotional press release was irrelevant, but posting to social media…my Facebook business page, LinkedIn, and Twitter put me in front of new markets. And, every time I took on a new project, I promoted that as well, so people could see that I was busy, and they could look at my work on clients’ campaigns.

-Fine-tune your skills through webinars and other low-cost online training. One of my weaknesses was social media scheduling, and I generally used HootSuite. But, Facebook has developed a Creator’s Studio, which was easy to adapt to.

-Network. Let your colleagues know about what additional programs and services you can take on.

I don’t realistically know when some of my clients will return to the stage. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a different frame of reference in the workplace, until such times as things move towards a new normal. The change of pace is refreshing, and the new avenues towards work fascinate me.

Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.


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