To say that times are tough for small businesses is almost laughable. In the history of our economy, we have never seen anything like this.

In the Great Recession and even the Great Depression, there were clear warning signs long before the fall. With COVID-19, we fell off the cliff in the space of a week or two. Every small business has been affected in one way or another. Some have been forced to temporarily close their doors as state health officials try desperately to flatten the curve. Others have simply gone out of business; their cash flow so tight to begin with that there was no other choice.

I can’t blame anyone for throwing in the towel right now. Building a business is hard, mostly thankless work, filled with hardship and sacrifice. To have it all washed away by something we can’t even see, let alone see coming, is beyond belief.

Even in the midst of chaos, that entrepreneurial spirit in small business owners burns bright. We know that deep down new opportunities will rise from the ashes of this crisis. Even in the most trying times, hope can be found in a new idea or enterprise that takes root and flourishes. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are the machinery that drives this great economy, and one would expect that they will continue to play a vital role in jobs creation, ideation and ultimately, economic recovery.

Times are tough indeed. In my work here at the state, I have been spending 10 to 12 hours day fighting the good fight to help small businesses across the state. So, I’m not about to sell you sunshine and lollipops when all hell is breaking loose around us. I hear the tragic stories of businesses daily. Worse, we have no way of knowing when this will all end and it’s hard to think about the future when you’re in the middle of a perfect storm.

But entrepreneurs do think about the future. This crisis will pass.

So, the question begs: Where do you go from here?

The relatively good news is that everyone is in the same boat right now. Your competitors, whether they are across the street or across the country, are hurting too. They are lost. They are freaking out about cash flow and lack of resources. Nearly everyone is in the same place at the same time and whether we like it or not, the race to the finish line is already underway.

If you’re still back at the starting gate limping along, it’s time to tap that entrepreneurial mindset to reinvent and revitalize your business model. Over the years, you may have become complacent in your innovation and ideation. Things were running well, revenue and profits were predictable if not sterling, and your place within the marketplace was comfortable and well established.

That said, it’s almost a certainty that the world and the marketplace will be very different on the other side of this global pandemic. What worked so well in the past may be irrelevant in the future. Smart business owners and successful entrepreneurs are already thinking about what that future will look like, ready to take advantage of new opportunities. You need to be right there with them.

If your business has closed for good, it will be time to start over. Emergency funding and assistance are coming down the pike to support your efforts. More aid will undoubtedly follow in the months and even years to come.

There are always opportunities in the aftermath of a crisis, probably more so when the economy does a complete global reset. Top-tier workers that you couldn’t afford just last month will probably be more than happy to work for you in any capacity. As suppliers recover, they may be willing to cut amazing deals to get their inventory and supply chain moving again. Premium office or retail space you have always coveted may be offered for a song by developers desperate for a tenant.

Yes, money will be a huge consideration. It is coming. The $2 trillion package has relief for small businesses. Undoubtedly there will be more down the road. Smart business people are already figuring out what to do with these funds, armed with a business plan for a new endeavor that takes advantage of opportunities that will inevitably present themselves. These visionary entrepreneurs will be at the forefront of the recovery horserace, cutting the best deals, attracting the best workers and most profitable customers, and snagging the best square footage in the community.

As I said, these are indeed tough times. It’s obvious that we’ve all had to rip up our respective playbooks go with audibles. Some of these plays will work. Others will fail miserably. But it’s crucial to start calling plays anyway so we can rebuild existing businesses, start new ones and embark on a period of economic recovery and resiliency.

With any luck, we will find new opportunities in the post-COVID economy that we never would have imagined in our old workaday world. The past is just that, the past. It’s time to think about the future.

And if you need help, we have a Small Business Playbook for starting a business or improving an existing one and a helpful data tool, SizeUp, that can help you assess the viability of a new business idea, one that will reignite the entrepreneurial spirit that made you want to be your own boss in the first place.

Onward and upward as we work together to rebuild the economy and our respective businesses,

– Robb