The coronavirus is devastating many of our local small businesses, barring customers from shops and restaurants and keeping cash out of cash registers. But for all the stress and frustration caused by the coronavirus, the tragedy is spurring innovation. Business owners who develop a plan to turn interruption into invention will be the ones who thrive beyond the turmoil. We recently interviewed several local business owners and managers who are members of the Collierville Chamber. They shared their lessons learned along with their strategies for moving forward. 

Tim Gaines – Lost Pizza Company

Everyone recognizes the fact that restaurants have been particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis, and being responsive, creative and adaptable have been key elements for those navigating the recent waters.

Tim Gaines of Lost Pizza Company in Collierville has seen his team respond in creative ways, as they maintain proper social distancing while still responding to their customer’s needs. “We knew we had to get creative as to how our business was done,” Gaines comments. With a creative spirit, Lost Pizza company responded to their core customers – families. In addition to answering an expanding number of call-in and on-line orders with curb-side pick-up (a new feature of their business, which is sure to remain with the restaurant well into the future), Lost Pizza began offering “Pizza Construction Kits,” which included all the ingredients necessary to make a pizza. The popularity of the kits found its way onto the company’s social media platform in a big fashion, with pictures and videos of families bonding at home over pizza-making activities. As the popularity grew, so did the company’s variations on the theme. They were soon offering full meals of pasta dishes, spaghetti, and salads, ready to be popped in the oven or stuck in the freezer for later use.

Now, as the company begins to open the restaurant to 50% capacity, Gaines suggests the reality of another challenge: even though half the chairs being taken may seem like it would be easier to maintain, it’s been a juggling act, keeping the restaurant operating properly and with guidelines, while still responding to on-line order demands and their pick-up service. Of course, with changes bring new challenges.

Gaines admits that confronting the challenges of a “next normal” was not easy. “We weren’t built for this,” he notes, but continues, “we developed a good plan and have constantly learned to adapt.” One thing they didn’t’ have to do was to understand the need to respond to their community. Lost Pizza Company has always tried to give back, but they understood that adapting to a new challenge also meant taking their community spirit up one, or two, notches.

The company has actively provided free meals to the elderly and to hospital staffs and other front-line workers.

For Tim Gaines and his team at Lost Pizza, it seems their plates are full these days with new challenges and new opportunities. For Gaines and everyone at Lost Pizza in Collierville, new challenges are all about adapting to meet the customers’ needs. It’s all about taking care of business.

Joe Sarrio – State Farm Insurance

Joe Sarrio is no stranger to the world of crisis and things turning upside down. As president of the Joe Sarrio Agency with State Farm, he knows his business revolves around being there for his customers at times of crisis. His business has faced its own challenges. Sarrio notes that before the COVID-19 crisis, they were moving into the house-buying season, which would result in people’s need to purchase and adapt their insurance needs. While his agency has reached out to promote common civic goals, they also adjusted the timeline of their own goals, anticipating an impact on the housing market.

“The pandemic has been a good reminder that our business is about relationships, and having a strong local presence will be vital if you want your business to survive. I foresee a much larger portion of our sales will originate from referrals from people in our community.” Sarrio continues, “We view the pandemic as an opportunity to show our community the value of having a relationship with a local agency.”

As for facing future concerns, Sarrio concludes, “I’ve seen many business owners having to make difficult decisions, and they are putting their employees and customers before their own financial needs. Many of us will need to find ways to adapt to bring in revenue. There are so many concerns, but we must be courageous in the face of this adversity and do the best job we can to move forward in a safe and proactive way.”

Ken Cope – Home Instead Senior Care

Lonely, isolated, and vulnerable. Introduce a deadly pandemic into that mix and the outlook got even bleaker for thousands of senior adults through the area. Classified as an ‘essential business’ during the current health crisis, the decision was made by Ken Cope, President of Home Instead Senior Care, and his executive leadership team to keep the office running at full capacity. Easy; no. Necessary; absolutely.

Home Instead Senior Care wasted no time in pivoting. In response to evolving constraints of operating under the current conditions, new protocols and procedures were implemented to make operating more manageable and efficient. CAREGivers were trained up on CV-19 safety protocols. Staff maintained contact with clients, even offering to run errands or bring supplies to their homes if needed. Virtual meetings such as Microsoft Teams, Skype and ZOOM quickly replaced traditional group meetings.

One unforeseen challenge, though, has been that many clients in senior living facilities have been restricted from visits with family and Home Instead CAREGivers. While seniors being served at home haven’t been met with disruption from having their in-home care services provided. “We never imagined the impact that loneliness would have on the seniors we serve during this COVID-19 outbreak. And we’re seeing increased cases of depression, especially those who have been restricted from visits by their loved ones. Keeping seniors safe by restricting visits is the right thing to do, but now our challenge is keeping them engaged and connected,” said Cope.

To address those concerns, Home Instead Senior Care has taken a bold step by rolling out new technology, GrandPad, to combat the epidemic of loneliness and isolation plaguing the senior population. The portable tablet device allows seniors to interact with both the agency and family members (via a Campanion App-iPhone/Android) securely. Features include wireless connectivity, photo sharing, ability to send e-mails and calls, including receiving video calls from family members and the agency. Additionally, seniors can play music, games, read articles, watch YouTube videos, and do the Activity of the Day with their Home Instead CAREGiver. Keeping them connected and engaged also gives their families the peace of mind knowing they have a constant companion in GrandPad. Under his leadership, Ken’s agency is deploying a limited number of devices at this time with plans to increase as the demand grows. 

Southern Security Federal Credit Union

Like most industries, credit unions are changing the way they do business in light of the coronavirus and its quick impact on health, our workforce and the world’s economy.

Southern Security Federal Credit Union is stepping up its technology to better benefit its members with some new and updated programing.

Video Banking:

Starting April 24, Southern Security members will be able to video bank with employees. Members can click a button on their website and be connected to an employee to share their screen, send DocuSign documents and driver’s licenses, and ask questions 1:1 about their accounts. Much like video conferencing or telehealth services that people are using during quarantine, video banking will allow members to reach the right person for their needs from the comfort of their homes or offices.

This feature is initially offered through the Southern Security website using the Chrome browser. However, they are developing a video banking element in the mobile app for ease of use in the next phase of the project.

ITM:

An ITM is an Interactive Teller Machine that allows members to conduct 1:1 banking business through ATMs at participating locations. Through the ITM, Southern Security members can make deposits, withdrawals, account transfers, balance inquiries and much more. Customers can even order checks during extended drive-thru banking hours of 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

This service keeps the simpler transactions at the ITM and the more consultative services in-person in the branch. They are looking to launch the ITMs in June and August of 2020 at participating locations.

Coronavirus-Related Financials:

Southern Security is presenting to its member companies on how to best handle finances during the economic uncertainty that the coronavirus has caused. They are presenting on subjects like how to budget during a crisis, breaking down the Cares Act and other local funding programs, and how to budget for future months to account for lower-income.

“We are working one-on-one with all of our members during this time, helping them with questions they have or assistance they need, creating solutions that work best for them,” said Dawn Graeter, CEO of Southern Security Federal Credit Union.

Share your lessons learned…

The responses and strategies from these local businesses are rooted in the following characteristics: Resilience to respond and recover from difficulty, Resolve to chart a firm confident course of action, Reinvention of new business concepts and outcomes and Return to business with new vision, focus and energy. 

What are you doing to adapt your business to the “Next Normal”? We want to share your lessons learned and strategies for the future. Send your plans and strategies to Jordan@colliervillechamber.com we will collect the responses and share them on our website and social media.