The COVID-19 pandemic forced countless small businesses to learn very hard lessons about how quickly things can change, regardless of how well they were going previously. Some businesses had to close down, most were negatively impacted in some way, and others survived or even thrived. One thing all these businesses have in common is that they are part of a new era in which they’ll have to apply the lessons the pandemic taught them. Here are just seven of them:

1. Don't take things for granted

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all is never to take things for granted. Your business may be in great shape now, but as COVID painfully illustrated, everything can change quickly. That means you should always operate as though your company’s existence depends on every decision you make. Make sure these decisions are made thoughtfully, because they may directly impact the health of your company. 

2. Be prepared for hard times

Another major lesson is that you can never be too prepared. It's smart to conduct your business as if a pandemic or other national crisis will cause another immediate shutdown, because the reality is that it may very well do so. If you are prepared operationally and financially, you will have a much better chance of withstanding that, as well. Set up a savings account as an emergency fund to better prepare your business.

3. Optimize your cash flow

Stay on top of your cash flow and keep it optimized. If disaster strikes and you don't have cash in hand, you may find yourself in deep trouble. Conduct regular forecasts, cut expenses, save money, and stay on top of accounts receivable to make sure the cash is consistently available.

4. Keep your business flexible and agile

From an operational standpoint, the pandemic taught businesses they need to be flexible and agile to remain effective. That means ensuring people can work remotely when possible, and it means being able to quickly close your physical workspace while continuing to generate revenue through other means.

5. Make resources more accessible

Part of being able to stay agile is ensuring team members have access to the resources they need, even when they're not at the office or store.

As Roger Doumanian at Forbes explains, "Duplicating your resources means you’re making them accessible from multiple locations. This process may include digitizing your files and getting them on the cloud, which is accessible from anywhere with internet access. It may also include having a backup copy of your hard files in a fireproof safe at home; having spare laptops for mobile operations from home or a temporary office; and stocking up on supplies at home to ensure that you have all you need to keep your business running. The key is to have access to all of the 'essential' resources to operate on a limited basis and still keep your business running, even when you and your staff are at home."1

6. Utilize the internet and social media

The pandemic forced many small businesses to establish or expand on their online strategies. E-commerce and social media have been significant components of successful business strategies for years, but those who had not completely embraced these technologies before COVID learned that they are now critical for selling products during lockdowns and for getting important messages out to their customer base.

7. Create more revenue streams

One of the more difficult, yet imperative, lessons is that of creating new revenue streams. Some businesses had no choice but to find new ways to generate revenue when lockdowns and quarantines made their original business plans impossible. The takeaway is to prepare for similar situations in the future by finding multiple ways to bring in money so that when the principal revenue source is put in jeopardy, another means of revenue can carry the business, at least temporarily.


These lessons can be hard to learn, and in some cases, even harder to implement. But one positive about the pandemic is the wake-up call it provided to business owners. Businesses all over the world will take what they have learned from 2020 and make themselves better equipped to deal with future scenarios.