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We’ll Get Through This: How 3 WV Exporters Are Adapting to the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus has forced us to change the way we approach our day-to-day activities, reassess the definition of “essential” and be more creative in conducting business domestically and internationally. As we navigate these uncertain times, everyone here at the West Virginia Development Office wants you to know that we’re in this together. We’re here for you.

We recently reached out to several business owners and exporters across the state to see how they’re adapting to market changes caused by the Coronavirus. Here’s what they had to say:

Protecting employees by working remotely and increased cleaning

Many West Virginia companies have shifted to remote work to help reduce community spread of the Coronavirus. This is creating challenges for some businesses, but many are adapting.

Ala Simms at TROY Group in Wheeling says that 55 percent of the staff there is working remotely and that the rest work in staggered shifts. Workers who do come in stay six feet apart and stagger breaks and lunches. The company also has prioritized cleaning commonly touched surfaces and all employees are provided with hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray.     

Chad Remp at Legacy Truck Center in Wheeling says his organization has implemented similar measures, by frequently cleaning high-touch areas and limiting meetings at their facilities. Both companies have canceled travel for non-essential for employees.

What does it mean to be essential?

So, what does it mean to be essential? Does your business meet the criteria?

Mike McCown of Industrial Bolting in Charleston knows his hydraulic torque wrench is invaluable to his customers, but business has slowed. So, to protect the health and safety of his employees, McCown decided to temporarily close and keep a skeleton crew to clean and organize the warehouse.

But stopping non-essential business doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for innovation. McCown said his two mechanical engineers are making good use of the pause in production to focus on designing new products. 

Exporting in the age of the Coronavirus

The sales cycle for trade is largely unchanged because most contact with a potential foreign buyer is done virtually, so there are several businesses in West Virginia continuing to pursue global markets.

If that’s you, there are marketing strategies designed to help you improve online communication. The Small Business Administration has increased the cap for STEP grant reimbursement for website development and international marketing from $3,000 to $6,000, so now is the perfect opportunity to invest in your current online campaign or develop a new one.

McCown is doing just that. He’s developing an online ad campaign to target new distributors. At Legacy Truck Center, Remp is using extra time to restart conversations with previous clients.

And for those maintaining a steady flow of exports, make sure you research any restrictions regarding the Coronavirus in your buyer’s country and prepare for an increase in transit time.

Where do we go from here?

So, how do our state’s exporters recommend going forward?

“Stay calm,” says McCown. “You never make a good decision when you’re emotional. Deal with it and try to make the best of it.”

One way you can gain the favor of vendors, partners and customers is being transparent. “Keep your messaging unified and clear,” says Simms.

And despite guidelines to distance ourselves from one another, now is the time to reinforce relationships with clients and prospects. “Relationships are critical in international sales. Spend this time strengthening your relationships for when the economy improves,” says Remp.

If you are concerned about how your business will make it through the next few months, the West Virginia Department of Commerce has developed a directory of resources for businesses and communities dealing with the impact of the Coronavirus. If you have any questions, contact us today.

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