It’s definitely not an easy time to be a small business owner. Given all you went through getting your business off the ground, you may have thought the tough times were behind you. But with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupting your operation, things have changed, and now might be a good time to look back to your early days for inspiration.

While it may not be easy to do after the success you have hopefully enjoyed over the years, you can rekindle your early motivation by adopting a startup mentality. In the business world, startups are synonymous with innovation, purpose, adaptability and a fast pace. There’s a lot to be learned from companies that are fighting to survive in a tough market. Here are a few foundational startup traits that can help your business make it through these difficult times.

Make Disruption Work for You

Most startups view disruption as a good thing. Up-and-coming businesses initiate disruption by taking a new approach to an ongoing problem, thinking differently and challenging conventional wisdom in their industries. Because most people like familiarity, it can be tempting to avoid change. But it doesn’t help to go into denial. You may have an established business, but you will have to adapt to the changing times. It’s likely we will be facing a ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future as businesses, and the sooner we can accept that and adapt, the better.

If you want to try something different with your small business, there’s no better time than now to make a change. It’s happening all around us. Restaurants are offering high-demand household items as add-ons to takeout. Boutique toy and clothing shops post daily photos on Instagram to focus on selling key items remotely. All types of businesses are starting to diagnose problems remotely to avoid physical contact, from insurance agents using FaceTime for damage assessments of accident claims to plumbing and HVAC companies using apps or video for remote estimates.

Your disruption doesn’t have to be a major one. Even something simple like a landscape business creating flyers or garden instructional videos is a useful idea right now. It may feel like you’re giving away your expertise, but that’s how loyalty begins with customers. You want to be a trusted resource and what better way to prove your expertise than to help customers with their DIY projects? A few helpful tips might be just what people need to invest in themselves, and, when they do need assistance, they’ll think of your business.

Be Fast and Flexible

With few exceptions, we live in an age where agility trumps perfection. Startups deal with this reality by quickly crafting, iterating and prototyping concepts and product offerings. Quite often, startups use agile concepts, along with ideas like minimum viable product – a technique in which a website or new product is developed after weighing feedback from the product’s first users.

The startup lesson is this: get your new idea into the market before someone else does, then quickly refine it through user feedback. In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced world, don’t spend too much time perfecting your new service or offering. If you do, you might find someone has beaten you to the idea, or what you have to offer is no longer relevant. You need to be fast to stay ahead of your competitors.

For example, perhaps you’re thinking about adding a new service and aren’t sure if your customers want it or will buy it right now. Why not reach out to a few and ask them? Think of it as an impromptu customer advisory group. You could even do a test run by giving away a new product in exchange for feedback and reviews. This happens all the time in the personal care industry with beauty products and could work in other industries, too. If you keep it simple, fast and, when needed, iterative, you can learn quickly what works and do more of it.

Be Imaginative

One of the most crucial aspects of the startup mindset is being imaginative. For startups, success or failure is predicated on jolting industries by creating new ideas or developing innovative changes to previous ones.

Startups generate new innovations and fresh concepts simply by being curious. They ask questions – lots of them. What could make this better? Why not try this approach?

Startups stay curious and remain open to the possibility that there is always something better, even when the status quo is working.

By asking questions and listening intently, you can become as imaginative and creative as any startup. Now is a good time to ask yourself why you do things a certain way. If you were starting again today, would you do anything differently? While your initial reaction may be to leave things as they are (especially if you’ve been in business a long time), you could be missing an opportunity to serve your customers in a different and better way.

This is happening all around us right now. In our desire to connect with others, fascinating ideas are bubbling to the surface. Whether it’s a cleaning company that adds flower or cookie delivery to its isolated customers, a catering company that sets up paid donations for healthcare worker meals or an online shop with a myriad of kits to tie-dye at home, small businesses are coming up with ideas that help others while also taking care of themselves. And isn’t that why you’re in business to begin with?

Jump-Start Your Growth

In challenging circumstances, a startup mindset can facilitate growth for yourself and your business. It’s all about mindset over matter. Startups have the ability to be great innovators not because they are necessarily smarter than established businesses. They are constantly questioning existing conditions and business environments to find a better product, service or offering and deliver it in a new and interesting way. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted nearly everything. Embrace disruption, flexibility and imagination, like a startup, and keep your business on track throughout the current crisis and beyond.

Barbara Sher, Senior Vice President Strategic Partnerships at Group. For nearly ten years, Barbara Sher has been leading global expansion efforts in the internet industry with a focus on emerging markets.  Barbara is responsible for revenue growth in reseller and partner channels, business development for Group, and management of the company’s strategic partnerships.  Under Barbara’s leadership, Group has been establishing strong footholds in overseas markets and achieving record growth through her cultivation of relationships, data driven approach and innovative partner program design.

Mindset stock photo by Lightspring/Shutterstock