Strategies for Hawaii’s Businesses to Get Through the Rest of the COVID Pandemic

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” is the famous tagline from Jaws 2. It also describes my perception of what is happening with the COVID pandemic. Signs of hope–the reopening of tourism with a pre-flight test protocol–get crushed, and now we’re stuck with the status quo. 

One step forward, two steps back. It’s frustrating and infuriating having this constant back and forth, progress, and crushed progress environment we’re in. 

There are a few steadfast rules of crisis management: 1) Be honest, 2) Identify the problem, and 3) Give clarity about how you will resolve the issue, and 4) Give a timeline. Unfortunately, we have received little of this information in Hawaii. 

At this point, I’ve lost faith in our leaders in Hawaii, so I want to focus inward. 

Given the chaos, indecision, obfuscation, and lack of leadership at the County and State level, how can I focus my business to get through whatever time it takes to end the pandemic?

Accept the Reality

The County of Hawaii, and to a lesser extent, the State of Hawaii are unreliable, unfocused, and over-matched with their response to the virus. As such, focus on your business and what you can do. The calvary is not coming; you’re on your own.

Focus on Reconnecting

If you are like most businesses, you have hundreds, if not thousands, of customers in your database. Work these contacts. Send an email. Make some calls. Do a mailing. 

Focus on New Markets

One local scuba shop has pivoted to spearfishing gear and instruction. Some restaurants have added curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery. Find complementary lines of products and services.

Cut Unnecessary Expenses

Turn on the A/C and hour later or stop it an hour earlier. Stop all unnecessary subscriptions, including bottled water service, magazines, online software, etc. Kona Impact did a review of all our monthly software subscriptions and found yearly savings of $4500. Though it’s hard to do for most business owners, consider reducing staff hours if you don’t have productive work for them at current staffing levels.

Take the Pebbles Out of Your Shoes

Fix that squeaking door. Do routine and preventative maintenance on all your machines. Do those software updates you have avoided. Shampoo the carpets. Wash the windows. Do all the To-Do tasks you have put off for weeks, months, and years. 

Market More

It’s tough to spend money when you’re not making a lot, but this is the time to get your marketing game in order. I always tell people the time to advertise is not when the economy is booming, and you cannot take on new work. Now, when you probably have some slack in your schedule, go out and hustle more. 

Get in Shape Mentally

Spend less time watching the news and reading news of bad news. Understand that there is almost nothing you do to change what is happening on a macro level. If you enjoy golf, gardening, going for walks, or goofy movies now is a great time to indulge in what brings you joy and releases your stress.

These are undoubtedly challenging times. I heard of two more local businesses closing forever this morning. Unfortunately, they had no choice, and their response to the horrible business climate is rational and understandable. Most businesses, however, can get through these dire times.