Post Pandemic Consumer Trends

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on May 6, 2021. Hope springs eternal. All the indicators seem to be headed in the right direction and social distancing restrictions are scaling back. Many of us have begun taking small steps toward the lifestyle… Read more »

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This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on May 6, 2021.

Hope springs eternal. All the indicators seem to be headed in the right direction and social distancing restrictions are scaling back.

Many of us have begun taking small steps toward the lifestyle we experienced – and perhaps took for granted – 15 long months ago. We’re now confronting personal decisions about our own comfort zones in public settings. While we’re eager for our lives to return to normal, we rationally acknowledge things will not be exactly the same.

As mentioned in a previous column, Alexandria SBDC has begun a series of webinars on the “Fundamentals of Post Pandemic Success.” The first session last week, “The Future of Customers and Consumer Behavior,” described consumer habits acquired during the pandemic and highlighted some of the adjustments business owners must consider. Presenters shared both academic research and practical hands-on experience.

George Mason University Professor Gautham Vadakkepatt illustrated how digital is the new normal. Not only is it now integral to our daily business interactions and home entertainment, but even Ganny and Pop-pop are comfortable digitally connecting with the grandkids. Pandemic-imposed digital fluency is here to stay, and it necessitates businesses stepping up to that reality to interface with customers of all ages and types.

During the pandemic, convenience became the crucial deciding factor in our search for goods and services. Businesses have gone beyond online ordering and curbside pickup to compete on who’s providing convenience, value and superior attention to a broad range of customer preferences. Vadakkepatt pointed out that the post-pandemic economy has raised the customer experience bar, and that businesses must substantially up their game.

Computer displaying pinterest board about home decor

He also described customer expectations around health, safety, work/ life balance, employer treatment of their employees and connections to nature. Post-pandemic customers also prefer more transparency so they know who they’re buying from and how that business approaches sustainability, social change and service to the community.

Victoria Vergason, owner of The Hour, an Alexandria store celebrating the art of the cocktail, presented her experiences and successes concentrating her efforts on expanding her store’s website and social media presence. In addition to her Old Town store, Vergason years ago started a partnership with Neiman Marcus and opened boutiques in several of their stores. She also launched TheHourShop.com.

While Vergason had already begun greater emphasis on online sales, the pandemic prompted her to beef up the website as the way of the future. Her presentation described approaches to the challenges of shipping, photographing products and posting them on her website and onto Pinterest Boards.

She also shared tips on working with Shopify, Instagram and Facebook, and talked about engaging experts for areas not in her comfort zone. Vergason detailed how she’s settled into the routine of online sales, and has seen an astounding increase in online customers and sales vs. in store.

The next session of the series will be “Digital Tools and Technology for the Future” at the end of May. Recordings of past sessions and registration links for upcoming programs can be found under Workshops at https://alexandriasbdc.org/

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Local SEO, NFT’s and the Future of Blockchain for Small Business – Web and Beyond Live – March 15, 2021

Find the original archive of the video here: Web and Beyond Live – March 15, 2021. Each week, President of W3 Consulting and Managing Director of W3C Web Services (https://web.w3cinc.com/) Ray Sidney-Smith broadcasts live to update you on the lat…

Find the original archive of the video here: Web and Beyond Live – March 15, 2021. Each week, President of W3 Consulting and Managing Director of W3C Web Services (https://web.w3cinc.com/) Ray Sidney-Smith broadcasts live to update you on the latest

WordPress Updates Gutenberg to Improve Google Core Web Vitals, and More – March 8, 2021

Each week, President of W3 Consulting and Managing Director of W3C Web Services (https://web.w3cinc.com/) Ray Sidney-Smith broadcasts live to update you on the latest small business digital marketing and business productivity technology updates you nee…

Each week, President of W3 Consulting and Managing Director of W3C Web Services (https://web.w3cinc.com/) Ray Sidney-Smith broadcasts live to update you on the latest small business digital marketing and business productivity technology updates you need to be effective. This week

Are You Ready for the Recovery?

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on March 4, 2021. Going into the pandemic was chaotic and unpredictable and we had to make consequential decisions on the fly. The road ahead certainly has its share of unpredictability, but the rollout of vaccines… Read more »

The post Are You Ready for the Recovery? appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on March 4, 2021.

Going into the pandemic was chaotic and unpredictable and we had to make consequential decisions on the fly.

The road ahead certainly has its share of unpredictability, but the rollout of vaccines holds promise for our return to normalcy – or as close as we can get to what our lives were like before COVID-19.

Now is a good time to take stock and begin planning for the decisions and approaches we’ll need to make in the coming months. Exiting the pandemic might be just as chaotic as going into it, but research and preparation will help business owners make sound choices.

Some of the critical considerations include changing consumer behavior, post-pandemic technology fundamentals, supply chain concerns, reevaluating financial circumstances and workforce matters. We must also closely monitor how the state and jurisdictions scale back their social distancing restrictions.

Consumers became conditioned over the past year to online ordering, curbside pickup and contactless transactions. The essential safety measures of 2020 set a new baseline for buyer expectations. Even when we no longer feel the need to wear masks, we are still likely to appreciate businesses who take extra steps for our well being. Consumer behavior will vary by industry, so it behooves business owners to research and monitor trends in their business sector. The savviest owners are those who regularly collaborate and share smart practices with one another.

Individuals and the nature of commerce have gone through a digital transformation. The pandemic prompted more consumers to shop and transact online, and businesses must bridge this digital divide to remain viable. Owners should evaluate their online presence and how they stack up against the competition. They might also need enhanced cyber infrastructure for more efficient and sophisticated operations.

The pandemic disrupted customary supply chains and, while some items like toilet paper have largely resolved, others remain unpredictable. Supply chain issues apply to both consumer and service sectors. Business owners need to consider post-pandemic operations and how to ensure resiliency of operations.

While some businesses are navigating the pandemic adequately, many have been financially devastated. In addition to dealing with loan forgiveness or repayment, it will be crucial for owners to examine their financial circumstances and cash flow. Decisions ahead include adequacy of capital, where to trim for more efficiency and where to invest.

Another consideration is the complexities of the workforce – rehiring workers, attracting new employees or reskilling talent. With new business demands, roles in business operations might have shifted, and it’s important for small business owners to follow sound practices to avoid pitfalls and to ensure the most productive work environment.

Alexandria Small Business Development Center is planning a free webinar series that will help business owners explore the fundamentals of a post pandemic economy and examine the critical issues described above. It will be presented virtually and designed for owners to select the sessions and breakout sessions applicable to their circumstances. Announcements of the series will be forthcoming in SBDC bulletins.

For more information, subscribe to the SBDC’s mailing list at https:// alexandriasbdc.org/

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Celebrating SBDC’s Silver Anniversary

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on February 4, 2021. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is entering its 25th year of supporting and strengthening the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. It’s perhaps a good time to… Read more »

The post Celebrating SBDC’s Silver Anniversary appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on February 4, 2021.

The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is entering its 25th year of supporting and strengthening the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. It’s perhaps a good time to describe the center’s role and free resources for those who might not be familiar with them.

The SBDC works alongside the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Visit Alexandria and the City of Alexandria to assist the small businesses that comprise about 90% of Alexandria’s total businesses.

For businesses already in operation, the center has timely and specialized resources to help them where they lack in-house expertise. The center has nothing to sell them and is focused only on what is in their best interests. Several owners proclaim that having the SBDC as a free and objective go-to source is among the reasons they choose to stay and grow their business in Alexandria.

The center also helps businesses establishing in or moving to Alexandria to make the right connections, guiding them through startup and permitting steps or helping them solve problems that arise.

The past year has intensified the stress on small businesses coping with the devastation of COVID-19. The center teamed with our economic development partners, city government and business associations to keep owners updated and assist them with loans and grants.

Elected officials, city management and business community leaders undertook bold actions to sustain business operations under the worst of circumstances. We’re not yet out of the woods but expectations are hopeful, and there’s a clear sense that things could have been much worse had all of us not pitched in together.

Few communities have such a hands-on free small business resource that is an integral part of the economic development and business community and is interactive with city government. The center also works to improve communication and understanding between city staff and businesses, among business groups and among businesses themselves.

Over its 25 years, the center has answered many thousands of inquiries about a broad range of business matters. It has provided more than 28,500 hours of objective feedback and assistance to several thousand individuals, both existing business owners and startups. It has also helped individuals obtain more than $95 million in loans, primarily from Alexandria bankers.

Those who work with the center from the earliest stage of their business are typically better organized and prepared for the requirements ahead, and they launch with better connections and more viable operations. With the center’s proactive guidance and ready availability to help owners with challenges, the stability of businesses using SBDC resources exceeds the national small business failure statistics.

The staff and board of directors of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center are grateful for the opportunity to engage with Alexandria businesses for a quarter century. We value the support from and collaborative partnerships with city government and our economic development partners. To get the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 Relief Legislation or identify free SBDC resources for your business, go to: https://alexandriasbdc.org/

The post Celebrating SBDC’s Silver Anniversary appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Celebrating SBDC’s Silver Anniversary

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on February 4, 2021. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is entering its 25th year of supporting and strengthening the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. It’s perhaps a good time to… Read more »

The post Celebrating SBDC’s Silver Anniversary appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on February 4, 2021.

The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is entering its 25th year of supporting and strengthening the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. It’s perhaps a good time to describe the center’s role and free resources for those who might not be familiar with them.

The SBDC works alongside the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Visit Alexandria and the City of Alexandria to assist the small businesses that comprise about 90% of Alexandria’s total businesses.

For businesses already in operation, the center has timely and specialized resources to help them where they lack in-house expertise. The center has nothing to sell them and is focused only on what is in their best interests. Several owners proclaim that having the SBDC as a free and objective go-to source is among the reasons they choose to stay and grow their business in Alexandria.

The center also helps businesses establishing in or moving to Alexandria to make the right connections, guiding them through startup and permitting steps or helping them solve problems that arise.

The past year has intensified the stress on small businesses coping with the devastation of COVID-19. The center teamed with our economic development partners, city government and business associations to keep owners updated and assist them with loans and grants.

Elected officials, city management and business community leaders undertook bold actions to sustain business operations under the worst of circumstances. We’re not yet out of the woods but expectations are hopeful, and there’s a clear sense that things could have been much worse had all of us not pitched in together.

Few communities have such a hands-on free small business resource that is an integral part of the economic development and business community and is interactive with city government. The center also works to improve communication and understanding between city staff and businesses, among business groups and among businesses themselves.

Over its 25 years, the center has answered many thousands of inquiries about a broad range of business matters. It has provided more than 28,500 hours of objective feedback and assistance to several thousand individuals, both existing business owners and startups. It has also helped individuals obtain more than $95 million in loans, primarily from Alexandria bankers.

Those who work with the center from the earliest stage of their business are typically better organized and prepared for the requirements ahead, and they launch with better connections and more viable operations. With the center’s proactive guidance and ready availability to help owners with challenges, the stability of businesses using SBDC resources exceeds the national small business failure statistics.

The staff and board of directors of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center are grateful for the opportunity to engage with Alexandria businesses for a quarter century. We value the support from and collaborative partnerships with city government and our economic development partners. To get the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 Relief Legislation or identify free SBDC resources for your business, go to: https://alexandriasbdc.org/

The post Celebrating SBDC’s Silver Anniversary appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Roundtable Recap: Still Working From Home? Be Even More Productive in 2021

This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC.  While 2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us, 2021 will continue to pose challenges with running your business from home, or some kind of hybrid. On January 19, 2021,… Read more »

The post Roundtable Recap: Still Working From Home? Be Even More Productive in 2021 appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC. 

While 2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us, 2021 will continue to pose challenges with running your business from home, or some kind of hybrid. On January 19, 2021, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosted its first Business Development Roundtable of the new year, virtually for Alexandria business owners to connect and share lessons learned. We discussed ways that we’ve been able to be productive while working from home and how to engage effectively with clients, staff, vendors, and our “co-workers at home” (i.e., family) through our shared, lived experiences.

During the Roundtable, we dove into all the variety of topics relating to working virtually, including routines, ergonomics, organizing, and managing distractions and noise.

It’s important to consider your overall home-work routines so that you’re able to keep your mind organized about when you’re working, and especially when you’re not. A simple morning routine of getting ready for work, walking around the block, and then heading to your desk to replicate your commute can be boundary-clarifying. You can repeat this in the evening to close your workday.

Also, ergonomics play an important role in our productivity generally, but when working from home, you need to make sure you aren’t committing any work from home ergonomics mistakes. These can include keeping your back and shoulders aligned, looking away from your devices regularly to keep your eyes from being strained, having enough light on the surfaces you need so you’re not craning your neck, adjusting the height and angle of screens, peddle-powered exercise to keep fit, and even raising or lowering your work surface so you’re not bending your arms and wrists improperly. These small ergonomic adjustments make sure that you stay healthy and positioned to stay productive to get work done safer, longer and faster. Of course, these are interventions you should encourage anyone working with or for you to take too.

productivity making the hours in the day go further

Diane Greenbaum, owner of KidCreate Studio – Alexandria, recommended several resources, one of which was the Clutterbug channel on YouTube along with her Clutterbug quiz—helping you identify your “organizing style.” We sometimes don’t realize how clutter affects our work environments, but when we’re home they can become apparent and profound very quickly. One step is knowing how you organize (your organizing style) so you can start to “tidy up” (a la Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method or some other way) in small doses.

From music to talking to family, friends and clients to the sound of your doorbell during an important presentation, sound is all around us every day. One major problem that came up in the conversation among several participants was the presence of “co-workers at home.” With children home, attending classes virtually or unable to go to daycare, mompreneurs and dadpreneurs are left to work around the kids’ schedules. Not only do you need to manage this possibly-new part of your workday, along with the distracting noises that come with them, you may need to shift your work schedule to later hours for the reflective, focused work you need to accomplish. Noise cancellation headphones and noise suppression microphone technology can help with some of these challenges.

Alexandria SBDC continues its Roundtable program (on the third Tuesdays of the month at noon) on February 16, 2021 with our ever-popular “Content Marketing Roundtable” (giving the first 10 volunteers a chance to get ideas for their content marketing calendar from the roundtable participants), and we are available for business counseling virtually for Alexandria City small businesses.

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POTUS Removed From Social Media Platforms, CARES Act, Act 2, and More – Web and Beyond Live

Find the original archive of the video here: POTUS Removed From Social Media Platforms, CARES Act, Act 2, and More – Web and Beyond Live. President Removed From Social Media Platforms, CARES Act, Act 2, and More – Web and

Find the original archive of the video here: POTUS Removed From Social Media Platforms, CARES Act, Act 2, and More – Web and Beyond Live. President Removed From Social Media Platforms, CARES Act, Act 2, and More – Web and