While COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis, navigating stormy seas in business is par for the course. For Lynn Lavery, President of Choice Premiums, the turbulence has become as familiar as the calm. As an owner of B2B business (WBENC certified) for the past 35 years, Lavery has learned a lot about crisis management, particularly how to create a business that is adaptive and responsive.
What crisis over the years has had the biggest impact?
“One of the most impactful crises I faced really only affected Macon, GA. At the time, the business was a marketing firm and 95% of our business was based in Macon. In July 1994, there was a flood that cut Macon’s water supply for 23 days. This was before the days of the internet, so we still had to come to the office. While a number of businesses during that time did not survive the crisis, we actually thrived. The Macon Water Authority was blamed for the flood and we ended up managing their public relations. So we were actually quite busy during that time.”
What was your response to the Great Recession in ’08?
“That crisis was interesting because it was a long time coming. I remember when I woke up to hear that Lehman Brothers had failed. I realized then and there that business as we knew it was going to change. It had actually been changing for us about six months prior. Our client base at that time consisted mainly of developers and banks. And the development was happening at a frantic pace despite stagnant wages in Middle Georgia.
So to get through it, we hunkered down. We looked at every expense we could cut. I paid all the bills I could ahead of time, guaranteeing the lights would stay on until April 1, 2009. After that, I examined what businesses would continue regardless of the recession. And then I started cold calling companies all over the U.S. And you know what? We got business. Many of those clients we earned in 2009 are the same clients that make COVID-19 bearable for us now. “
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
“Honestly, I can’t say that we have been affected by the crisis in the same way as a lot of other businesses. This is not to say it won’t, but I think being a small business we are able to pivot more easily in a different direction when needed.
I will say that due to a magnitude of unforeseen and constant changes, our products have been surviving of late. Our clients, however, have been so nice and complimentary. We do care and I think that comes through. We operate by a simple rule, the Golden Rule, “Do unto others that you would have them do unto you.”
What do you attribute to your business success during COVID-19?
“I’m so grateful every day that we made a conscious decision several years ago to really focus on certain business types and to handle the majority of our business online. Having access to businesses all over the country has made a huge difference. And it all started because of the 2008/2009 recession. So, one crisis can actually make you more prepared for the next one.”
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
“As for me personally, my mother, who lives in a Memory Care facility, tested positive for COVID-19. She ended up being asymptomatic, so she is still with us at the age of 92. So I’m happy, but it’s been scary. “
What has been the most important lesson you have learned from managing a business during a crisis?
“Mainly just to keep going. You just have to try to do anything to succeed. Constantly work on new ideas. You keep putting ideas out there till one of them sticks. You just never know.”
What advice would you offer other business owners & professionals for surviving a crisis?
“Remember it is a crisis. It is not permanent. To me, building up your customer base and being able to communicate with them during a crisis makes all the difference in the world. You have to remind them you are here to help, what you are currently offering, informing them of your new hours, etc.
You need to stay visible in whatever way you can. Don’t make them search you out. Remember, people forget. And you want to be remembered.”
If you enjoyed this post, you should also check out How COVID-19 Transformed My Marketing Approach, by Choice Premiums’s Marketing Coordinator, Noelle Brooks.