Keep your small business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic with this advice from community experts.
While many unknowns remain about the coronavirus and the full impact it will have on small businesses, one thing is clear: There is no shortage of people rallying around local businesses.
With that in mind, many business leaders and experts are sharing their insights on the web and social media to help those who need guidance right now. We are scouring the web to find the best information to help you navigate these uncertain times.
Financial resources for small business owners
Whether you are seeing fewer customers, having problems with payroll or experiencing any other financial issues, there are resources to help. As the government works on a stimulus package to aid small businesses and employees, we've rounded up some other financial resources that small businesses may be able to utilize.
The Small Business Association is now offering disaster assistance loans up to $2 million to small businesses severely impacted by the coronavirus.
Depending on where you live, your small business may be able to seek a small business recovery loan from your state or city. For example, New York City is offering zero-interest loans to help its small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Qualifying small businesses can access emergency loans of up to $75,000.
Since federal or state assistance may not be a viable option for some small business owners, we reached out to members of the community to see what other financial resources are available.
Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, listed the following financial resources for entrepreneurs:
SBDCs and SCORE: Your local Small Business Development Center or SCORE office can both provide free assistance, including disaster prevention and recovery services.
National Foundation for Credit Counseling: Nonprofit credit counseling agencies, such as members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, can help you evaluate your situation and provide options for paying back your debt. You may be eligible for reduced payments on some of your credit cards (personal credit cards only). You can visit the NFCC website or call 1-800-388-2227 for a free consultation.
- Small business grants: Anyone impacted by the disaster may want to consider applying for a small business grant. For example, Facebook has announced that it is offering $100 million in cash grants. Nav, a free service that matches business owners to their best financing options, offers a quarterly $10,000 small business grant. There are many other grant programs like these that may be worth considering.
Advice for small business owners
Although financial assistance is the primary relief that many small businesses are seeking, other community members also offer relief in the form of business advice and resource access. We are searching websites, blogs, and social media to find the most helpful conversations and advice columns. Here are some of the best we've found so far.
- Mark Cuban: Entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban is using social media to answer questions from small business owners impacted by the coronavirus. He has addressed several questions, primarily focusing on helping small businesses avoid layoffs and hourly reductions. His thread is spurring many subsequent conversations among other small business owners, consultants and experts. You can join the conversation to ask your own questions or answer someone else's.
- Chicken & Rice Guys: The Chicken & Rice Guys, who operate three food trucks in Massachusetts and Texas, experienced a crisis in 2017 that caused them to shut down for eight days. During that time, they learned a lot about cash flow, like acquiring sudden cash, managing vendor payments and cutting costs. They shared their experiences, including tips and tricks they learned, in a blog post designed to help other small businesses navigate our current situation.
- Ramon Ray: Ramon Ray, business.com community member and founder of Smart Hustle Media, spoke with business professors Todd and Kim Saxton to gain expert advice on how to prepare for the unknown. The Saxtons address a number of principles that small businesses can utilize to mitigate the effects of a downturn in business. You can listen to the entire interview on SoundCloud.
- Jarrod Goldsmith: In a YouTube video, eSAX founder Jarrod Goldsmith shares his advice on how to be proactive during times like this. He discusses several great business opportunities that you can take advantage of, even while quarantined at home. For example, you can network (such as on social media, Skype and Zoom), reach out to your customers with personal memos, work on behind-the-scenes business planning, create functional checklists, build your social media accounts, create and organize online content, show appreciation to your business stakeholders, and set goals.
Employer preparedness checklists
Small businesses have a lot to remember and tackle right now. It can be helpful to have a checklist to ensure you are addressing each potential pain point. We found a few small business checklists that are great places to start.
SMB checklist for business processes: International law firm Perkins Coie created a COVID-19 checklist that covers a wide variety of business topics, like response plans, employee communication, travel policies, leave options, remote work, legal obligations, unemployment benefits, health conduct and discrimination.
SMB checklist for employees, customers and suppliers: Small business expert Barry Moltz created a coronavirus checklist for employers to address their employees, customers and suppliers.
- SMB checklist for healthcare guidance: It is important to run through a health checklist to ensure you are keeping your employees and consumers as healthy as possible during this pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a health checklist for you to follow.
Alternative business ideas to keep your company afloat
In a self-quarantined economy, we discovered a number of small businesses taking a creative approach to changing how they do business. We came across several out-of-the-box ideas that your business might be able to learn something from.
- Online ordering and delivery: One alternative business idea is to enable online ordering and set up a delivery option. If you work in the restaurant or retail industry, chances are you were already fulfilling online shipments. However, several companies are switching to this option to allow customers to keep purchasing their products while remaining safely quarantined on their couches. If you can't deliver goods or services on your own, partner up with a delivery service like Roadie or Dropoff.
- Virtual services: Technology is one of the surviving factors that has allowed so many businesses to continue operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Take advantage of the internet by offering virtual consultations and services. If you work in an industry where you consult with clients or patients directly, consider moving consultations online instead of canceling appointments. Send out a memo to your staff and consumers to let them know that you are willing to work with them in a virtual setting. This will allow your employees to work from home, while also continuing to (safely) interact with your consumers. For example, nonprofit WE CAN recently switched to an online platform, which has enabled it to reduce travel while increasing efficiency.
- Change the model: During times of crisis, it may be necessary to slightly switch your business model altogether to keep your business afloat. For example, celebrity chef José Andrés is closing his restaurants in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area – transforming some of them into community kitchens to offer to-go lunches for those in need. Consider ways that you may be able to adjust your business model to provide your core good or service in a more advantageous way.