How Your Small Business Can Survive The COVID-19 Pandemic - Entrepreneur

How Your Small Business Can Survive The COVID-19 Pandemic - Entrepreneur


How Your Small Business Can Survive The COVID-19 Pandemic - Entrepreneur

Posted: 28 Mar 2020 09:30 PM PDT

How can small businesses survive the turbulent times coming ahead in 2020? Here are a few tips.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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There's no doubt that small businesses will be the hardest hit from the current COVID-19 pandemic. The bigger businesses have a better chance of surviving; however, small businesses tend to live only with a few months of cash flow (at most), so when something as significant as this hits, it can be devastating not only for the small business owner, but also for the employees they support. So, how can small businesses survive the turbulent times coming ahead in 2020? There's no easy answer; however, here are a few points to start implementing and planning at least for the next three months.

1. Don't panic, take care of yourself, and keep calm

This can be difficult especially when cash is running out, but remember to take care of yourself in a way that works for you- for instance, eat well, and try to get some exercise in. Taking care of yourself will help you to keep calm, which in turn will also mean keeping your staff calm, and ultimately, a healthier mindset for everyone to come up with innovative ideas to move forward. If faced with some difficult decisions, take time to balance yourself and your mind before taking any drastic decisions. In what is a very dynamic and rapidly changing situation, sometimes taking a step back to reassess, asking for trusted opinions, and also keeping perspective will help. Things will get better, and you aren't in this alone. Ask for emotional support where you can, and when you need it.

2. Tap into resources provided by government and financial institutions

Governments around the world are already putting together initiatives to support small business owners, and this is something that is evolving on a daily basis. Be up to date with how your governments can help cut costs, as well as other important institutions, such as banks who also have a social responsibility. If you're registered in more than one market, explore support options in both markets. For example, you can find out more about the UK government support for small businesses there, and we are also waiting to hear from the Dubai government about a stimulus package to support SMEs in Dubai, which should be announced shortly.

Related: Here's What Your Business Should Focus On As It Navigates The Coronavirus Pandemic

3. Make a three-month financial plan

Every small business usually has the same key expenses, which include employee salaries, office rent, and utility bills. Further expenses range from industry to industry.

Speak to who you need to pay in the next three months (landlord and suppliers), and find out what options you have to spread out the costs. Chances are they may already have options in place, or will be understanding, as it's in their interest to keep your business. Always be careful when you come up with payment plans with other small businesses, as they also need to keep afloat too, so this should be fair for both of you.

Look at your personal finances, and speak to people you may support to have a realistic discussion on how to control your personal spending for the next three months. What costs are necessary, what can be put on hold? If you have a partner supporting you as you grow your business as the breadwinner, have an open and honest discussion with them about your immediate and long-term plans for the business.

Also, look at ways you can cut costs. But use this as a last measure after we have seen at least two months of damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. Your biggest costs would usually be your staff and your office rent. You could perhaps freeze hiring any more full-time employees, and instead work on a project basis with freelancers. You could also consider downsizing your office, and using a co-working space to have more affordable and flexible payment terms.

4. Find the opportunities

It's never nice to capitalize on events such as this, but they can also be a wake-up call to reconsider how you have been doing business. In this case, is your business model able to survive the changes that will come from the COVID-19 pandemic? How do you expect your customers to behave moving forward? What will and won't matter to them, and how can you accommodate who will likely be a new type of customer? Can you digitize any of your products or services, and start offering them online? Can you implement technology to balance any loss of earnings by offering new ways to connect with your customers?

5. Upskill your staff

Wherever possible, try your best to keep your staff– they rely on you, and if you have managed a good team, they should be supporting you. You could train your existing staff on additional skills, which could make them more productive and efficient, rather than hiring more staff. There's plenty of online courses that are very affordable, and these will allow them to focus on other areas of the business when their department is down- for instance, your sales team could perhaps also help out the marketing team. We at The Co- Dubai have launched an e-course on digital marketing for small businesses that is a great way to learn how to create digital marketing strategies and implement them, and it can be done from home while you or your team is self-isolating. Look for courses and resources similar to this that most match your needs and also your budget during this time.

Related: We're In This Together: Business Resources, Offers, And More For MENA Entrepreneurs To Get Through The Coronavirus Pandemic

Small businesses extend lifeline to employees and communities battered by coronavirus - CNBC

Posted: 20 Mar 2020 11:29 AM PDT

A man cleans the windows at his store on March 17, 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. - The coronavirus outbreak has transformed the US virtually overnight from a place of boundless consumerism to one suddenly constrained by nesting and social distancing.The crisis tests all retailers, leading to temporary store closures at companies like Apple and Nike, manic buying of food staples at supermarkets and big-box stores like Walmart even as many stores remain open for business -- albeit in a weirdly anemic consumer environment. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Angela Weiss | AFP via Getty Images

Panic is contagious. So is leadership. We've read how some big companies, like Ted Leonsis' Monumental Sports and Entertainment, are stepping up to help workers — such as the arena workers he's paying through at least the end of March, despite the suspension of the NBA and NHL seasons because of the coronavirus panic.

Small companies are doing the same. As his team transitioned to working from home, Ben Fisher, who runs MagicCo., a 12-person company in Brooklyn, New York, that helps brands build their presence on Amazon Alexa and Google Home, discovered that two team members, his office manager and his cleaning person, could no longer do their usual work.

He's reassigned the office manager to solving challenges related to taking the team remote, like getting the firm's call-forwarding software to work smoothly, while the cleaning person is now doing administrative work from home, while he continues to pay her. "They're solving new problems," he says.

Fisher is not alone. When I reached out to my network of small and midsize businesses, I found that many of these job creators are doing all they can to keep their teams (including independent contractors) employed and to make sure they have food, shelter and all kinds of other support — even as some of their firms fight for survival. Some are also finding ways to give back to their communities on top of this.

Looking for ideas on what you can do to help your employees? Here are some ideas they shared.

Hire laid-off spouses

Dwight Cooper, CEO and founder of Hueman, which does outsourced recruitment for hospitals, has encouraged his 200-member team whose spouses have lost their jobs to apply for jobs at his firm, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. He is already in the final stages of interviewing two laid-off spouses, whom he is fully prepared to train. "They can learn to be a recruiter pretty quickly," says Cooper.

He has also created an emergency support fund for employees who experience financial hardship due to the coronavirus crisis and can't pay for essentials like housing. "We went through 2008 and 2009," he says. "We were building our balance sheet for a rainy day. We're going to be bold, decisive and generous because employees are the most important part of our business."

Dwight Cooper, CEO and founder of Hueman, which does outsourced recruitment for hospitals, has encouraged his 200-member team whose spouses have lost their jobs to apply for jobs at his firm.

Hueman

Replace office perks

Many employees, particularly those at the entry-level end of the pay scale, depend on the lunches that tech companies provide to keep their grocery bills down. Knotch, a 55-employee firm that developed a platform to help firms optimize their content marketing, has been using the expense-reimbursement platform Abacus, made by Emburse, to provide employees with $15 a day to subsidize their lunches or groceries during the crisis. These funds replace the lunches normally ordered in if they work through mealtime. Knotch provides the payments as part of their monthly expense reimbursements. "For March they'll be reimbursed in the first part of April," says Jason Lee, vice president of finance for Knotch.

Knotch has also added a $50-a-month reimbursement for the fitness app or equipment of their choice and, to bring back some of the familiar rhythms of employees' daily life, started hosting virtual online fitness classes, like a yoga class one employee will lead for colleagues on Monday. "This is not a normal time," says Lee. "People aren't used to it."

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Keep pantries full

Jennelle McGrath, founder and chief marketing strategist of Market Veep, a full-service digital agency with 11 employees, went all-remote on Monday. When a few of her employees mentioned they didn't have a chance to stock up, the five-year-old firm sent them care packages full of healthy snacks and, for an employee with twin girls at home from school, origami and friendship bracelet kits to keep them busy.

McGrath tried to ship them toilet paper, but the industrial supplier she found online sold out, so she's standing by to place the order. "That's their biggest concern," says McGrath. Fortunately, her agency has been busy so she hasn't had to think about layoffs. "We're paying everyone," she says.

Buy them some time to pay the rent

Anton Morgulis, CEO of 76 Group, which owns seven properties in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has been trying to negotiate with his bank, insurance and utility company and brought in a tax advisor to try to postpone the payments the company owes so it can give its tenants more time to pay their rent.

"This is not about profits or making money," says Morgulis. "We've removed any of the profits. This is a kind of war. We need to survive. Our business infrastructure is a big, giant circle. It comes in one way and comes out the other. If the circle is broken, our society will be broken. We are doing everything we can to make sure that circle stays alive."

Take care of the children in the community

With schools closed in many cities, many children who relied on getting meals there are facing food insecurity. Una, a 12-person group purchasing organization in Kansas City, Missouri, was able to donate $5,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Kansas City, which is serving meals for pickup and delivery, and $5,000 to Harvester, which runs a regional food bank, when managing partner Anthony Clervi donated $5,000 of his own money and had the company match it. "We believe it should turn into thousands of meals," says Clervi.  

Verne Harnish is owner and CEO of Scaling Up and author of Scaling Up


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Why the coronavirus is a very good thing for small businesses | TheHill - The Hill

Posted: 11 Mar 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Does it sound crazy that business owners should be grateful for the coronavirus? I don't think so. In fact, I think the ultimate outcome of this very bad experience will be a very good thing for all businesses, big and small.

Of course, companies in the U.S. are suffering right now because of the virus. Restaurant and retail traffic is down. Travel has been curtailed. Conferences and meetings are being cancelled. Key supply chains around the world are disrupted. The markets have taken a dive. Fearful consumers – worried about their jobs and lifestyles – are holding on to their money.

Unfortunately, as the number of cases grows and uncertainty spreads, things are only going to get worse over the next few weeks. It's only a matter of time before the airline industry pleads for government bailouts and insurance companies complain about their rising costs. A recession is inevitable.

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And yet, I can't help but think of the reasons why all of this is good news in the long term for businesses, both big and small. Why? Because at some point the virus will have run its course. Things will get back to normal. The markets, and the economy, will have recovered. And many of us who run businesses will be smarter – much smarter – because of the 2020 coronavirus experience. How so?

For starters, after so many years of pushback, businesses will finally – finally! – embrace remote working as a productive and viable way to manage their workforce. Many employees, particularly younger employees, have been demanding the opportunity to work from home or be more mobile. Some employers have responded but a large number of my clients have resisted the change. But the fear of infection is forcing these business owners to reconsider their positions and allow their employees to work from home. And what will be the result?

Those same managers will kick themselves for not doing this ten years ago. As long as the approach is balanced, every business can allow most of their employees to have some form of remote working arrangement. The technology is mature. People can be trusted. Work will get done. And both employer and worker will find their lifestyles changed permanently for the better because of it. So, thanks coronavirus for finally helping us to realize this.

The virus will have taught us another valuable lesson: For God's sake, stop relying on a single overseas supplier for our company's products. If you're a publicly held company, the accounting rules require you to disclose if you're reliant on single supplier or customer. There's a reason for that, and the coronavirus underscores it: Diversification is critical if you hope to become a long-term success. Sure, those products from China or Italy or South Korea are cheaper. But what if something – oh I don't know, say a virus, a tariff, a war – interrupts your supply?

Who do you turn to next? And maybe, just maybe, doesn't it make more sense to have a supplier or two here in the U.S., or at least in a less menacing or antagonistic country than say...China? Of course it does, and if anything we should be grateful to the coronavirus for reminding us that we shouldn't build our businesses around a single source of supply from a single country.

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Thanks also, coronavirus, for reminding us of the biggest lesson from the 2008 recession: Cash is king and the good times never last. In fact, they're very fragile. The smartest business owners I know today who navigated themselves through the last economic downturn will tell you all sorts of reasons why they survived. They'll talk about how they cut costs, experimented with new products, partnered, diversified and downsized unnecessary staff. Shouldn't we be doing this all the time? Of course we should. But regardless of these strategies, they'll also admit to one other major thing: They had cash.

When you have cash in the bank you make smarter decisions and better investments because you're negotiating from a stronger financial position. More importantly, you're also able to deal with other challenges like the economic uncertainties caused by virus outbreaks that bring about recessions. Just watch and you'll sadly see a number of small businesses shut their doors in the coming year due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus. However, the ones that remain – the fittest – still remain because they had cash in the bank. It's not just the coronavirus. It's Darwinism.

Finally, there will be one great thing that the coronavirus will do for us. Well, eight billion things. Because, whether you support the decision or not, the U.S. government will be spending more than $8 billion to fight the outbreak. That's a lot of money. Sure, much of these funds will go into supporting states, hospitals and other medical providers. This money will fund many small businesses – from contractors to cleaning services – that support these organizations.

But a great portion of this amount will also be invested in tech companies, startups and others in the health care space to perform research and development and come up with a vaccine and other treatments for this and similar viruses. For the first time in U.S. history, the government has gotten serious about beating influenza, a disease that kills tens of millions of Americans every year. My bet is that this investment will succeed. Given the amount of new resources and our existing ingenuity, how could it not?

I'm not making light of the coronavirus. I realize that many more people will get sick,  and even die, in the months ahead. There will be hardships. But I'm grateful for a few things.

That the virus struck near the end of winter when influenzas spread less; that so many governments around the world have taken aggressive actions to combat the spread; that, thanks to today's communications and technologies, people are better educated about ways to limit its transmission. But above all, I believe that the virus will help many businesses, and particularly small business owners, to be smarter about the fundamental things they need to do operate their companies through both good and challenging times.

Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC.

Mark Cuban Just Gave Out a Savvy Business Idea for Free. Anyone Could Pursue It - Inc.

Posted: 07 Mar 2020 10:35 AM PST

What if Mark Cuban woke up tomorrow and was no longer a billionaire? 

This was the question Alex Kennedy recently posed when Cuban was a guest on his podcast, HoopsHype. He asked Cuban to imagine he had an average-paying 9-to-5 job, but had all the same knowledge he has now. What would he do to put himself in a better financial position?

Bartend to cover the bills

Cuban's first order of business would be to make sure he had enough income to make ends meet. He'd ditch the 9-to-5 and get a job as a bartender. This would be enough to live on and would free up his days so he could start a new business. 

Become the go-to Alexa and Google Home guy

Cuban would start a business to set up people's voice assistants. He'd be like a cable guy, but for Alexa and Google Home devices. Cuban would install and configure the devices so his customers wouldn't have to learn how to do it themselves.

"I could go out there and charge $25 to $50 an hour to do that," he says. "It's not hard to learn. It's really easy to stay up-to-date with that, but most people just don't do it." 

Learn everything possible about artificial intelligence

That would be just a start. In the meantime, Cuban would begin learning everything he possibly could about artificial intelligence. Because A.I. is complex and technical, Cuban believes it's starting to create a world of haves and have-nots. 

"It's not just a hot area," he explains. "It's an important area, and the impact is going to be enormous." While larger companies such as Google and Facebook have the resources and in-house staff to understand A.I. deeply, small businesses do not. 

Help small businesses leverage A.I. 

This is the second business Cuban would start if he were to start from scratch today. He'd help small businesses leverage A.I. to have the most impact. 

Because most small-business owners don't understand A.I., can't afford to invest in it, or don't have time to learn, Cuban sees an opportunity to fill that gap. He believes companies that don't get plugged into artificial intelligence now will quickly get left behind by those that do. ​

Published on: Mar 7, 2020

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

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