How to Handle These Uncertain Times

Small Business in the Coronavirus Era

It certainly is a scary time in this coronavirus-filled world. Lots of uncertainty about our businesses and personal health can cause people to make bad decisions. My last 2 weeks have included dozens of calls from frantic business owners wondering what to do.

First of all, I do understand that this is a very difficult time. I also want to say that if you are afraid of your personal health to the degree that you feel you must not be around the public, then only you can make that decision with your business. We do need to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and any local governmental statutes put into effect.

However, many are making decisions about their business based on fears about what they think the future will bring. I feel this could be a mistake. To curtail or stop doing business before a drastic decline is not a good business decision. It is almost certain that the government will begin to assist businesses in the near future. If you close before it is mandated, it could very well hurt your chances of receiving help.

Most of the custom frame shops I work with are still experiencing normal or even above normal sales…. yet many are considering cutting hours or closing because they believe a big downturn is coming. Don’t create the problem by turning down or limiting business. Make those hard decisions AFTER results start to decline. Wait to cut hours and expenses until you see hard evidence that business is getting bad.

“Make those hard decisions AFTER results start to decline.”

Our shops are unique. We don’t see many shoppers each day and those working on projects are often isolated from customer interaction. If any industry is capable of continuing on, it is the custom framing industry.

So how do you know when it is time to make a change? Start by setting a benchmark that indicates that business has declined. Maybe that mark is a predetermined amount of cash reserves or a certain amount of sales loss compared to past years. But avoid making changes to your business until you reach that benchmark. It may never happen – nobody knows what the future is going to be for sure.

If and when you reach that benchmark, decide now what your first move will be. I don’t think limiting hours or closing should be your first move. You might cut staff or start paying reduced rent, but determine now what your first move will be – if and when you hit your predetermined benchmark.

The key is staying open with business as usual for as long as you can. There could be several obstacles to your ability to stay open. If vendors close that could be a problem. Consider ordering extra supplies and materials now on your best-selling and most used products. That way you may be able to continue filling orders when other shops cannot.

Market your shop more than ever. Continue to let the public know you are open and available to them. Consider promoting pick-up and delivery to accommodate those who want to stay at home.

These are very difficult and trying times but we will survive and business will return to normal. Do everything in your power to keep your business strong and viable. Make a plan now, but don’t implement it until you know it is necessary. I wish you all the best and most of all good health.


  1. Sadly, many states are now under a shelter-in-place, and had to close this week. Wading through the employment laws now and making big decisions about unemployment, furloughs, lay-offs, and PTO is taking up much of my time, and I would imagine other’s . The full weight of being an employer has never hit so hard. Nor has the full financial weight of mainting operations.

    • Even though you are not allowed to work with the public, continue to work on future marketing and other things like documentation of training manuals and company manuals. Use this time to work on the many things that we don’t have time to complete when we are busy each day.

  2. A normal week for my shop is 25 frame orders coming in. This week I have had 3. I remain open, but in other ways feel a responsibility to the general public to close to keep from the possibility of spreading the virus. It is a tough call.

    A dry cleaner just 2 blocks from me yesterday had a post on his facebook page bashing them for keeping a non-essential business open right now, causing a long thread of posters taking one side or the other.

    These are strange days we are living in.

  3. We are having the best year ever in sales. We are currently open to complete current orders with curbside Pick-up. We have only one staff on site at a time to comply with CDC requirements. We will be doing some target advertising and sending out eflyers encouraging people to take this time to go through their treasures and memorabilia for future framing. We will be updating our interior signage and contacting local charitable groups we can co-sponsor with. We will also be contacting those clients that have put projects on Hold to come on in when we re-open in June. Yes, we will be closing for two months. We are telling our employees to get signed-up for unemployment even if they may think they don’t qualify under previous guidelines. We are letting our employees know they do have a job still. It will be rough as business owners as we do not qualify for unemployment unless some kind of package is developed for that. I’m reluctant to take out a loan though the SBA is offering low-interest loans at this time. Best wishes everyone. And do be safe. Thank you for the encouragement everyone.

  4. I’ve seen the owner’s time and obligations towards compliance escalating for a few years now. This mandate to close non essential businesses, without economic consideration, is perplexing. After witnessing several “downturns”, the return to normal has taken some time for shoppers to return to their habits. Looks like a pivot point for framer’s depending on age an location.

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