Skip to main content

Small Business Perspective: Business Continuity During Crisis

Published May 26, 2020 by Julia McGowen

Three Brothers Bakery

The novel coronavirus is unlike any disaster, natural or economic, that we have seen in modern times. Small, local businesses have been particularly impacted by the pandemic but are not unfamiliar with dealing with crisis as many are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, Imelda, and the Memorial Day floods. 

One Houston business has withstood many natural disasters, becoming truly illustrative of a resilient business. Three Brothers Bakery opened their first Houston store in May of 1949, but the family has been in the baking business since 1825. Today, the bakery operates three locations across the city. 

Janice Jucker, the long-time small business owner, and President of Three Brothers Bakery, participated in a Q&A to share insights into what small businesses can/should do before, during and after crisis hits to support business continuity. 

Three Brothers Bakery is a Houston institution and has been in the community almost a century. What do you believe is an important factor in the business’ resiliency?
We stand on the legacy of survivorship, as the three brothers, with their older sister, survived the Holocaust, as well as my husband, Bobby’s, mother. I think a drive to survive guides us. From four floods, fire, hurricane and now pandemic we have learned the formula for small business resiliency.

How is Three Brothers Bakery staying nimble and coming up with new, creative ideas to sell products amidst the changing circumstances? 
We have come up with several new ideas and outlets to sell our products. So far, a couple have been: 

  • Buy 1 Pie/Employ a Village: Every purchase of a pie employs many people both at the bakery and at their supporting vendors. Three Brothers Bakery has challenged the community to support all these businesses with the simple act of buying a pie. Your purchase would allow Three Brothers Bakery the ability to hire as opposed to just trying to survive. See how many are involved in the making of their award-winning southern pecan pie here.
  • Mitzvah Funds: A principle we hold dear is that of doing a mitzvah–a good deed. This program allows individuals to make donations to a selection of charities providing food for those in need or showing appreciation to everyone helping make sure we are safe and keeps our Three Brothers Bakery team members working, improves the local economy. After we started receiving donations to the program, we realized that this disaster was different. Since people are not physically impacted with their homes destroyed, those that still have income coming in wanted to help and felt this was a way to help us and to help those in need. We were scrambling to find places to donate the baked goods based on the categories they requested at first, so we decided to formalize a program and called it the Mitzvah Funds. The funds also allow us to give back by treating the baked good recipients as wholesale accounts, which means they get a 15% discount off retail. On top of these baked goods, we still feed the homeless and hungry with our day-old goods, which we’ve done since the beginning of the bakery, 71 years ago. More information can be found here.

The response to these programs has been wonderful – but it has been so much more – the pies, the mitzvah funds, people sending little surprise treats to clients. Since March 26, we have seen a 167.5% year over year change in pie sales. 

How are you adapting to the phased reopening of local businesses? 
We have been open the whole time. Sanitation was already something we did in the normal course of business, so we have increased frequency. We are doing temperature checks upon arrival to work and screening questions, all wearing masks now, and we were already wearing gloves prior to COVID but are now just wearing them through the complete transaction process to checkout. We are also taking more preorders and offer customers to call upon arrival and have their orders brought to them in their car. In many ways, our model is similar to that of a grocery store – people come in, see what they want, and we are able to box and bag it for them. Additionally, we have set up spacing lines and only service enough customers to keep everyone distant from one another. 

What advice would you share with small businesses to help navigate times of uncertainty and prepare for future disaster?  

  1. Your people are MOST important
    • Communication with both your team and customers is vital. Be sure your team’s needs are met. You need your teams to remain opening and operating 
    • Be prepared to take care of your team by keeping cash in the bank to cover, ideally three months of payroll if possible. If three months causes strain, try for at least one month of payroll. I cannot stress enough how paying your team is the most important thing we do as small business owners.
  2. Understand Your Money
    • Learn the language of business, which is finance. Keeping finances up to date, reviewing them regularly and keeping your credit score strong is critical to business continuity. In addition to your current financials, also consider your short and long-term financial standing. Thorough understanding of your financials is key to recovering from any disaster. 
    • Having a good accountant, one that is more than someone who just does your taxes is also recommended. 
    • Insurance monies are also important – read your insurance policy, read your insurance policy, read your insurance policy, and make sure you have the best coverage you can afford with the lowest deductibles, so make sure you have a good agent who can put together the best package of underwriters based on the category of need.
  3. Assess your Assets
    • Take stock of the physical assets needed to run your business and fix or replace what is needed and have a plan on how to do so before the disaster, if possible. 
    • Consider your procurement process, i.e., if it flooded do you still want to buy new equipment in the city that flooded – you may need to travel to be sure you get stable equipment and vehicles. 
    • Your voice is an asset and is heard by joining trade associations, of which the Greater Houston Partnership is one of ours, who advocate for you on local, state, and federal levels. Also KNOW your lawmakers at all levels of government and be in contact with them before you need them by being a resource as an individual business owner. 
    • One thing my husband and I are advocating for in the next Texas legislative session is to pass the availability of Emergency Bridge Loans for small businesses after natural disasters activated by the Governor modeled after Florida’s program. With those funds in place, small businesses have a critical tool to supply quick cash to pay their teams and maintain operations. I think this pandemic has shown the need for this legislation.
  4. Cleaning up and Returning to Operations
    • Clear communication about reopening plans should be shared with both your team and customers. Keep everyone informed about your operations as they change or expand. 
    • Innovation is also vital to the four-part recovery plan. You must be able to adapt as disasters hit and situations change.
    • Marketing – how can you stay front of mind with your customers – don’t ignore this very important tool in your toolbox.

Every disaster is different, and I learn something from each one, which makes us get better at surviving the next one. You’ve learned something from this pandemic – figure out what it is and know how to make it better next time. I always say out of everything bad comes something good, but sometimes you just need to search for it.

Visit the Partnership's Work Safe page for industry-specific resources and information about reopening safely. For additional small business news, tips and resources, click here

Related News

Membership

New Partnership Members in November

12/5/22
The Greater Houston Partnership welcomed 12 new member companies in the month of November. The Partnership works to connect companies with resources, information and networking opportunities to help increase business while also providing a platform to influence the direction of the region. New members joining in the month of November include: Alitek Solutions: Their solutions improve business processes, increase efficiency and reduce risk through better management of information. Website. Capstan Tax: Capstan Tax Strategies delivers engineering-driven specialty tax solutions that maximize the valuable tax benefits of real estate holdings. By complementing and collaborating with accounting firms, they arm commercial real estate owners, executives, and tenants with the data and analysis required to accelerate depreciation, maximize deductions, and capture tax credits. Website. GHD: GHD is a global network of multi-disciplinary professionals providing clients with integrated solutions through engineering, environmental, design and construction expertise. Their future-focused, innovative approaches connect and support communities around the world, building resiliency and sustainability for generations to come. Website. Kanin Energy: Kanin Energy is an innovative development company that focuses on third-party financed industrial emissions projects. Website. Maxim At Home: Maxim at Home works to redefine independence and empower communities through awareness and compassionate support. Their movement strives to break the stigma of receiving help at home and fight social isolation. Website. Nalco Water: Nalco Water uses expertise and innovation to help their customers' businesses manage their water – and measure success one drop at a time. Website. NEWMARK: NEWMARK is a world leader in commercial real estate, seamlessly powering every phase of the property life cycle. Website. Perficient: Perficient helps their customers imagine, create, engineer and run digital solutions that transform how they connect with their customers and grow their business. Website. Rocky Lai & Associates: Rocky Lai & Associates is a boutique real estate investment firm that specializes in the acquisition, development, management, and financing of real estate projects. Website. San Fermin Paellas & Churrascos Catering Services: San Fermin Paellas & Churrascos Catering Services works to make their customers' events successful by bringing the best quality food and service. Website. Sesh Coworking: Sesh Coworking provides women and genderqueer people with a workspace that nurtures personal and professional growth, supports their natural lifestyle and working habits, and fosters community through collaboration, learning, and advocacy. Website. Whitley Penn: Whitley Penn takes a holistic approach to hiring, with a focus on talent and integrity. Beyond traditional tax, audit, consulting and litigation work, their team specializes in many different service areas including business valuation, wealth management, strategic consulting, financial and retirement planning, transaction advisory, and risk advisory. Website. Click here to see the Partnership's Membership Directory. To learn more about membership with the Greater Houston Partnership click here, or contact membership@houston.org.
Read More
Membership

New Partnership Members in October

11/3/22
The Greater Houston Partnership welcomed 24 new member companies in the month of October. The Partnership works to connect companies with resources, information and networking opportunities to help increase business while also providing a platform to influence the direction of the region. New members joining in the month of October include: A Perfect Fit: A Perfect Fit works to help its customers find the best Assisted Living and Memory Care communities. Website. Advario: Advario is in the storage industry, with a focused growth strategy on chemicals, gas and new energy. Website. American Cancer Center: American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem through research, education, advocacy and services. Website. Barrett-Jackson Auction Company: Barrett-Jackson Auction is an American collector car auction company. Website. Comfort Systems USA South Central: Comfort Systems USA is Houston's trusted HVAC partner for building services and mechanical construction solutions for some of the community's most important customers and buildings. Website. Commercial Resource Installation (CRI): Commercial Resource Installation, a prominent installation company headquartered in Houston, TX, offers comprehensive and exceptional solutions to transform commercial workspaces to create a constructive workspace. Website. Continuum Solutions: Talent acquisition firm, Continuum Solutions, focuses on finding the right fit for their client's IT, development or leadership team. Website.  Digital Transformation Leaders: Digital Transformation Leaders helps leaders and their businesses leverage the digital opportunity through strategic business and technology innovations; to create a sustainable future, innovate, optimize ROI, transform their businesses, scale and succeed. Website. Education Alliances: Education Alliances works to prepare students for higher education by connecting them to career pathways and focusing on occupational skill development. Website. Equinor US: Equinor is an international energy company committed to long-term value creation in a low-carbon future. Its purpose is to turn natural resources into energy for people and progress for society. Website. EVA Airways Corp: EVA Airways Corp provides cargo, freight and airline transportation. Website. First Bight Ventures: First Bight is the first venture capital firm solely dedicated to investing and developing early-stage synthetic biology companies to overcome their Industrialization challenges to reach their first milestones for commercialization. Website. Global Supplier, LLC: Global Supplier, LLC is a newly formed woman-owned supply chain. Global Supplier, a logistic client-centric supply chain that fills customer demands through the most efficient use of resources including distribution capacity, inventory, and labor. Website. Gray Reed: Gray Reed offers a wide range of legal services including business litigation, corporate transactions, oil & gas, tax planning and litigation, real estate, healthcare, trusts and estates, employment law, family law, intellectual property, and bankruptcy. Website. Intuitive Machines: Intuitive Machines is currently completing its lunar program which will provide lunar surface access, lunar orbit delivery, and communications at lunar distance. Website. Kids' Meals, Inc.: Kids' Meals has been making and delivering free, healthy meals directly to the homes of hungry children. Website. LSA Global: LSA Global is a consulting and training firm that helps high growth companies get there by powerfully aligning culture and talent to strategy. Website.  Nalco Water: Nalco Water is a supplier of water, energy and air improvement solutions and services. Website. Port of Texas City, Texas: For more than a century, the Port of Texas City/ Texas City Terminal Railway Company, has served as the gateway to economic progress for the Galveston County, the State of Texas and the Nation. Website. Raise Your Hand Texas: Raise Your Hand Texas supports public policy solutions that invest in students, encourage innovation and autonomy, and improve college and workforce readiness. Website. SeedAI: SeedAI is a nonprofit that works to build collaboration between leaders across the private sector, government, academia, and civil society to support community-driven AI investments, focusing on people who have been historically marginalized and overlooked. Website.  The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Inc.: The Bridge is a comprehensive crisis center empowering individuals impacted by sexual and domestic violence, human trafficking, and child abuse. Through a continuum of care from prevention, intervention, and advocacy support, it upholds the safety, justice, and autonomy of all victims and survivors of violence. Website. Veryable Inc: Veryable Inc connects businesses to workers through its online marketplace, enabling a real-time approach to production. Veryable also gives workers more options, and gives flexibility and control to leaders on the shop floor. Vgn Bae Studios: Vgn Bae Studios is a digital media (recording, photography, videography) studio. Website.  Click here to see the Partnership's Membership Directory. To learn more about membership with the Greater Houston Partnership click here, or contact membership@houston.org.
Read More

Related Events