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Embrace the Possibilities

2020 was a hard year for so many people, with thousands of businesses forced to lay off workers, and many opting to throw in the towel and permanently shut their doors. But in some ways it was also a good year. How could I possibly say that? I say it for one simple reason: The events of 2020 forced many small business owners and entrepreneurs to accept the fact that they would have to do things differently to stay relevant. This past year has tested the resolve of even the most battle-hardened entrepreneurs and small business owners, and it has stretched their creativity to the limits.

As the worldwide pandemic altered everyone’s lives, small business owners and entrepreneurs in particular have had to deal with a wide range of challenges and emotions, including the initial feeling of sheer panic and the fear of what effects the pandemic might have on their families, friends, businesses, etc. And then, once the fear began to subside, many recognized and embraced the challenge of adapting their businesses (and lives) to the “new normal” to simply survive.

[The Integration Guide to AV in a Post-COVID-19 World (opens in new tab)]

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners were forced to change this past year. It was difficult for them, but it ultimately improved their businesses and enhanced their lives. These same entrepreneurs and small business owners have learned a lot about themselves and their businesses in 2020—a year they’re likely more than ready to put behind them so they can move forward and embrace the possibilities for future success.

A great example is a Memphis entrepreneur whose business background included owning a number of successful restaurants and bars in the area. When the pandemic hit full force in mid-March, he was forced to close his venues, which left him without a business and his workers without jobs. What did he do? Instead of throwing in the towel, he started a new company, totally unrelated to his previous ones, that employed out-of-work bartenders and restaurant workers to provide a wide range of home services including landscaping, building patios, erecting fences, painting, hauling junk, spraying for mosquitoes, pressure washing, detailing cars, food pickup/delivery, and more. The company did so well in 2020 that it now has more than 30 employees and has expanded to Nashville and Chattanooga.

Another example of an entrepreneur making the most out of 2020 and building for the future is a friend of mine who owns a successful hardwood/lumber company that has been in business since 2001. The company buys unfinished lumber from sawmills, then dries it and grades it to sell it to companies that manufacture everything from flooring and cabinets to trim molds and furniture. As the company describes it, “softwoods build a house; hardwoods furnish it.” Business has been good for a number of years, particularly when the company expanded to China and other locations in Southeast Asia. Instead of making things with American materials and shipping the goods back to the United States, Chinese branches of the operation had found great demand for these products in China, which has been a boon for business. 

At one time, 50 percent of the company’s sales were in Asia, 20 percent in Europe, and 30 percent in the United States. That was until the pandemic hit and the international markets all but dried up. Rather than give in to the difficult market conditions, however, the company seized the opportunity to move the business in another direction and support the U.S. housing and remodeling boom in 2020. The company has made a complete shift in its marketing strategy and is now doing more than 70 percent of its total revenue in the United States and continues to experience rapid growth. Who says you can’t grow a business during a pandemic?

I am still keenly aware of the many challenges that AV integration firms face these days. But how about looking at 2020 in a different way? Despite the grim outlook for 2021, I do believe there is a massive opportunity for owners of AV integration firms to continue growing and diversifying their offerings. Instead of merely maintaining current AV equipment, why not think about adding features that would help your AV products sell more or deliver a better user experience? Keep in mind that the best changes to come from the worldwide pandemic will become permanent if we work at it.

With so many people working from home these days, why not look at building better work-from-home systems? Tapping into the residential/business market would allow AV integrators to expand into a potentially lucrative new area and allow companies to employ more remote workers. And developing new products and services not only represents a way to grow revenue and profitability, it can also open up new opportunities for geographic expansion, developing market niches, and so on.

The best way for AV integrators to respond to adversity is to look beyond it, anticipate and prepare for the changes ahead, and embrace the possibilities!

Jay B. Myers is the founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions, which was sold to AVI-SPL in the fall of 2018. He is the author of Keep Swinging: An Entrepreneur’s Story of Overcoming Adversity and Achieving Small Business Success and Hitting the Curveballs: How Crisis Can Strengthen and Grow Your Business.