From INSIDE BUSINESS By JIM CARROLL
“The Long and Winding Road” — The title of this song written by Paul McCartney in 1968 is an apt metaphor that describes the challenges facing the region and its small businesses as we start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike a hurricane or flood, which primarily causes physical damage to a relatively limited geographic area and time, this pandemic has wreaked incredible damage to the region’s entire population and as of now, has no real end in sight. Many people’s lives, habits and outlook have been forever changed by this singular event.
While some see tremendous opportunities in the post-pandemic marketplace, and there most certainly are, they come at a cost. Business models that were proven over years and decades have been upended. Business owners now have to address issues with little or no information or experiences to help guide their actions. Liquidity and cash flow are now front and center in every business owner’s mind.
While in some ways actions have been taken and products have been developed to address short-term recovery issues, there is still much to be accomplished. The region is now at the crossroads of short-term recovery and long-term resiliency.
This is where the myriad of business assistance organizations and programs come into play. Some, like the Hampton Roads Chamber and its Small Business Development Center, are regionally focused while others, like the Women’s Business and Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers, target specific clients. There are co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators and angel-investor organizations that can and will provide assistance in accordance with their missions.
All of these organizations will be working together under a loose federation chaired by the Hampton Roads Alliance. As a regionally focused, economic development organization, it took the lead in drafting the economic recovery strategic plan that provides guidance and direction to enable both service providers and those receiving services to work toward a common goal.
In the case of small business and retail, the goals are clearly and unambiguously stated. The first is to return the region’s economy to pre-COVID levels in one to three years. The second is to make small businesses more resilient to both natural and man-made disasters. Metrics are being developed to help determine how successful the committee’s efforts have been in achieving these goals.
It should be understood that, like the lyrics of the song, the route to recovery is going to be a long and winding one — with both setbacks and accomplishments — but eventually will lead to the door of regional recovery and resilience.
Jim Carroll is the executive director of the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center and vice president of small business for the Hampton Roads Chamber. For a free business counseling appointment, visit HRSBDC.org.