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Many Small Businesses Have Had to Innovate to Survive During the Pandemic

Many small businesses across Hawaii and the United States have had to innovate during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to survive shutdowns and gradual re-openings. This has meant creating new opportunities and operating models that would drive revenue. Some businesses are thriving despite the challenges but, sadly, Hawaii has seen many cherished long-time businesses shut down permanently. Data from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that between February and April 2020, the U.S. saw a decline of active business owners by 3.3 million or 22 percent. This is the largest decline on record, and it affected almost all industries, though the following groups of business owners were disproportionately affected:

  • Minority-owned businesses

  • Immigrant business

  • Women-owned businesses

PPP loans were intended to be a vital lifeline for small businesses but with many businesses still waiting on loan forgiveness, there is some hesitancy to take out another loan to tide themselves over until tourism gets back to what it was pre-pandemic. There is also fear that a third shutdown is coming; a situation that would break many businesses.


Still, there is reason for hope. As reported by KHON, The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce recently surveyed 300 businesses who believe the road to recovery will continue through April, 2022 and nine out of 10 business owners said they expect to be around the next six months to one year and hopefully longer. In addition, 75% of business owners say that they will be better prepared to deal with the challenges should another crisis like Covid-19 present itself.*


*Source: Society for Human Resource Management COVID-19 Research: Small-Business Challenges, June 2020.


Small businesses Have Had to Innovate to Survive During the Pandemic


Small businesses have adapted in many ways to survive during the pandemic, including investing in new equipment and technologies such as:

  • Live streamed sales or events through website, email, or social media

  • Live chat through website

  • Virtual activities

  • Tele-sales

  • Video sales

Adjustments were made to safely get products into the hands of customers, including:

  • Take-out

  • Contactless delivery

  • Curb-side pickup

Businesses changed their operating practicing in several ways, including:

  • Installing and implementing new safety measures such as cleaning cash registers more often and installing plastic barriers between employees and customers.

  • Converting production lines to products that were suddenly in high demand.

In many cases, the relationship between business owners and their employees changed in a few ways, including:

  • More flexible work schedules and/or the ability to work from home.

  • More generous sick time to recover from Covid or care for a sick loved one.

In exchange, many business owners asked employees to learn new skills or lend a hand in a different department to support the new – if temporary – business model.


Some business owners are so happy with the results of the changes they have made that they expect to stick to them even after the pandemic is over.


Factors that have affected the need for businesses to adapt

  • Business size affected the way that businesses adapted when it came to embracing technology changes, adopting new revenue streams and new business processes; with larger companies more likely to adopt these changes.

  • For practical reasons, the industry affected whether business owners were more or less likely to allow their workforce to work remotely. Knowledge-based industries were much more likely to allow their workers to work remotely compared to workers in the service industry, for example.

How partnering with a PEO can support your business during COVID-19


A PEO provides small businesses with many advantages that they might not otherwise be able to afford. These advantages have become even more important during this international health crisis.


When small business owners form a partnership with Makai HR they:

  • Gain peace of mind that they are complying with all of Hawaii’s labor laws, which is especially important when decisions are being made about how to handle a health crisis.

  • Can provide comprehensive health care plans that allow your employees to go to the doctor for treatment and testing.

  • Get help with workers’ compensation claims.

We are also here to support your business if you are working remotely:

  • Our cloud-based platform means that your employees can manage their HR needs through a computer, tablet or phone, making it easier for them to work from home.

  • Our cloud-based HRIS platform means that your HR team can manage HR remotely if they are sick or everyone is working remotely.

Pro tip: this is a good time to encourage all employees to update to Direct Deposit to reduce in person bank transactions and continue timely payroll payments. Do not delay. Contact us today to get started!



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