Coping with COVID:
SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
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During the Great Recession, Colleen Troy, the owner of Touchpoint Communications in Charleston, rolled out a marketing platform called Brand-Aid that helped companies find footing in an uncertain economy. The effort also helped put foundering marketing and public relations firms back to work.
This is different.
"I survived the Great Recession — that unwound over time," she said. "There has been no time here. Over the last four days, I have seen clients go to extraordinary levels of stepping back and saying to themselves, 'How do I stay in business?'"
She said a lot of the companies she's in contact with are trying to find ways to battle back from extended uncertainty and navigate clients who want to suspend contracts and find ways to mitigate costs.
Touchpoint has five employees, and some of their clients have asked for that same kind of consideration.
"I have clients who have contracts now, and they've asked can we pause. I'm letting them pause," she said. "That's affecting our business. I'm not asking people to make long-term commitments right now. I'm saying let us help you for the next 30 days. You kind of have to disrupt your own systems in hopes that it's the right thing to do."
Troy said her experience with recession and crisis management taught her that creativity can help businesses survive a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. She said that it requires a company to get back to why it exists, what their primary value is to customers and finding new customers they might not have considered before.
"They're asking themselves 'What is my core business? How can I deliver it? How can I take care of my employees while I deliver it?'" she said.
Because the Charleston region is such an event-driven economy, COVID-19 is having a fast and far-reaching economic ripple effect, Troy said. That's going to require creativity and small businesses working together and finding different ways of doing business, she said.
Troy spent last weekend talking to business leaders about how they can help and support each other. The focus was on common survival, not how to leverage the current crisis to anyone's advantage.
"We have been very careful over the years not just focusing on one industry, and I'm very grateful for that now," she said. "What we're able to do is focus on businesses that are not struggling right now, that are busy now, where they need help."