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Expert Advice For Small Business Owners Navigating The COVID-19 Crisis

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Expert Advice For Small Business Owners Navigating The COVID-19 Crisis

Updated: April 23rd, 2020

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While the United States isn’t out of the COVID-19 woods yet, green shoots are emerging that suggest the worst could be behind us. Business owners are anxiously waiting for things to return to normal, even if that normal is something different than it was before. Many are preparing to make changes to their entire business models, realizing they must remain nimble to survive the crisis

Fortunately, business owners aren’t alone in navigating this new normal. Many experts are out front providing guidance and small business assistance to entrepreneurs like you.  We compiled a list of some of the latest expert tips for small business owners

Advice for small businesses that provide a service 

Not every business has a tangible or digital product that they can continue selling online throughout the economic shutdown. Someone who has a pulse on the business community is Angie Hicks, co-founder of customer review site Angie’s List. Her site is the bridge between service providers, such as roofers, electricians, plumbers, and other small businesses and American households. 

Angie’s advice for small business owners in the service sector is to focus on emergency repairs outside of the home — not inside — to minimize contact with other people during this lockdown period. 

Technology will play a vital role in this new normal, as service providers look for ways to keep the cash flow coming

Level up with virtual customer service tools and social media

So how does this tip for small business owners apply in real life? Well, for example, repair shops could rely on videos and pictures to diagnose a problem. When you do need to send someone out on a job, send one person. Angie’s List offers a chat option in which you could easily engage with customers. But, you might also consider adding chat or video features to your website – unless text messaging works for you. 

An additional piece of advice for small business owners is to be open to taking advantage of social media channels to engage with customers. Use these platforms to share tips of your own during this uncertain time, either via video or blog content, with links to your website. Take advantage of the fact that people are spending more time on social media now than ever. Also, while cash may still be king, consider going digital and offering popular mobile payment apps for your customers. 

Good advice for all small business owners: Bring it online 

Maybe you have pursued one of the SBA-backed COVID-19 crisis loans, are awaiting your government stimulus check, or both. Regardless of which type of emergency funding you’ve got coming to you, there will be a pull on that capital coming from many directions. Barbara Corcoran, a real estate tycoon and one of the Shark Tank investors, is worried about both the unemployment fallout from COVID-19 and also the survival of small businesses. 

Corcoran is a big believer in this tip for small business owners: bring your business online, to the extent that is possible. Your business having an online presence could mean partnering with another company to offer a new service, reinventing your product/service, or drumming up something new altogether. In doing so, you should focus on expanding your customer base. Trim the fat. Maybe that is business lines that are not your primary source of income, or reluctance in embracing new technology that could help cut costs and look toward replacing lost revenue. Commercial landlords are getting hit right now as businesses struggle to pay their rents. So, consider it an opportunity to renegotiate lease terms or find a smaller retail space. 

Find digital opportunities

Another piece of advice for business owners going digital is to pay attention to themes, such as what sectors of the economy are doing well throughout COVID-19. In doing so, you can see where you can catch the tailwind. For instance, video games are seeing a surge as people across generations hunt distractions from boredom. Video conferencing platforms are also more popular than ever. Where are the opportunities for your business to capitalize?

Corcoran also suggests that there are “deals to be had” in the depressed real estate environment. Much of real estate has gone virtual (e.g., virtual walk-throughs), so you can handle much of this transaction digitally. Check, please! 

Keep lines of communication open to give and receive business assistance

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, high-profile investor Mark Cuban has been out front in providing advice for small business owners, and they have been taking him up on his availability. In a Facebook Live session with business owners, Cuban detailed how he advises and supports hundreds of small businesses. He says the same advice and business assistance that he gives to his current network applies to the millions of other American small businesses out there. 

Cuban is no stranger to the fact that your business has just come to a sudden halt, and you’re left wondering what to do next. His No. 1 tip for small business owners — after you’ve applied for the SBA-backed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan — is to keep the doors of communication open with everybody, from your landlord to your vendors to your customers. Be honest and transparent. He reminds business owners that they’re not the only ones facing uncertainty right now; everybody else is, too. It helps to provide some level of “normalcy,” even if it’s for a new normal.

As for financial relief through the PPP, Cuban advises that you reach out to your lender right away if you haven’t already. Even if there are hurdles to getting COVID-19 crisis loans, do what it takes and don’t give up until you and your lender sign on the bottom line. 

Don’t hide 

British perfumer Jo Malone sums up the sentiment within the small business community, which is “we’re all in this together.” In an op-ed for Harper’s Bazaar, she reminds business owners that during times of economic duress, “the entrepreneurial spirit really does come alive.” 

Malone provides the following advice for small business owners: Survive the crisis at all costs. This applies even if it means using savings that were previously intended for a new location or product expansion. She talks about the demand that will be there when the COVID-19 crisis is finally over. Her advice is to remain flexible, be compassionate, and don’t hide thinking you can re-emerge when the dust settles. Take advantage of the available funding and stay relevant. 

Meanwhile, another Shark Tank investor, Daymond John, offers the following tips for small business owners during COVID-19: 

  • “Check your inventory” – Your goal is to see where you can slash costs and bolster sales.
  • “Pull out your Rolodex” – Think about who you could call for business assistance. This includes collaborations, new distributor/distribution channels, or contacts you can trust for business advice.  
  • “Check to see if you qualify for [a] relief program” – Use the funds from COVID-19 crisis loans to “help to get back on your feet.” 

Small business assistance is bountiful right now. Whether it’s in the form of a COVID-19 crisis loan or a helpful tip from a successful fellow entrepreneur, support is available. To learn more about your funding options and calculate how much you may be entitled to borrow under the CARES Act, you can use our Paycheck Protection Program Calculator. Funding Circle is an approved SBA-backed COVID-19 crisis loan provider that’s here to support businesses like yours during this difficult time. Together, we can navigate the crisis.

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