COVID-19 Spotlight: Entrepreneurs Must Adapt to the Pandemic, says Jesse Willms

We are currently in the midst of one of the most uncertain times in recent history. Millions of people across the globe are either locked down or quarantined in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. To make matters worse, things are changing dramatically from one day to the next as governments implement new measures to try and control the situation, and as a result, the global economy has been rocked to its very core. 

Consumer behavior has shifted towards online purchases as retail footfall plummeted to record lows. As a result, countless businesses have been forced to adjust to the new circumstances or, in some cases, shut up shop entirely. 

However, as the situation continues to unfold, it begs the question as to whether or not there is opportunity amongst the chaos for entrepreneurs. While so many businesses fail to adapt to these unique times, is there a golden opportunity for those that are willing to rise to the demands of our newfound struggles?

Who is Jesse Willms?

To say Jesse Willms knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship would be the understatement of the year. Ever since he was a teenager, Willms has been adept in practically every facet of entrepreneurship, particularly in eCommerce and marketing. 

His first venture, eDirect, became a multimillion-dollar business by the time he was 18 and would eventually go on to pull in over $50 million in revenue. Since then, he has created 12 different million dollar health and wellness companies, selling well over $500m worth of products and supplements, including Acai Berry, Tea, Resveratrol, Hoodia, Anti Aging Creams, and Teeth Whitening sets. 

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Willms, as he has had to overcome his fair share of adversity and negative publicity in his time. This is precisely why he is such an excellent mind to turn to in the wake of the current circumstances.

How to find opportunity amidst a global pandemic

Listen to your customers

Covid-19 has completely transformed the way we interact with each other. Depending on what part of the world you reside in, there’s a high chance that you must adhere to social distancing rules, and there may even be restrictions on what type of businesses are allowed to open and which must close. 

Most of the time, business owners feel hard done by as the restrictions prevent them from being able to make a profit in their usual manner; however, it’s important to understand how the restrictions impact the consumer. 

Reach out to your customers. Understand how the pandemic has impacted their life and how it may have affected how they interact with your business. Get in their shoes and reverse engineer the customer journey from start to finish. If you’re a retail business that relies on footfall, do what you can do to digitize your business and learn how to connect with consumers online. 

“Listening to customers doesn’t just mean paying attention to complaints and dealing with escalated issues. Listening to customers also means leaning forward and engaging in dialogue to learn about factors like motivations, aspirations, expectations, and perceptions,” says Willms.

Be ready to adapt

“Slowness to change usually means fear of the new.” — Philip Crosby

Businesses that adapt to these difficult times will survive and thrive. Those that don’t will likely face huge setbacks and may lose ground to those there who were willing to change their business practices effectively.

Is your supply chain as effective as it was before the pandemic, or are their frailties starting to emerge? How about your marketing? Continuously ask yourself these questions and be sure to reevaluate your business practices as circumstances change.

When discussing his current venture, Willms explains how he deals with the current circumstances in order to stay ahead of the curve.

“With the business landscape continually evolving, there are a few things I do to try and stay ahead of the curve. Firstly, as an online company, we are very flexible. We can internalize and adapt to changes quickly, which gives us an advantage over more rigid business models. By maximizing on new opportunities, we avoid getting ‘stuck in our old ways’ and losing market share,” he says. 

Show empathy instead of chasing profits

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s how interconnected we all are. It’s during these moments that we are reminded of how important it is to come together as a society in order to find a solution to these difficult times. 

This presents a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to establish brands that show they care about their consumers by going the extra mile. This might mean setting aside short-term profits, but the relationships and levels of trust you build with your customer base will be worth it. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has created a hyper-awareness among consumers of businesses that authentically want to help them and make their lives better, and businesses that are only interested in making as much money as possible,” says Willms.

“Businesses that authentically demonstrate empathy and caring at this time are making an investment that will pay dividends for many years to come, while businesses that are only in it for themselves will find out soon enough that scorned customers have very long memories, and they also do not hesitate to share their unhappy stories online and offline with anyone who will listen.”

The bottom line – Be ready to learn from mistakes

Let’s face it; Covid-19 is the fastest growing threat to our economy. Another deep recession is expected, and years of hardship seem to be staring us all in the face. However, in all honesty, nobody knows what is going to happen from here. Even if a vaccine is successfully deployed, it’s likely that the business landscape will never return to its pre-pandemic state. 

Entrepreneurs and business owners must now act as the trailblazers throughout these unprecedented times. Naturally, this means that mistakes will be made, and if you’re running a business, you will almost certainly encounter obstacles that you have never experienced before. 

“Don’t be afraid of challenges just because you think you might fail. If we all gave up at the first sign of failure, there might not be any entrepreneurs out there. The trick is being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way. I have made many mistakes throughout my career, but I have never let them define me. Instead, I acknowledge that an error was made and try to learn from it,” explains Willms.

“You can also view challenges as an opportunity to grow, develop a thicker skin, or improve important skills. At the end of the day, if you truly want something, you will work hard to achieve it.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.