What Have Hawaii’s Businesses Learned from the COVID Pandemic?

Right now we’re in the middle of the 2020 COVID Pandemic. Some day, we don’t know when, we’ll have widespread availability and use of a vaccine that will, for the most part, signal the end of the pandemic. The effects will linger on for years, but at least we’ll be able to resume normal activities.

One thing I always keep in mind is that we’re all going through this for the first time, so there will certainly be mistakes and poor choices. That said, we can learn from everything–the good and bad choices.

Here’s a perspective on what businesses can learn…so far.

Frustration is Inevitable

  • Many businesses were shut down regardless of their risk level. Remember “essential” vs “non-essential” had nothing to do with safety; it was all about ensuring basic supplies. The big box stores were and continue to be some of the most densely packed indoor spaces. Many very “safe” business suffered greatly.
  • Many restrictions don’t seem to make a lot of sense for neighbor islands. The Honolulu-centric approach is very frustrating for neighbor island businesses
  • The State and County governments have never been known for being decisive or bastions of leadership. Nothing has changed.
  • There are many businesses in our community that have no possibility of surviving and that is to no fault of their own. We’ve lost billions in business value and incomes.

Self-Sufficiency is Paramount

  • Having six months of operating expenses (at least) is something that every business should have. No one imagined that a pandemic would be such an existential threat in 2020. 
  • Being heavy in inventory is prudent. At Kona Impact we try to keep at least six months of non-perishable inventory items in stock. We never knew how important this would be as we have learned there are now two-month backorders of specialized ink we use–our most important inventory item. Many supply chains have been severely disrupted.

Be Ready to Hustle

  • We are looking at about 30% of our economy being dead for a long time. Knowing this, we have been working our mailing lists and online marketing hard the past month. We’ll continue for several months. We’re working hard to make up for the lost revenue.

No One is Going to Help

  • The State and County governments have done almost nothing to help small and medium-sized businesses. There was some help a few months ago from the Federal Government with PPP loans. I don’t expect any help from any of these entities going forward.

The worst part about running a business during this time is to see the effects it is having on small business owners and their families. I know of several businesses that were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions of dollars that are now shuttered, worthless. That’s the true trajegdy: through no fault of their own, they have lost everything.