Multiple reports show Black-owned small businesses have been hit harder by COVID-19 than firms owned by other races.
Whether it stems from having less access to capital or operating in areas not as affluent as say their White peers, Black firms face a much more rugged road than a large number of non-Black businesses dealing with the surging pandemic. As such, Black enterprises are closing at higher rates than their counterparts.
Some Black entrepreneurs report they are unsure if they can survive this year. Others ponder if they have the resources and capability to remain open until next spring, especially if the pandemic sticks around. However, multiple reports reveal that older entrepreneurs have the skills, resilience and knowledge to conquer unforeseen crises.
AARP, which includes older entrepreneurs among its more than 38 million members, and Dr. Darnita L. Payden, owner and executive director of Dr. DClutter™ Life Management, linked up with BLACK ENTERPRISE to discuss ways to run your business in and after the COVID-19 era.
As part of her practice, Payden leads workshops and organizational trainings to offer her take on how older African American entrepreneurs can not only endure the existing pandemic but adapt and learn from it.
As many entrepreneurs are being forced to pivot to serve customers and generate revenues, what should they be doing to making such transitions? Further, as established entrepreneurs make modifications in their business models, what adjustments should they be making as well as developing new skills for them and their employees?
Payden indicates in these challenging and difficult times that it would be easy to become frustrated, overwhelmed and to want to give up, but she encourages Black business owners to find alternative routes to meeting challenges. As such, the executive director explains that it is imperative for entrepreneurs to remain focused, bolster their company’s infrastructure and practice emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual self-care.
She also maintains that flexibility and openness to new, inventive ways of conducting business represent vital keys to commercial success. Payden asserts:
“It may be that the current situation will require you to rethink, revise or even completely reinvent your current business model, and while challenging, it is an opportunity to explore new opportunities to take your business to another level.”
Payden, who has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, strongly believes that mindset matters in terms of how entrepreneurs frame their thinking related to necessary adjustments to keep their companies viable. It can make the difference, she says, between success or failure. Instead of bemoaning, complaining or feeling indifferent to engaging in new skills development, welcome the opportunity to make such changes as a positive experience tied to professional and personal development.
“Ask yourself what areas in your life and business you’d like to change and why?” Payden says. “Then look for opportunities to improve in those areas. Challenge yourself and make it an adventure!”
Pandemic or not, business owners and professionals must realize the value of constantly building relationships. Payden shared how entrepreneurs can be just as effective making connections through virtual platforms as they can via in-person meetings.
She disclosed how her business has been driven by almost 100% one-on-one sessions with clients at their homes, churches and places of business and admitted that she, too, faced the challenge in making the shift.
“Life has changed drastically in our world in the past few months and we have all had to make major adjustments from in-person engagement to an almost virtual existence.”
She offered some insights for entrepreneurs to consider. First, it is commonplace to feel a sense of loss over past practices and interaction, but one can’t afford to stay in that place. Transition can be difficult, but technology offers entrepreneurs the ability to maintain contact with clients, business associates, employees and others as well as engage with new audiences.
Payden says the key is to know which platforms work best for your type of business and your willingness to adapt to a new mode of operation and outreach. For example, she started a YouTube channel to maintain her ability to educate, encourage and enlighten current and future clients since she is unable to meet with people in person.
“It’s a win-win!” she says. “Consistency is vitally important so that those with whom you engage know that you are reliable and dependable.”
She added that a routine helps so you can effectively plan and manage your presence on those platforms, but also so you can avoid burnout from doing too much.
To help experienced workers, entrepreneurs and job seekers get to where they want to be, AARP offers effective resources and innovative tools to help them thrive in the workplace as they age. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/work.