Not all businesses will receive government aid, but all can take steps a few important steps to boost their chances of survival during COVID-19. Small businesses employ almost half of America’s private-sector workers and account for 44% of our nation’s economic activity. It makes sense that the federal government would want to help them weather the storm that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the $349 billion set aside specifically for small businesses as a part of a historic stimulus package—even with its subsequent expansions—might not be enough.
The primary goal of the Paycheck Protection Program, the name given to the initiative, is to keep small and medium-sized business employees on payrolls while business slows. However, unclear guidance from the government, conflicts of interest among banks, and technical issues on the Small Business Administration website are just some of the obstacles keeping small business owners from funds they desperately need.
According to the business financing company SMB Compass, the biggest reason for delays in disbursement is missing information. With that in mind, SMB Compass advises applicants not to rush through the application and to check and recheck that all required information is completed before submission.
How Did We Get Here?
While the surge in stock market prices before coronavirus assaulted the U.S. may paint a rosy picture of the pre-pandemic economy, SMBs had been struggling already. A survey of SMB owners conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that nearly two-thirds (64%) had struggled to pay for operating expenses or line up credit at some point in the previous year.
Even 20% of firms considered financially “healthy” had no more than two months’ worth of reserve cash that they could use to cover such expenses if revenue ceased. Now, 1 in 4 SMBs is just two months away from closing permanently, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Regardless of whether you’ve already received or plan to receive government assistance, you can take some steps to increase your chances of survival during these times of unprecedented uncertainty. Here are three big ones:
- Know your relief options.
The federal government’s stimulus package is by far the biggest source of relief for small businesses, but it’s certainly not the only potential source. In addition to government assistance, a number of programs and resources are being launched by the private sector to help small business owners who have been impacted by the pandemic.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced the launch of the company’s Small Business Grants Program in March. The program will use $100 million in ad credits and cash grants to help 30,000 SMBs across the globe. Another tech giant, Amazon, has created the $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide cash grants to SMBs located in the Seattle area. Similarly, the crowdfunding website GoFundMe has set up its own Small Business Relief Initiative, allowing anyone with extra cash to contribute cash to small businesses in need. Luckily, these are far from the only resources available.
- Rethink your social strategy.
As the world gradually adjusts to social distancing, social media is becoming even more important to businesses than it was before the crisis–and not just for marketing. While your customers are cooped up in their homes, they’re turning to social media for answers, entertainment, and anything else they can find, which explains the spike in demand for online content accompanying this crisis.Use popular social platforms to keep customers up-to-date on your hours and policies, to show them what you’re doing to help employees or others in the community, or simply to reach out and show them you’re thinking of them. And if you’ve been putting off updating your social pages or expanding your following, now is the perfect time to get started. Consider how you can engage and delight online in ways you hadn’t taken the time to do before. For instance, Jägermeister is hosting “Meister Sessions,” two months of Instagram Live virtual events that raise money for different charities.
- Restructure service lines.
You may not completely pivot into a new market, but you’ll at least have to reconsider certain aspects of your business in light of the pandemic, and that could ultimately become a positive. Innovation is often the way through a tough business situation. Now is a good time to consider incorporating more educational content on your website, revisiting your online sales process, or dreaming up new products entirely.
The food industry, hard hit by the pandemic, has witnessed rapid innovation. Food delivery service Postmates recently added a new feature to its mobile app, allowing customers to request that their orders be dropped off at a particular location to enable social distancing. Instacart, a grocery delivery app that has experienced significant growth over the past several weeks, made a similar feature available to its users.
In times like these, people need help. If there are ways you can adapt your business so that you can both serve your community and keep the lights on, take advantage of them. Plenty of evidence exists that consumers reward kindness, and in the midst of all this uncertainty, kindness is exactly what we need.
Written by Rhett Power. Have you read?
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