Business is complicated enough without constant outside factors rattling the cages. This past year is not the only challenging stretch small business has faced; however, it continues to be one of the most persistent. But, change often brings opportunities. Therefore, now might just be the right time to start a business or redirect an existing one.

Giving business advice during unique times such as these might seem like risky business. Still, a few constant themes continually reoccur that can offer reliable ‘common sense’ guidance on your entrepreneurial journey, regardless of the economic times.

Be passionate

No one can expect great returns on a business they don’t absolutely love. People start businesses for many reasons; however, one of those reasons should be because you love your product or service and believe in it 100 percent.

For many people, starting and running their own business is a well-planned venture that turns into a dream come true. It is usually this planning and overthinking that troubleshoots many issues. Likewise, knowing your expectations and not settling for anything less is critical for success.

This is the case for Suzan Allen, who is about to launch her passion project and dream business French-Italian LLC. “I knew that I would first have to invest time in building relationships with manufacturers that I felt best conveyed the French Italian aesthetic. The first and most important aspect I looked at when hand-selecting these manufacturers is the quality of their product offerings.” By knowing your goals and expectations and having a strategy for reaching them, your business will be off to a great start. Just don’t forget that you won’t be able to sustain the long journey of goal setting, planning, and executing every aspect of your company without having absolute passion and faith in it.

Look for market opportunities, not ‘get rich quick’ schemes

A few people get lucky and their start-up falls effortlessly into place. However, this case is certainly not the norm, and no one is able to plan it that way. Likewise, very few people can spot trends and get in front of them. So, if you are one of those people, celebrate your gifts. But chances are you are just like the rest of us who cannot rely on a fad gimmick to ‘get rich quick.’ Therefore, you must use your business savvy and capitalize on opportunities created by fluxes in the economy.

Jay Feldman, co-founder and CEO of Otter Public Relations, knows people often mistakenly place too much stock in fad businesses. “My advice to new startups is not to look at a fad but study long-term trends and look for market opportunities.” Feldman’s PR firm was just a few months into the making when COVID-19 hit, so he and co-founder Scott Bartnick have had to stay the course, looking for opportunities to better their business during this challenging time.

Bartnick adds, “The key to propelling your business during unusual times is to take advantage of the opportunities created. For us, that meant having the chance to hire quality, experienced employees furloughed from top companies.” In the past few months, Feldman and Bartnick have hired several top-notch professionals from Disney, Edelman, and SeaWorld for their fledgling company, giving it the boost it needed at just the right time.

Evaluate your leadership role

Building a company from the ground up can be an exciting and rewarding adventure. But what happens when the reality doesn’t meet the expectation? When your business isn’t running like the well-oiled machine of your dreams, the first place to look for the trouble-spot is You, the leader. No matter how much you might want to throw blame and toss those problems on to someone else’s back, deep down, you know that any group is only as good as the person in charge.

When conducting this introspection, be brutally honest with yourself because your business depends on it. One place to start is assessing how you view your company.  Michael Kelly, founder of Investment Science, agrees. “Leaders should start seeing their entire organization as a living, breathing organism. When the workplace serves the employees rather than the other way around, everyone benefits, and you’re going to have a much more productive company where people can do their best work.”

This concept means no department, team, or individual can be deemed more valuable than another. It is essential that all employees are treated in a way that accentuates their unique gifts and contributions to the company. Additionally, helping employees ease the stress co-workers with other personality styles place on them is also the mark of a great leader. The bottom line—your employees should feel they are known for their best traits, not their shortcomings.

Learn from the past and keep looking forward

Hindsight is always 20/20. It might be a cliche, but it’s true. Sometimes, there is just no way you could have predicted a negative outcome. Therefore, there was no way of preventing it.  But here’s the good news. Like everything else in life, business relies on failures to be the building blocks of future successes.

With this being said, business owners who received a hit during this pandemic cannot be too hard on themselves. No one saw it coming. The real test of your grit comes from what you choose to do next. And it’s this very decision that could save or ruin your business.

No two situations are the same, but if your business is one that has been closed for an extended period, you might be thinking about throwing in the towel at this point. Manish Vakil, founder and CEO of Tumbles, an indoor play gym for kids, knows this feeling all too well. Vakil explains, “We eventually will be out of this pandemic, and rather than focus on the damage it’s done, we should look forward—not just for our personal good but also for the good of the world.”

This outlook speaks to reviving his business yet has a greater cause. Having the ability to see your business as an avenue for change even in the darkest times is the spirit of a true entrepreneur. There’s no escaping it; companies will have their ups and downs. And in the down times, you just need to keep looking forward and creating that next step.

For final consideration

No one is given a free pass in this world. Your contributions and successes will be measured by the amount of passion, ingenuity, and persistence you put forth. This is the way of life, and also the way of business.

The past year has not been easy on any of us, and it has created permanent changes in our lifestyles and the way we do business. This unforeseen challenge has left its mark, and in some cases, we must now pivot to find a new course. But even so, our economy needs all types of businesses to bring it up off its knees and back to business as usual.

Whether you own an established business that might be struggling or have the itch to start something new, be passionate, capitalize on market opportunities, be a compassionate leader, and always use your mistakes as fuel to keep going. There are no guarantees in business, but this advice aims to be the common sense affirmation you might need in these uncommon times.