Here’s how to rebound from the panic and strain of COVID-19.
By Jenny Hoff
Surviving as a small-business owner is never easy and most entrepreneurs expect some hard seasons: disruptive weather, fluctuations in the stock market and economic slowdowns, to name a few. But it’s impossible to forecast a crisis like COVID-19, a historic global pandemic prompting unprecedented quarantines and closures and disrupting businesses without a clear end in sight.
While the future impact of this pandemic is still uncertain, there are some things you can do to safeguard your business, restore your mental health and find assistance for immediate cash needs.
“You don’t want to be reactionary; you want to be proactive,” says business coach and jewelry-industry mentor Robin Kramer. “Communication is key and so is showing compassion. Reach out to your customers and meet with your staff to acknowledge what’s happening, what you’re doing in response and ask how you can help them.”
Maximize Online Presence
If you have a business that you can take online, you’re one of the lucky ones. Use this opportunity to expand your online presence with educational videos about your product, virtual tours of your store and candid chats about how you’re helping the community cope with the situation. You may find opportunities to expand your business in ways you hadn’t had time to do before.
Rachel Campbell, small-business owner of Fit4Mom Sunset Valley, has turned her in-person boot-camp workouts for moms into a live online workout class via her new Facebook group, Break a Sweat with RLC. With her digital pivot, she’s creating videos and nutrition guides for her current members, while also globally expanding her business to reach moms beyond her normal vicinity of South Austin. If your business is flexible with its reach, consider how you can use your online network to stay afloat.
Research Resources Available to Small-Business Owners
The Small Business Administration is offering relief loans to qualifying businesses affected by COVID-19, and in the coming weeks, we may see more government initiatives to financially boost small-business owners’ cash flows.
“There are also several emergency relief measures for small business being floated right now, including free deferral of student loans, low-cost loans from the SBA and penalty-free late filing of taxes that small- business owners should explore to help reduce the pinch of a short-term cash crunch,” says Monica Mehta, financial expert and author of The Entrepreneurial Instinct.
Mehta recommends working with community banks to apply for loans, as they may have more of a financial incentive to keep lending as interest rates go down and expand credit limits where possible to keep up with necessary expenses. Call your credit-card company and see how they can help you avoid fees if you can’t make necessary payments at this time.
“Taking swift steps to secure your personal cash flow is essential,” Mehta says. “That means securing a capital cushion [like] emergency funds and cutting expenses to increase your room to run.”
While the future is unknown, Mehta and Kramer recommend squelching panic and approaching the situation with a clear head. The U.S. is in a much better position than it was entering the 2008 recession, thanks to historically low unemployment and a reduction in personal debt. By reevaluating your business, reaching out to your customers and securing your cash flow, you can hopefully make it to the other side stronger than before.
“I tell my clients that above all, they need to be the heroines of their lives, not the victims,” Kramer says. “We are all in this together.”