Small Business, Big Mission
John Dyke, The Turnip Truck: “We’ve had to pivot every single day”
This project is the third installment of Small Business, Big Mission, a series involving all 44 of The Business Journals’ newsrooms documenting the unprecedented disruption and the personal testimonials of small-business owners affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This leg of the series revisits the entrepreneurs, artists and storefront operators featured in May and October as the coronavirus upended local economies and pushed many small businesses to — and in some cases past — the brink of financial ruin. In the weeks prior to publication, we asked them to reflect on the year that was and the time-pressed decisions they made for the sake of survival during the early stages of the pandemic. We also asked them to look forward and offer an unfiltered view of how this chapter in our history is likely to shape their outlook, actions and optimism in the years ahead.
This pandemic has made me even more passionate about the business. Every day, I’m rewriting goals and thinking of strategies. I’ve enrolled in the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville. I’m taking a class there. That’s allowed me to step outside of the business to look at it and have a better understanding of how to grow the business. It’s been really rewarding and has made me want to build an even better business. That’s been one of the bright spots from the pandemic that I started in August.
When I think back to the beginning of this, every day was a challenge to see what we needed to do to protect the employees, have enough product in the stores and protect the customers coming in. You always try to plan for certain things that could happen in the future, but it’s impossible to plan for something when you don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next.
We’ve had situations where we’ve had employees have to be out due to Covid, and we’ve had to pivot. “Who’s going to work where? How are we going to get all of this done?” Sometimes that meant me, our COO and other managers getting on the floor and working as well. We’ve had to pivot every single day. Now, we’ve gotten to a place where I’ve been able to back off and allow our employees to make a lot of decisions for themselves. We’ve incorporated a morning update and a nightly update that goes out to all the managers. I’m able to read that so I know exactly what’s going on. It’s also allowed me to back up and instead of working in the stores, I get to work on the company. I’ve learned that my staff makes really wise decisions and knows how to pivot, no matter what’s been thrown at them.
— By John Dyke, as told to Marq Burnett