The Way Ahead

The novel coronavirus may force many small businesses under, but strong operators will survive to see a return of the consumer.  The principles of sound business (great customer service, quality products, understanding financials, little debt, marketing strategies) haven’t gone away.  In fact, they’re more important than ever and this pandemic enforces why they’re always imperative.  If you operate an enterprise, take this time to improve your business skills.  The lessons you learn today will make you better.

Here’s an action plan to get started.

  1. Get your financials in order. Make sure your P&L is up to date and your balance sheet is accurate.  Get a list of all your fixed costs to present to your SBA lender.  Call your accountant or a Communities Unlimited management consultant if you need help.
  2. Call your banker. With the passage of the CARES Act, the federal government is providing $350 billion to help small businesses.  Much is in the form of loans, but almost all payments are deferred and some will even be forgiven.
  3. Call your landlord. Don’t try to hide; they’re expecting your phone calls.  Go to them with a plan, whether that’s a deferment with the missed payments amortized over the next year or concessions in exchange for an extended lease.  Tenants actually hold an upper hand in this crazy time because you’re not likely to be easily replaced.
  4. Pivot. Try offering delivery or taking your service online like this hair dresser in NJ who built a digital salon.  Baldor, a specialty foods company for restaurants, pivoted to home delivery.  Many restaurants simply closed.  One in my hometown added online ordering with curbside pickup to its website.  They just started offering delivery.  When things return to normal, they’ll probably have more customers than before.
  5. Build a website. You probably have a Facebook page which is really great, but that’s only half of the job.  A website is your business’s digital store front.  A good one will help more customers find you.  Communities Unlimited has free training to help you build a business website.  The best part?  Complete a few surveys and the site is free for two years!
  6. Cut expenses and conserve cash. Chances are, you’re already doing this.  If not, start now.  Consider selling assets to raise cash.  If you really need them for the business, see if you can lease them.  Here are a few tips.
  7. Decommission your operations. If your enterprise was struggling with cash flow prior to the situation we find ourselves in now, think long and hard before taking on additional debt.  Even though you may be able to get payments deferred for some time, we don’t know how long it will take to defeat the virus or when the consumer will return.  Adding on debt in that situation will only make matters worse.  Systematically shutdown operations, but build a plan to return to action as soon as able.  Here are some best practices for shutdown in a few industries, including restaurants.  However you do it, stay in touch with customers, suppliers, and employees on a regular basis.
  8. Use the downtime to learn digital marketing and Facebook analytics. If you think advertising on Facebook and Instagram means boosting a post, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Boosting a post is the equivalent of driving a Ferrari down to the mail box.  There’s much more to take advantage of in the ads platform.  The same is true for Google.  Fortunately, Communities Unlimited offers training on this also.

By: Brian Wells, Management Consultant – Entrepreneurship