Essential advice to help your business survive COVID-19

The Perception Environmental-91_r
Brian Anderson founded the Northern Liberties marketing and advertising agency, The Perception.
ALL IMAGES: Robert Carter / @rcarterstudios

In any aspect of life, there are ups and downs, and that sentiment certainly rings true for the business world as well, especially if you’re on the smaller side. With social distancing and a lot of unknowns in play, many businesses are trying to navigate exactly what they should be doing to help stay open or survive until they can reopen. Advice during these difficult times is vital, and to help offer that needed lifeblood, Brian Anderson—who founded the advertising and marketing agency, The Perception in Northern Liberties—has offered some cardinal insight. 

Anderson founded The Perception in 2011, a few years after he set out to create his own clothing line. With plenty of experience in the advertising world as a creative director, the young entrepreneur had a lot of ammunition to create a successful business, but with the 2008 recession came a lot of unforeseen difficulties. 

“[When] I made that jump, it was right in the 2008 recession,” says Anderson. “The recession got worse and people I had as investors stopped answering the phone and I put a bunch of money into it myself—so I had to pause the business and get back into what I knew, which was advertising.” 

Making that leap was necessary for Anderson, but it also helped him create a company that he was truly proud of, and The Perception certainly knows how to do things a bit differently. 

“I only started the agency because I figured I could run it the way that I wanted to see an agency run. So I did that, and I started working with the people that I wanted to and enjoying the clients that I wanted to, so it made it great getting back into that world,” says Anderson. “We have our own internal team, but we [also] bring in other players to be apart of that to make sure that we’re doing the best work for our clients. We have a model where we work with specialists that we bring in on different projects—we call them co-creators on our side instead of calling them freelancers, and we bring them in a lot closer with the clients and they work with them on projects. We’re minority-owned and minority certified and our goal is always to build-out a multicultural team. We’re just focused on creating good relationships and working with great people.” 

With COVID-19 still hovering over the world, Anderson and his employees at The Perception are still implementing their people-focused model into their work and have vital insight on what businesses should be doing to help navigate this precarious situation. 

Anderson broke down his advice into four major points. 

Put people first: “At The Perception, it’s something we talk about when we bring clients on—if we can get a client to understand and put people first in everything that they do, the work will be more authentic. It’ll show a level of empathy for the consumer and [show that they’re] trying to do things to make sure their customers are okay and protected.” 


Build a ‘Safety Statement:’ “In the midst of everything we’re seeing in today’s world now, we think it’s really important for people to figure out what their safety statement will be. It’s kind of unheard of, it’s not out there in the market now, but having a safety statement affirms the commitment to keep employees and ultimately customers safe. Brands need to make sure that they’re showing people how they’re taking care of people along the way. If you’re able to draft and figure out what your safety statement could be, I think it helps you to figure out what those re-openings are all about and in the situation where you’re not able to open, it is hyper-important to plan for opening the moment that you can. When we are allowed back out, you’re going to have people scared to go out, so how do you attract people to come to your location? It’s going to be all around the idea that it’s a safe environment for you to enjoy some time out and then get home safely. You can’t promise anything, but you want to make it as safe as possible so people are making the right choices to go out and experience the world again.” 

Plan for digital distancing: “We’ve heard about social distancing, but I think that small or mid-sized businesses can start planning for digital distancing and start putting that into their business plan. Whatever your business is, how can you offer that digitally, how can your customers connect with you digitally and how can you open up and make it easier for people to accept payment digitally? If you’re a small company in some cases, they don’t have that set up yet. We have to start thinking about what that new normal is going to look like and plan for it because we know that this is going to be around for a while.” 

Implement cross-promotions: “If you’re a flower shop or a jewelry shop, not everybody is particularly going into your location, but if you’re able to find a way to link up with a local restaurant or maybe Uber, when all of this subsides and we’re allowed out again, those partnerships [will] help you get through it on the other side of that. Finding those partners could be the difference between staying alive or not from a business stand-point.” 


What Anderson and The Perception hope to achieve is success for the City of Philadelphia. As someone who has gone through his own set of ups and downs with his business, relating those struggles has helped Anderson come up with an empathetic and effective way to sustain success. 

“It’s important to me to see if we can help. I will always consider myself a smaller business and a minority-owned business and an entrepreneur. When you take those risks to start [your business], you’re doing it for someone else and trying to create a better life for your family as a business owner, but then you’re also worried about your employees. I always think about that when I think of all of the other entrepreneurs out there and if there’s any way we could give them advice or help them through this, we’re more than willing to do it,” says Anderson. “We are absolutely living in a new normal and it’s going to be with us for a while to understand what the impacts are. We are absolutely committed to helping the Philadelphia community get back on its feet and we’re donating free time to talk to businesses to help them start thinking about what they can be doing. We’re trying to help as many people as we possibly can from an agency standpoint.” 

To learn more about The Perception, visit or check out Anderson’s other site offering advice and resources,