COVID-19 has powered “the great reset.” There’s not one person who hasn’t been affected by the virus, and amongst many other things, it has definitely changed the way we relate to work. It turns out that there’s nothing like a global pandemic to put things into perspective and remind us that life is short.
For some people, the pandemic was a wake-up call to get out of the rat race and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. For others, it was a realization that office work or the daily 9 to 5 grind just wasn’t all it cracked up to be and candle-making was actually their true calling. Others were still eager to grow their small business revenue, but found their plans stifled by labor shortages, market changes, or health-related restrictions.
An opportunity to pursue dreams
For a lot of people, the cloud of COVID-19 had a silver lining; their dream business. Some were laid off from work or placed on temporary leave of absence, but some simply realized it was time to reassess their priorities and follow their dreams while they still could.
More than 4.4 million new businesses were created in the US between March 2020 and March 2021, by people like Jenna Harris, who founded a profitable candle-making business. When everything moved online, it became easier to pick up new skills. Harris commented “Anything I needed to learn about anything — accounting, supply chain, insurance, blogging, SEO — could be found on YouTube or Facebook Groups.”
Business owners can take it a step beyond social media with educational platforms like Business Unusual, an open-source learning channel where entrepreneurs can take bite-sized lessons in business management and find practical tools created by small businesses for small businesses.
YouTube, Facebook and TikTok (especially Tiktok!) deserve some credit for the new wave of pandemic SMBs. Everybody was on social media, which made it easier for new entrepreneurs to share updates about their business and spread the word organically.
For example, Shannon Schutt makes behind-the-scenes TikToks that show the whole jewelry-making process for her company, Clear Mind Jewellery. A lot of people are curious about how jewelry is made, and her videos encourage customers to order unique items, skyrocketing her profitability.
Unemployment became more attractive
When you can receive 60% of your former salary just for staying home, is it worth it to work? This is why some have blamed the extra stipends and unemployment benefits for encouraging people to refuse to work.
There sure are a lot of jobs going unfilled; the United States Bureau of Labor reported a record 9.3 million new job openings in April and fewer hires per month than any year since 2001. But are people lazy, or stuck? Schools haven’t reopened fully internationally, plus we’re at the beginning of the long summer break, so a lot of working parents are planning to wait till the fall to get back to work.
Many economists say that people aren’t refusing to work, they’re just refusing low-paying jobs in poor conditions with zero flexibility. And who can blame them? After all, most of the jobs going unfilled are “low-quality” jobs that pay just above minimum wage for unskilled labor.
We’re talking about people like LaShanta Knowles, who lost the job she never liked last September. She went back to school to train in web programming and development, and completed the course in May. Now she’s looking for work, but she’s not going back to her old position. “I stayed out of comfort and out of fear; if this job didn’t want me, I didn’t think anyone else would,” Knowles commented. “Luckily, I don’t feel that way any more since I went back to school.”
Workers like Knowles, who want better-paying jobs, are using unemployment benefits to give them breathing space while they work towards the right one.
Labor shortages are stifling SMB growth
But in the meantime, small businesses are struggling with a lack of talent. The American National Federation of Independent Businesses reports that 48% of SMBs say they can’t fill their open jobs, even though consumers are eager to help support the economy.
Restaurant owners like Bartolomeo Puccio, who owns an Italian restaurant in Astoria, NY, have to turn away diners because they don’t have enough employees to serve them. Puccio needs to hire 10 people, but no one’s interested. “If I put a help wanted sign outside, I would [normally] get 10 or 15 people a day, but today you can’t even find anybody,” he explained.
Matt Glassman’s in the same position, unable to open his Greyhound Bar & Grill in Los Angeles because his employees won’t come back to work. He’s in a catch-22: he can’t raise wages to attract employees because he doesn’t have the revenue, but he can’t increase his revenue without more employees. “If I could pay every single person in this place more to come back and feel safe I would,” says Glassman. “Right now, we don’t know where that money comes from.”
What’s ironic is that part of the reason for the labor shortages is that SMB employees opened their own small businesses during the pandemic, and want to carry on working for themselves.
Work isn’t dead
It’s easy to forget that we’re only just emerging from the tunnel of COVID-19. Many economists say that in another few months, when schools reopen fully and more of the population is vaccinated, economic systems will look different. Between new small businesses, people still retraining, and workers trying to move up to better positions, the job market is pretty turbulent. Your SMB growth is on its way.