By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The coronavirus pandemic has been a tough go for small businesses. While some have failed, a surprising number have made it through.

How did they manage? While the product is important, the ones that are “making it” seem to have a personality involved, a person that customers identify with and are able to maintain a loyal base of patrons.

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“People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you are,” said Bruce Terkel

Turkel is a corporate branding expert and business motivational speaker who knows what works for some small mom and pop businesses.

“Know, like, and trust. I know you, I like you, and therefore over time I trust you,” he said.

He said while it helps if the restaurant sells a good burger or the charter boat provides an excellent fishing experience, there is so much more to it.

Turkel said take for example charter fishing.

“Do I desperately need to go charter fishing tomorrow and do I need to go with that guy? No, but I know I can trust him,” he said.

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That trust sells.

According to Turkel, the same goes for whether the person is a sports bar operator, a fruit stand owner, or a dry cleaner. When you do want a service or product, where do you go?

“I know, like, and trust those people. I want to do business with them,” Turkel said.

That is especially true during the pandemic.

Turkel said during tough times, the businesses chosen get the nod because of loyalty, support, and the feeling of “I want to help, I want to be involved. I want to do business with them.”

For the small business owner that is navigating the pandemic economic nightmare, customer loyalty is one of the keys to staying afloat.

“The answer is going to be understanding what is the uniqueness that is brought to the table. Why that fulfills something in your customer, to know, like, and trust you,” said Turkel.

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But small business owners are cautioned to be realistic in their expectations. According to, by the end of August 2020, the Miami region had about four thousand business closures. Trust and loyalty can only go so far.