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A Time Of Reinvention

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

As the coronavirus continues to play havoc with the economy many companies and individuals are looking at what they’ve got – either product, service, or physical space. This has them thinking about what else their product could be used for or how to solve a problem that didn’t exist until the virus and all the disruptions it has caused almost overnight. It’s not all small companies or individuals. Here are just a few examples:

  • The humble cookie sheet - my absolute favorite. One of the country’s largest companies, General Motors, early on converted a plant to make face masks. The small containers used to put masks through the manufacturing process weren’t sliding well. A supplier came in and said let’s try cookie sheets to slide down the conveyor. Problem solved. A cookie sheet!

  • The shipping container - Understatement of the day: “There seem to be a lot of them around.” Now there are even more “lot of them around” because of the slowdown in the economy, particularly in international trade. Two entrepreneurs created a vertical farm in a 320-foot shipping container to supply vegetables to a small area. Shipping containers are finding a larger and larger number of uses, particularly with hospitals. At one hospital in Georgia they used 40 shipping containers hooked together and converted them to COVID-19 rooms attached to the hospital. Speed was of the essence, and converting shipping containers to full hospital quarantine rooms made it possible.

  • Cocktail hour - Can’t go to your favorite bar or restaurant? Do you like your cocktails a little more complex than (whatever) and water or soda? No problem. Lots of bars will now deliver pre-made cocktails to your doorstep. Of course, not all cocktails will work. Unless you have your own blender and can crush your ice, you can probably forget your pina colada.

School. The word school today is almost a synonym for chaos. Is my kids’ school going to open or not? What if it opens then closes again? How am I going to care for my children if I go back to work? Even if school does open, will there be enough teachers there? One answer – that sprang up almost overnight, is learning pods – small at-home learning groups taught by parents, tutors, or teachers that were not willing to go back to their schools because they felt it was unsafe. Pods can provide in-person instruction and provide opportunities for social interaction among the children. They are not perfect solutions, but they do solve an immediate problem caused by all the school closings.

So look around at your business. Any cookie sheets lying around?


This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug was a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at


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