City creates $750000 relief fund to save struggling small businesses - Mountain View Voice

City creates $750000 relief fund to save struggling small businesses - Mountain View Voice


City creates $750000 relief fund to save struggling small businesses - Mountain View Voice

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 12:09 PM PDT

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Friday evening to create a special relief fund for the city's numerous small businesses that have been forced to close or scale back operations in response to the new coronavirus.

The initial $750,000 program includes $400,000 in city funds and $350,000 in private pledges. Council members agreed to it with a sense of urgency and without knowing all the details. City staff say it's likely that the money will provide either grants or loans of up to $10,000 per small business, meaning at least 75 businesses could receive help.

Santa Clara County is now entering its third week under a shelter-in-place order from public health officials to curb the spread of coronavirus, which caused the immediate closure of all nonessential businesses. It also meant restaurants and businesses that sell food, while still allowed to operate, could no longer offer dine-in services.

In many cases, the result has been steep staffing cuts and massive losses in revenue, according to city staff, prompting the need for action to help small businesses with the "short- and long-term consequences" of the public health crisis.

The effects are apparent all along Castro Street in downtown Mountain View, where nearly every storefront has posted signs about closures, reduced hours and modified services. As of Friday, more than 35 businesses had temporarily closed along the normally bustling street, the majority of which are considered "essential" and permitted to stay open.

Elsewhere in the city, staff reported Friday that local hotels are feeling the financial hit, with vacancy rates spiking to between 50% and 100% in recent weeks. The Mountain View Chamber of Commerce maintains a list of city services and offering takeout and delivery to guide customers to businesses that remain open.

City staff is planning to launch the relief program this week, which will be available for businesses with 50 or fewer employees who need immediate help for things like paying rent or other bills -- though they must show proof of financial hardship due to the coronavirus. The money will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Including landlords?

The heart of the council's discussion was whether apartment owners should qualify for the small business assistance money. They technically operate a business in Mountain View and employ locally, and some may have difficulty paying mortgages and other costs in the event that tenants cannot pay the rent.

Councilman John McAlister said he wanted to allow owners of "small" apartment complexes, later determined to be nine or fewer units, to be able to tap into the city's fund for relief. Though the city had just recently passed a $500,000 relief fund for renters who have lost work, McAlister saw it as a separate measure. He advocated for a $100,000 increase in funding to assist landlords of smaller residential properties.

"There's two sides of the equation, the renters and the landlords," he said. "We want to make sure the landlords feel that they're being listened to, because I could see a scenario where if they have financial issues, that's going to make it harder to house tenants who (also) have financial issues."

Councilwoman Lisa Matichak said there's no guarantee small landlords are going to reap the benefits of the renter assistance program, and that the smaller apartment complexes also tend to be among the most affordable housing options in Mountain View.

"I don't think there's a guarantee that folks who are part of the rent relief program are the ones in the complexes who might need some help, and so I do view these as two separate programs," she said.

The idea didn't sit well with Councilwoman Alison Hicks, who said brick-and-mortar stores are experiencing a "tremendous" loss right now, and $400,000 is already a meager amount compared to the need. The fund should be designed chiefly to support those businesses, and not landlords, she said.

"I would hate to have it (be) a part of the $400,000 or $500,000 fund and have the majority taken over by small landlords," Hicks said. "I want to make sure that we do reserve the $400,000 for the brick-and-mortar stores because those are the most impacted."

The bulk of the money should go to retailers, and any funding for landlords should be set aside in a separate "bucket" of funds, said Councilman Chris Clark. And rather than make that money available for grants, it might make more sense to offer short-term, low-interest loans, he said. His proposal ultimately won the approval of the council, which voted 7-0 to create a $100,000 fund for small apartment owners.

The small business assistance program was passed at an emergency council meeting March 27, along with a host of other funding commitments, many aimed at homeless and vulnerable residents. The council committed $100,000 to create 24-hour safe parking sites at three parking lots in the city; $50,000 for publicly available sanitation and hygiene services; and $50,000 for food vouchers.

The city is also creating an assistance program for people who can't pay utility bills due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus, which will allow residents to defer or even waive payments, and nixes penalties for failing to pay for city services. The city is not shutting off water or garbage services for people behind on payments.

City staffers say it's going to take until next week to get the utility assistance program up and running, and requested $100,000 in upfront funding.

Think And Grow Big: 13 Small Business Experts Share Strategies For Maximum Growth - Forbes

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 08:43 AM PDT

Want to improve the odds that your small business goes big? Don't feel you have to go it alone. Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultants and advisors provide free consulting to help small business owners start or expand their businesses.

This month, America's SBDC—which is composed of some 1,000 centers nationwide— celebrates forty years of helping small businesses grow, and the results are impressive.

Last year, SBDCs helped small business owners:

  • Create 99,194 new jobs
  • Generate $7 billion in sales
  • Create a new business every 32 minutes

As a result of their work with thousands of small business owners, they have unique insights into what it takes to succeed. Here, 13 SBDC pros share strategies for helping your small business think—and grow—big.

1. Don't try to give birth to an adult

"You don't expect a baby to perform or respond as a college graduate. Just like rearing a child, businesses are born, reared, evolve, and mature. You don't start the business and expect mega-success overnight. That path usually leads to disaster or collapse. What we think the experience and effort is going to be when we start—and what it actually is—are worlds apart.

"We start the business and end up making it up as we go along, learning and adjusting, and just when we think we have it down (or mastered the age group), the game changes and we have to adapt and learn and lead again. We lead but we learn, too. The business, the customers, the market, all teach us what we need to know. Business owners who stay very present, patient, observant, and nurturing, taking the slow path and keeping careful pace with the business (their baby) as it matures through stages, like us, ultimately reduce the level of their risks and grow the business more securely to big over time."

—Lorraine Allen, consultant and former Regional Director, Small Business Development Center at The College of New Jersey

2. Get connected

"Network with anyone and everyone in your region and industry. Establish solid connections and maintain those relationships. Choose 20 to 30 individuals or companies that are large enough to offer you something relative to your work and maintain contact with these folks. At least monthly, shoot them an email checking in, wishing them happy holidays, or asking them to grab coffee with you. When the time comes that you need to ask for something, you'll be comfortable doing so, and they'll be more likely to say yes.

"Leave a good impression (and a business card) with just about anyone you come into contact with. You never know whose hand you're going to shake that could open a major door for you in the future."

—Alison Lane, Business Advisor, Maine Small Business Development Center

3. Think like a franchisor

"Successful franchises have very specific systems in place so that the model is easily duplicated when new branches open. If a small business starts thinking about these systems from the early business-planning stage, it becomes a part of their business model and gives them a competitive advantage. Create systems or procedures for everything inside the business (inventory ordering/management, bookkeeping, human resources management, culture, etc.) and everything outside the business (customer relations, marketing, branding, atmosphere, culture, etc.). Even if a company does not want to franchise, these systems will put a small company in a position to grow."

—Sue Pitts, Regional Director, Iowa Western Community College SBDC

4. Aim for these three essentials

"I have been a consultant for 19 years and have seen businesses fail and succeed for many reasons. Long-time successful businesses seem to embody personal characteristics I call the 'DOC' theory. They have these three personal skills: discipline, organization, and communication. They are disciplined in getting work done on time and carrying out goals; they are organized enough to know where everything is and manage their time well; and they have the ability to communicate well with others. These are the backbone of interpersonal skills that lay the groundwork for a product or service that is needed."

—Curt Walczak, Business Consultant, Northeast Minnesota SBDC

5. Take a phased approach

"Clients who take a phased approach to growing their business are typically more successful. In a phased approach, the client will start small and then grow the business in phases and not all at once. Using this method, clients test the market and make adjustments to their product or service while they are still small. By the time the business has scaled up, it has honed its product or service to meet the market needs. The phased approach also allows them to begin realizing revenue that can then be used to support the next phase of growth."

—Shannon Byers, Center Director/Business Advisor, Maine SBDC at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. 

6. Create your growth team

"Successful business owners are proactive and intentional when it comes to their growth. They plan in advance and use their team of resources—their SBDC, their CPA, and their banker—strategically. They make sure that 'the team' is on board with the anticipated growth. With checkpoints in place, the growth is monitored and controlled. 'Runaway' growth can be just as dangerous as no growth at all."

—CJ Johnson, Capital Development Advisor, Arizona SBDC

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7. Ask for what you really need

"If you are fundraising for debt or venture capital, whatever financing you think you want to ask for is—nine times out of 10—two or three times more than what you really need. Do a 24-month financial cash-flow projection about the estimated expenses you will incur during your runway for growth period. Seed capital should cover the first one to two years of operating and R&D expenses to help with commercialization. Focus on the essentials first and then go for the bigger ask when you have justifiable market demand that requires funding to scale."

—Brett Dickstein, Business Advisor for Access to Capital, South Bay SBDC hosted at El Camino College and the Los Angeles Regional SBDC Lead Center

8. Just start

"No one begins at the finish line, so just start. Go get that first client, make that first sale, start making money, then ramp it up. Strong, healthy businesses start at the beginning, then build and grow into the businesses they imagined. It's easy to get caught up in the vision one might have for the business, but pivoting happens almost immediately. The faster you start taking the first steps, the faster you can begin navigating the changes that come from learning about your business and your customers. The result is strong, steady growth. The finish line is always sweeter if you start at the start."

—Yolanda A. Facio, Business Analyst, Maricopa SBDC

9. Work with what you have

"Too many of our clients feel like they have to start with the '-est' of everything. They need the 'bigg-est' location, the 'b-est' equipment, the 'new-est' technology. But there really is something to be said for shoestrings. Many successful entrepreneurs and small business owners have built remarkable success stories from basic beginnings. Eric Ries calls it 'minimum viable product,' but the concept of getting a business open by starting with essentials and adding from there has been a hallmark of long-term growth from well before the day that Sam changed Walton's to Walmart.

"This doesn't mean that you don't go all in; it's just a reminder that you don't have to start at the finish line. From the beginning, define the phases that you envision your business growing through to the point where it looks like you want it to look. Then, get started and work through those phases as your cash flow—and customer base—allows."

—Kevin Lust, Director, Illinois Small Business Development Center at Lincoln Land Community College

10. Never stop working on your business plan

"There are parts of your business plan that will never be 'complete,' such as industry trends, projections, competitors, pricing, and core clients. Many small businesses feel like they are past the business plan stage after a few years as they look to 'go big,' but keeping the business plan updated (especially these particular sections) is just as important on day one as it is on day 1,000.

"And don't lose sight of your core clients. As you get more revenue, you can do more marketing or broaden your core client base, but it always comes down to the core clients, who they are, and how much they are willing to pay."

—Peter G. Harriman, Center Director, Portland, Maine SBDC

11. Be unique

"Entrepreneurs can grow faster by identifying one or two niche markets where they stand out from the competition, and create marketing campaigns that address the specific needs and characteristics of that niche. Prospects in that niche or market segment are more likely to connect with and respond to the message, resulting in faster growth.

"Once a critical mass of customers are built in that market segment, momentum takes over and will often organically expand, both in that niche as well as into other market segments. In addition, resources can be diverted to developing another niche.

"Many entrepreneurs resist moving from general branding and marketing of their products or services to specific targeted marketing because they feel they are excluding the broader market segment. But the challenge of stopping at broad message marketing is that it takes too long and costs too much to build a solid customer base. Be unique—you'll stand out!"

—Harriet Parker, Manager, Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee Community College

12. Delegate, systematize, and measure

"#1. Delegate. In order to grow, you must be able to satisfy more client projects, hence you must have the production and service capacity as well as the internal capacity to manage all business operations. This means you need more 'hands on deck,' and you, as the business owner, must be able to let others develop some of these activities.

"#2. Systematize. Some sort of automation has to take place so more things can get done easier and faster. Having a system in place allows a process to be fulfilled in an orderly manner, with an expected result from a specific input. It allows you to manage time more efficiently and lets you anticipate how long it will take you to deliver a service or product to your customer.

"#3. Measure. You can't improve what you don't measure. Once you define your business goals, you need to identify the key performance indicators that help you reach them, and these must be tracked so you can see how far or close you are from your goals. Then you can define larger objectives and more ambitious business projects."

—Eileen Devereux Dailey, Business Consultant, Arkansas SBTDC at UA Little Rock

13. Don't give up

"If your product or service is something that is not provided in your area, have a plan but be flexible. Learn to love to sell, sell what people want (not what you love), floor it, and don't stop for anything. Never give up on your dreams."

—Todd Rausch, Regional Director, Western Iowa Tech Community College SBDC

RELATED: Newly Available CARES Act Loans: 10 Things Small Businesses Need to Know

This article was originally published on AllBusiness. See all articles by Gerri Detweiler.

Google Unveiled a $340 Million Grant Program to Help Small Businesses - Inc.

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 02:44 AM PDT

Google is one of the few companies that has an impact on almost all of our lives on a daily basis. It's where we go to find the best restaurants when we're traveling. It's where we search for local plumbers, or the closest hardware store, or where to buy vegetables to plant in a garden. That, of course, explains why more than half of all internet traffic originates with Google

It also explains why Google is such a valuable place for small businesses to find new customers. The combination of organic search and the paid ads associated with those searches has made it easy for businesses to target their audience based on meeting the exact things they're searching for. It's also made Google a massively profitable trillion-dollar company.

Now, in a blog post by Sundar Pichai, the company's CEO, Google says it will pitch in to help small businesses and other organizations make their way through the current health and economic challenge facing us all. That help comes in the form of an $800 million program that includes both direct financial assistance, as well as grants.

For small businesses, that means $340 million in credits for Google Ads that the company says can be used throughout 2020 across any of Google's advertising platforms. According to the company, the goal is "to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers." 

There's no sign-up or application process. Instead, credits will automatically be added to active Google Ads accounts.

In addition, Google says it is providing $250 million in ad credits to the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other government health agencies that provide information about slowing the spread of Covid-19. Google had already said it would provide $25 million, but has significantly increased that amount with this announcement.

An additional $200 million will be provided to both NGOs and financial institutions "to help provide small businesses with access to capital." The company says it is focused on "people and communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions."

Lastly, Google is providing $20 million in Google Cloud services to researchers who are studying vaccines and treatment for Covid-19.

It's worth mentioning that Google is reportedly already seeing declines in advertising spending as businesses are forced to temporarily close down in communities across America. There's a chance that many of those businesses will struggle to reopen without help, which gives Google an incentive to help since those businesses are its customers. In addition, a credit is often an effective way to drive additional spending, which helps Google's bottom line at a time when it, too, could use a boost.

That's not to say that Google shouldn't get credit for these efforts. Google is in a unique position to actually help in a way that matters. Providing small businesses with the combination of advertising help as well as direct financial assistance in some cases could easily mean the difference between some businesses taking a short-term hit or getting knocked out. 

Preventing that is something we should all get on board with.  

Published on: Mar 30, 2020

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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