DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The future of America's economy could hinge on its backbone -- small businesses.
As those businesses struggle to reopen, how they do it could, quite literally, make them or break them.
According to one small business expert, in the pandemic environment, caution is the key.
"When something outside of your control comes in and materially impacts the way your business operates, you have to be prepared to address it head on, change as necessary, and then plan accordingly," Thom Ruhe told ABC11.
Ruhe is the CEO of NC IDEA in Durham.
It's a private foundation that's similar to an economic development organization.
It helps businesses get off the ground and thrive.
The pandemic is a teachable moment, Ruhe noted. "There are a lot of permanent lessons to be realized from this experience, that we have to be able to pivot, as business owners."
Ruhe cautioned owners of small companies that are reopening to not let their guard down and be prepared for the worst.
"If you're not anticipating, if you're not preparing for yet another shock, I think you're going to put yourself needlessly at risk, and you may suffer for it," he said.
Ruhe also warned about hasty budget cuts.
For many companies affected by the pandemic, money is extremely tight and cutting things such as marketing may seem like a good choice.
But, Ruhe said, be careful with discretionary funds such as for advertising.
If you do have to cut, find alternatives.
"Look for those avenues, most likely online, where you can have some access to people that can find you and engage with you," he said, "And then invest in the time and the resources to establish a relationship with your customer base."
Ruhe said, we all, as consumers, patronize small businesses, so we play a role in this, too.
"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and it's in everybody's common interest that we support, you know, their goals and aspirations and keep them solvent during these tough times," Ruhe said.
He pointed out that going out of your way to spend money with them now may ensure they survive to provide you service after the pandemic.