Once In A Life Time Opportunity For Small Business – Seize It!

Not since the end of World War II have small businesses had the opportunities afforded them with the easing of the pandemic.

Small business leaders should take lessons from the company managers of that period and move boldly into this holiday season and beyond.

One excellent example from that post-war period is the Lionel Manufacturing Company, along with Ohio’s American Flyer Manufacturing Company, these companies competed against German and Czech companies in the model train sector before the Second World War. With conflict’s disruption of normal trade patterns and shifting to wartime production of miniature warheads, both companies ceased making large batches of model trains. Moreover, women replaced men in their workshops as males were drafted for combat engineering duties.

In August, on the day Japan surrendered and Lionel’s defense contracts automatically cancelled, the company owner order his staff to clear wartime equipment and ramp up the train dies. Within two weeks, the company was producing model trains for delivery to stores in time for the Christmas 1945 season.  By contrast, American Flyer chose a more leisurely conversion aiming for 1946.

The Lionel owner contacted Sears Roebuck whose Christmas catalogue was already finalized without trains and offered to have enough trains for delivery in time for the holiday season. What he demanded in return was five years exclusivity. Between Sears and holiday sales in Chicago’s Marshall Fields and New York’s Macy’s, Lionel became the industry leader for the next 30 years.

One added bonus for the company, there was enough work needed that men returning to their company jobs did not replace the women who had kept it going but rather supplemented them.  Many stayed on until the company was sold and manufacturing shifted to Asia.

The Pandemic and this year’s sales explosion coupled with distribution disruptions being experienced means nimble small businesses can also prosper widely in this holiday season and earn additional sales in the months beyond.

Like Lionel’s owner, it is important that small business leaders start now building inventory, establishing new sources of material, adding lines of credit, and training staff to meet the groundswell of buying expected this fall and winter.

Suggested key components to capture opportunities:

  1. Establish and enforce rules about job location, mask wearing, and lines of authority.
  2. Find additional lines of credit to assure ability to procure supplies.
  3. Train staff in best procedures in a post-pandemic world.
  4. Seek new sales by identifying potential clients who are also seeking or need new suppliers.
  5. Improve operational support by streamlining support functions.
  6. Leverage multi-channel marketing.
  7. Focus the company on growth and bolstering morale; consider adding inventive for achieving goals.
  8. Above all, be flexible and recognize it is a new world out there..

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