Reinventing Your Small Business to Survive COVID-19 — Blog Post from Iowa Western SBDC Director, Sue Pitts

There is a video of Simon Sinek and his team on YouTube where he talks to his team about pivoting their roles in his business. He talks about how COVID-19 is NOT unprecedented. That although very sudden and devastating, Covid-19 is not the first-time businesses have been challenged.

The Internet changed the way we shop, and when retailers didn’t respond, they closed.

Streaming services changed the way we watch movies, and when video stores didn’t respond, they closed.

Uber and Lift changed the way we get around town, and when cab and taxi companies didn’t respond, they suffered.

The businesses that did survive during those times, and many others, were businesses that were ready to respond and reinvent themselves. Uber didn’t kill taxi companies. Taxi companies did because they were unwilling to do business a different way.

This message is very relevant to our small businesses in Iowa. Businesses that start asking the question, “How are we going to change to get through this” instead of “how are we going to get through this “, are the businesses that will not only survive but will thrive and grow.

Since the middle of March our Iowa businesses have been in survival mode. They are applying for grants and frantically pulling financial information together.

It is time to start transitioning into reinvention mode and pivot your business to survive changes that are going to happen. We have seen many Iowa businesses already doing this. Restaurants are offering Family Meal options for pickup and delivery. Event planners are helping families plan online birthday parties and celebrations complete with drive by waves and present drop-offs. There are many other very creative ways businesses are reinventing themselves and thriving.

We are not certain what the future brings, but I think we can be certain that there is going to be a new normal and the path to that normal is not going to be fast. I think we also need to realize that this is not an unprecedented event that will not happen again. This or something else will happen again and we need to use this event as a lesson learned.

What should you be doing now? First and foremost, get your bookkeeping and financials up to date and devise a system to keep regular track of your bookkeeping. Software programs like QuickBooks Online (30% discount through SBDC) and are great solutions.

Secondly, as a small business you need to be ready to pivot at each stage of this crisis. What are the problems that you as a business can solve now? What new markets have emerged that you can serve now. A regular analysis of your business model using tools like Canvas Business Model is essential to your resilience in any disaster or crisis.

Our America’s SBDC Iowa state director, Lisa Shimkat, is leading our state SBDC to pivot to better serve our businesses and their reinvention. We are developing new programs and resources as we speak to serve our businesses in what will become our new normal.


About The SBDC and the Author
The Iowa SBDC provides no cost technical service and advice for Iowa Small Businesses and individuals looking to start a business. The 15 centers through out Iowa are run by small business experts and counselors who have the experience and expertise to confidently help on a number of topics

Sue Pitts, Regional Director for the Iowa Western SBDC in Council Bluffs has been in the position since 2004. Sue has become the state expert in Digital Marketing and Website Content. She teaches small businesses on these topics on the local level as well as at regional, state, and national conferences.

Pivoting Today for Opportunities Tomorrow Advice for Small Businesses during COVID-19

As locally, nationally and globally, people are utilizing practices such as physical distancing and staying in place, many small businesses are being disrupted. Whether it be because of industry shutdowns, employee inability to work, lack of access to customers, cancelled events and travel restrictions, supply chain interruptions, cash flow shortages or a variety of other factors, the way that small businesses do business has already undergone rapid changes and changes are certain to continue. For many, this means short-term or long-term pivoting in their business model to survive and to thrive moving into the future.

Here are 10 questions to help small business owners and their support teams think through options for change:

    1. What parts of your business model do you need to let go of for now?  
    2. What parts can you retain by making adjustments or being flexible? 
    3. How do you see your industry changing and what challenges and opportunities do those changes create locally, nationally or globally?
    4. What parts of your business model might you let go of permanently as your industry or your capacity changes?
    5. With what you are able and want to retain, is there new value that you can bring to your customers as their needs and wants are also changing?
    6. Are you able to identify needs and wants that you previously had not considered addressing but that you have – or could develop – the capacity to address?
    7. If you let go of particular parts of your business model, which of your needs go away?
    8. As you pivot your business model, what new needs do you pick up?
    9. Can you partner with other businesses – or take advantage of changes in other industries – to provide services and complete jobs that need to be done within your businesses and for your customers?
    10. What resources are available to assist you, ranging from financial assistance to advisory support to tools and online platforms for you to use?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every part of the small business community is thinking about what do we do now to get through this, for how long and what does the future hold?  In such times, it is vital to try to be proactive, analyzing and addressing not only challenges but also opportunities, to mitigate risks and to engage in hope for tomorrow’s successes.

For more resources to navigate during COVID-19, visit:


About America’s SBDC Iowa & the Author

Dr. Laurie Pieper is Amercia’s SBDC Iowa Tech Director. She leads the Rural Iowa Development Initiative and works with clients and resource partners around the state to develop opportunities for the successful commercialization of business technologies, products and services. Originally trained as an analytical philosopher, she has a Ph.D. from UCLA and has held faculty appointments at University of Oregon and Kansas State University.  Dr. Pieper was a business owner for many years and enjoys using her background in education and in entrepreneurship to help small businesses set and reach their goals.

America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, America’s SBDC Iowa has 15 regional assistance centers located strategically across the state. Since program inception in 1981, the SBDC has helped Iowa businesses and entrepreneurs through no fee, confidential, customized, professional business counseling and practical, affordable training workshops. 

For more information on America’s SBDC Iowa programs or services, call (515) 294-2030 or visit,, or @IowaSBDC on Instagram and Twitter.