SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
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Lee Deas said Obviouslee Marketing had plans in place for what to do if the economy began to decline, and she expected it might happen around this time, but she said she “couldn’t anticipate the absolute cliff dive.”
“We always go under the assumption of looking at our metric and what would happen if there’s a down economy, what would that look like across the board,” she said. “But what we hadn’t prepared for was what would happen if none of these businesses could even open their doors.”
Deas founded Obviouslee in 2005, and the company survived the Great Recession, with Deas learning a few lessons along the way.
The coronavirus pandemic, she said, is teaching her even more.
“Looking back, I think that I had graduated my entrepreneurship college, and then after the recession, it’s like I had a crash course on graduate school,” Deas said. “And after this, I mean, I feel like I have my Ph.D. in entrepreneurship. It really just forces you to think about a lot of things in different ways.”
Over the past few weeks, Obviouslee has been working with its clients to retool their business models and find ways to continue to be successful despite the unprecedented circumstances.
“As a small-business owner and entrepreneur, I relate to them. My heart was with them,” Deas said. “There were a lot of layoffs in that first week, a lot of transitions, a lot of people who are nervous and having to shut doors for we don’t know how long. So I’ve been trying to stay in their businesses just as much if not more than I have our own.”
Internally, Deas has been reminding her employees to focus on health and wellness. The company is setting up a book club and bike challenge for employees; all meetings are conducted via video to create as personal a connection with coworkers as possible; and Deas has been telling people to block out time in their schedule to go outside to get fresh air.
“Just remember that it’s pretty easy for people just to be at their computer and stuck in their house right now,” she said. “So anything to try to help each other be well right now.”
Deas said she’s also been transparent with everyone about where the company stands and has told her employees that layoffs are a last resort.
“If we take a hit, we take it as a team,” she said.
Deas said companies should look at this as an opportunity to reinvent their systems and take care of their employees.
“I think it’s going to be a wake-up call for businesses who don’t value their people first, because that’s going to show in a whole new way right now,” she said. “Team members are going to know if you’re fighting for them primarily or if you’re fighting for profit. And the new workforce is just not going to tolerate anything other than putting the primary value on humanity and your team and culture.”
Deas added that companies should remain focused on who they are.
“History books will show that the companies who really go head-down and they’re hyperfocused on their brand and communication with their consumers during this time will come out and have a big surge of business,” she said. “Versus the ones who kind of go to contract too much and aren’t visible, it’s a slower crawl out once the economy turns around.”