The pandemic has profoundly altered, and continues to alter, the trajectory of countless businesses. The unexpected has forced many to reevaluate plans, practices and procedures. Yet, one of the advantages of being a small business is the ability to more easily lean in to, embrace and adapt to change. For many, the short-term alternate plans or adjustments are fast becoming the realities of the foreseeable future. These five leaders share how the lessons they’ve learned will have a lasting impact on their business and the customers, employees, partners and businesses in their orbit.

 The Salon Joli interior
The Salon Joli, a multicultural salon based in New York City. — The Salon Joli

Kerry Joly, founder, The Salon Joli

I have learned that African Americans have the highest mortality rate from COVID-19. For this reason especially, I am working extra hard at making my salon a safe place for the clients and stylists to work in. Putting safety first has always been a concern, but now it has become the number one priority. New safety measures have become fundamental for our business, like daily deep cleanings after each client and at the end of every day, checking temperatures and having clients fill out questionnaire forms before appointments. Since our salon can no longer operate at full capacity with us having to use every other chair to maintain six feet of distance, we no longer have our stylists work at the same time and we are making every effort not to overbook, making sure our clients and staff remain happy and safe. Follow The Salon Joli on Instagram: @thesalonjoli.

 Tenisha Light Caba of Brooklyn Bleu
Tenisha Light Caba, founder and owner of New York City-based Brooklyn Bleu. — Brooklyn Bleu

Tenisha Light Caba, founder and owner, Brooklyn Bleu

Our brand, Brooklyn Bleu Vintage, has been in business for over 10 years, and has felt the social, economic and financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have experienced a retail operation closure since mid-March. However, we have learned our customers are very loyal and will follow us wherever we offer our merchandise — whether it’s at the Oculus at the World Trade Center or online. This has inspired us to re-imagine our business outside of our traditional brick-and-mortar retail, relaunching our website to truly show how our store's fierce, fabulous and fun energy could come alive digitally. We also initiated our Stylist Program offering jewelry rentals, and have already worked with both Vogue Italia and Vogue Mexico for editorials. Follow Brooklyn Bleu on Instagram: @brooklynbleuny.

 Steve Levine headshot
Steve Levine, president and CEO of Fairfield, Connecticut-based AtmosAir Solutions. — AtmosAir Solutions

Steve Levine, president and CEO, AtmosAir Solutions

We feel that the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all stop taking the health of the environment around us for granted. Layers of protection are needed to help ensure a safe and healthy space. In this new normal, we need to work in a unified approach with building owners and operators, HVAC providers and providers of other air cleaning technologies to put strategies in place to be sure these layers are well considered. Businesses working in the built environment should all be aware of CDC recommendations and the protections needed. We are sure to regularly educate our staff on all measures needed to protect against the spread of illness in the built environment whether it directly relates to our product or not. Follow AtmosAir Solutions on LinkedIn: AtmosAir Solutions.

For more on how to create a safe and socially distant business, check out this episode of CO— Blueprint.
 April Jones headshot
April Jones, president of Houston, Texas-based AL Jones Contracting Consulting Services, LLC. — AL Jones Contracting Consulting Services, LLC

April Jones, president, AL Jones Contracting Consulting Services, LLC

What I’ve learned throughout COVID-19 is technology is paramount in keeping all of us connected to our customers. We have changed our business model by investing in an abundance of remote technology and performing weekly Zoom meetings and calls to our customers to ensure interaction and first-class service. In order to adhere to CDC guidelines, our employees work remotely instead of in the office, ensuring safety, well-being and a commitment to mitigating risk. We strive to continually adapt, as we are in uncharted waters, not just in the U.S., but the entire world. The trajectory of businesses and lives has forever changed and safety in 2020 and beyond is of the greatest importance.

 Strong Fabric Care’s Justin Strong
Justin Strong, chief executive manager of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Strong Fabric Care. — Strong Fabric Care

Justin Strong, chief executive manager, Strong Fabric Care, LLC

Within the first week of the statewide lockdown, it became clear that in order for this almost-90-year business to survive, we would need to adapt. One of the positive outcomes of the economic standstill has been that consumers' expectations have become very malleable. We have been able to adjust offerings, like eliminating same-day service, that would have previously resulted in backlash pre-COVID-19. Since the lift of the lockdown, we have reduced hours and days, which is something we’ve considered for years, and have become more efficient with operations. While we were able to operate as an essential business during the lockdown, we converted some of our storefront customers into valet service customers and we continue to push the trend as we move forward. Follow Strong Fabric Care on Facebook.

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