Managing a small-business through thick and thin

brand credibility from branding expertsYou probably heard this cliche a thousand times back in 2020…. “In these unprecedented times… managing a small-business is harder than ever…  Blah blah blah.”  I’ve seen my share of  “unprecented times.”

I vividly remember how the business world came to a screeching halt in 1990 when we fought the first Gulf War. Then there was 9-11. That was bad. The crash of 2009, for me, was the worst of all. Then, of course, there was that nasty COVID pandemic.

You probably saw the memes that categorized 2020 as spoiled lutefisk on moldy toast, and other equally stinky analogies. It’s sad that so many businesses chose to lead with that line of thinking, but it is understandable.

When times tough it’s natural to be afraid. But when it comes to small-business management, pessimism seldom plays well.

The viral turn of events that we all experienced during COVID did, in fact, spell doom for many small businesses. But despite the shut down and the lingering effects of the pandemic, most owners, managers and entrepreneurs found ways to adapt and survive.

That’s thing thing about entrepreneurs… We’re all optimists.  We look for silver linings, no matter how small, and we shift our thinking in ways that help us cope.

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In American culture that means moving forward. Making progress. Anything but a stand-still!

In American culture stagnation is even worse than failure.

There’s an interesting quote from George Bernard Shaw that’s relevant to managing a small-business these days:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

“All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” On the surface, this makes no sense. You can’t change the world to fit your whim. Right?

Wrong. We can change our own, little worlds.



Entrepreneurs do it all that time. They start businesses that are built on that very goal, and that higher level of purpose is what propels them past big bumps in the road — like the COVID pandemic.

When managing a small-business, purpose paves the way to progress.


The reasonable person would say, “I don’t have any control over this COVID thing, so I’m just going to play the cards I’m dealt, hunker down, and hope for the best.”

The unreasonable person says, “What can I make of this horrible situation? How can I change the world in some little way that aligns with the core of my being and produces some financial return? ”

A lot of smart, reasonable, people wasted their time analyzing the COVID statistics, dwelling on the scope of the problem and worrying about the lack of any clear path out of this mess.

They were reasonable, but stuck.

Progress depends on unreasonable people… The visionaries who flip the script. The dreamers who choose not to accept fear, constraints, and outside circumstances at an excuse for inaction.

Action is the antidote to despair.


Being UNreasonable in this situation doesn’t mean you dispense with common sense and good decision making. It means you get outta your head, and into action. It means embracing the uncertainty, and pushing forward anyway.

In tough times like 2020 it definitely was not “business as usual” for anyone. It was unusual, uncomfortable, and unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be your undoing.

Let’s play a little word game: Think about all the negative, UN words you can apply here, and start editing them out of your vocabulary — and out of your business operations.

When you’re managing a small business through hard times, this is stuff to avoid:

Unhappy. Make it your personal quest to make sure your people are happy, even if you have to cut their hours back. That means making sure they’re learning, growing and progressing. It’s not just about the money.

Unfocused. Use this opportunity to re-focus your marketing efforts around a sound business strategy. Streamline your offerings. Narrow your niche. Pivot if you have to. That’s small-business management in a nutshell.

Unclear. Clarity should be lesson #1 in small business management:  Clarity should be a priority in your marketing communications, in your presentations, and in your personal correspondence. It’s one of the simplest little changes that you can make, and it pays off handsomely. Just take time to be more mindful about how you communicate.

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Unassuming.  I’m always amazed by how many successful entrepreneurs are terrible self-promoters. They’re so humble, and focused on doing their specialized work, they don’t see their true value in the marketplace. So they fly under the radar and continually underachieve.

Unaware. In small-business management, awareness is the first step toward progress. A business interruption can be a great opportunity to actually stop and look at the big picture. Reevaluate your efforts. Be more aware of what’s going on, inside and outside of your immediate little world. Do some strategic listening and you just might see a clear answer to your problem.

Uninspired.  Inspiration may be hard to come by right now. If that’s the case, keep reading the Brand Insight Blog. Hire us to infuse some new thinking into your operation. Or better yet, schedule a retreat to Bend, Oregon for a nice, safe change of scenery and a huge dose of branding inspiration.

No one was unaffected by the COVID pandemic, but you can choose to be undeterred by it.

You can be unflappable. You can be undeniably determined to succeed, regardless of what’s going on.

So start being unreasonable for a change. You might be surprised how much progress you can make. An if you need a creative kick in the pants, call us!

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