If you're reading this, it means that you're in the midst of what all business owners can only hope is a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. We're on the cusp of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and professional and personal lives have been turned upside down as the world adjusts to social distancing and quarantines becoming the new norm.
We've gathered information on steps you can take now that may help your business during this uncertain time.
We know that it's not always easy to know where to find resources, so we've broken down what's available to you, starting with the federal government.
On Tuesday, March 17, President Trump announced that the government will be providing a stimulus package for small business owners during this tumultuous time. Although the exact amount hasn’t been confirmed, and legislature related to this pandemic is a fluid situation, the package itself could amount to more than $1 trillion.
There are already programs in place for some states, currently including:
If you're not already involved with the Small Business Association (SBA), now is the time to get acquainted. The SBA not only has $7 billion in loans available but also provides a lender matching service to help you find a funding partner that works for you. Keep in mind that more legislation is expected to be passed with additional funding and relief in the future.
If you're looking for help besides financial assistance (think: mentorship or business counseling), you can utilize the SBA's local directory to check for small business resources in your community. As always, every business’ situation is different so it’s a good idea to consult with a financial expert to determine whether these programs are available to your business.
We all love interacting with our customers — their satisfaction is one of the main motivations for us to continue providing our services. But right now, at a time when we need to keep our distance, it isn't possible to communicate with them in person or at a storefront while maintaining public health guidelines.
Phone communication works, but we also suggest that you begin utilizing social media and email channels to communicate with your customers, if you haven't already.
If you can, move as many services as possible to a virtual format. Many companies are able to achieve this using Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting or other platforms. Because of the current situation, companies are offering their services free-of-charge or at discounted rates. Zoom even provides resources on how to switch to virtual events.
Certain social media channels, like Facebook are offering small businesses assistance by providing loans to help with the impact the pandemic is having on businesses. Facebook is giving $1 million in both cash and ad credits on their platforms to 30,000 small businesses. Utilizing Facebook to [interact with your customers] (https://www.simplybusiness.com/simply-u/articles/2019/01/using-facebook-advertising-for-your-business/) in ads or community groups is a great way to take advantage of the platform. You can learn if you're eligible for a grant and sign up for updates here.
Some business owners in the Simply Business community are looking at these limitations as a chance to get creative, saying, "This could be an opportunity to really streamline my remote capabilities and have them in place for the future."
If you're unable to do your work virtually and need to go to a customer's house(for example, if you're a plumber), we suggest following your local government’s guidelines and the CDC's recommendations to keep yourself as safe as possible.
After all, if you get sick, that won't be productive for business, either.
There's a stigma that goes along with filing for unemployment, and believe me, I understand that all too well.
In fact, several years ago, the first time I was laid off (which, in the tech start-up industry, would not be the last), I refused to apply for unemployment. That was a foolish decision on my part. In the end, I was so strapped for cash, I was exhausted trying to make ends meet, and I hardly had the energy to look ahead to what was next in my job search. Years later, when unfortunately, I was laid off from another start-up, I learned from my mistake and filed for unemployment in my state. Typical unemployment processes, like showing proof of applying to new roles, may not be required, so if you think you may be eligible, it’s worth looking into.
Eventually, when I found a role that was right for me, I was in a much better place to begin a new role with a new team. Rather than being burned out and run down, I was refreshed and ready to devote my energy to my new job.
This situation is different — if you're reading this and out of work, it's likely because of a disease that has impacted the entire world. If you can file for unemployment to help you get by financially until you're able to return to your place of employment and interact with customers face-to-face again, it may be best to accept the help that's available.
Although it may be stressful, now may be a good time to determine the state of your current bank accounts.
Some business owners are getting creative with their income streams. For example, one business owner is choosing to revisit older customer accounts and sell services with extra precautions included for the same low price.
You can consider doing an audit of what you spend on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Write it down — put it on a spreadsheet — whatever way is easiest for you to get both the details and the big picture.
Ask yourself what you're spending on that isn't necessary. It may be difficult to admit that what was once a "nice to have", just isn't necessary right now. If you have subscriptions to services that you won't be using for the next 8 weeks or so, cut them and unsubscribe. Think of this time period as if you're going camping, and you can only bring as much in your pack as you can carry on your back. If you don't need it, consider getting rid of it.
When this difficult time has passed (and you've returned from camping), you can add the extras back after reevaluating. You might even realize you didn’t need it in the first place.
For now, the guidance includes social distancing, and as part of that, many of us are living both our professional and personal lives within our homes. With that comes many challenges, including maintaining a social life and participating within your communities.
Even though you may not be able to interact with them in the usual manner, you can use social media channels and other virtual platforms (like the video platforms we named earlier) to connect with your customers, as well as other small business owners. After all, they know all too well what challenges you're up against, and many will be happy to share their coping tactics.
If you're a business owner who is also a parent, you could have double the challenge of not only keeping your business running but also of running your children's childcare and schooling activities. Luckily, places like The Washington Post and Scholasticare making resources available for families hoping to stay busy and educated.
Speaking of staying educated, as much as it can induce anxiety to be constantly checking for updates, it is important to stay current to what is in the news, so as to understand any sudden changes to your situation. Here at Simply Business, we will be keeping our social media channels updated on the pandemic and how it's impacting small businesses.
Stay tuned here and stay healthy!
I’ve told stories since I learned to talk and written since I could hold a pen. As a small business owner myself - I'm a freelance writer and yoga teacher - I love contributing to the entrepreneurship community in different ways (including writing for Simply Business!). When I’m not drafting articles for SB, I can be found on my yoga mat, perusing an indie bookstore, and writing (with my cat nearby of course).
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated reinsurance carrier by A.M. Best. Harborway Insurance is a trade name of Simply Business, Inc., which is a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.