I’ve been conspicuously absent from social media and blogging; trying to inform myself and process everything that’s going on in life to the best of my ability… just like everyone. My heart goes out to everyone struggling during this time; especially to other owners dealing with questions about their small business survival.
This photo was taken during our 2017 trip to Norway from onboard the Trollfjord Hurtigruten cruise. It sums up how I feel about our current situation — the waters we navigated in Norway were uncharted for me. Likewise, our present situation is uncharted territory, and there will be no easy fix. There will always be what I now refer to as “normal times” and post-Covid times.
As we go forward, there is only ONE thing we all need to do as small business owners —that is to ensure the survival of our businesses. That’s it… although it’s a tremendous task! However, it is our responsibility as owners to use our ingenuity to figure out a way. If we don’t survive, our towns and cities will suffer a tremendous loss long after the threat of Covid has died down.
Don’t wait for the government to save you
My best advice is to NOT wait for the government to save you. The C-19 crisis has exposed all the faultlines in every aspect of our society. Tragedy amplifies what was already there to begin with, so we are just seeing the fallout of an already frayed system. It’s still possible some of us may get a lucky little lifeline, but don’t rely on it for small business survival.
There is no doubt the Small Business Administration (SBA) is failing us. The overarching failure of the SBA is in its very definition of what constitutes a small business: “The two most widely used standards to qualify a business as small are 500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries and $7.5 million in average annual receipts for many non-manufacturing industries.” At this point, we should seriously question: Who is the SBA is actually serving?
How many small business colleagues do you know that have 500 employees or $7.5 million in annual sales?
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were broken before they even got started. The PPP was overly complex and lacked transparency over the repayment of funds. The EIDL application process was overly simplistic — great on the front end when completing the application, but that fault alone caused a crushing number of applicants. And where has the money gone? Much of it, to chain stores and publicly traded companies.
Personally I was fortunate to secure a small grant from Wayne County after I spent 5+ hours completing their application. It will cover one month’s rent — which does help — and I’m grateful! But the cold harsh truth is that most truly small businesses may not get much if anything at all. The sooner we all move from resistance to acceptance, the sooner we’ll be able to transition from victim-mentality to empowered.
Strategies for small business survival
So what to do??
We small business owners are a resourceful group, and NOW is the time to be creative and do whatever is needed to generate revenue for basic expenses in order to stay afloat. If you haven’t already, mobilize your creativity and get to work on one or more of these strategies for small business survival:
- Start selling online or expand your online store offerings. Our online coffee bean sales, which previously were less than 1% of sales, are now making up about 20% of overall sales and helping to pay the bills. It may help to reflect back on some of the basics of making money that you may have used when you first started out.
- Expand delivery options for your products. Provide all options that are viable including curbside pickup, free delivery, or flat-rate nationwide delivery.
- Put together a short video training series for your products or services and sell it online.
- Break down one of your finished products and create a kit with all the needed ingredients for customers to prepare or assemble for themselves at home.
- Collaborate with other small business owners in your area to swap comparably-priced items to create a larger gift pack that all parties can then sell to their customers.
- Don’t underestimate the value of cost-saving measures. Ask your landlord to work with you on payments, make sure all equipment has been turned off, turn down the heat. Every little bit helps!
- There may be a second round of financing and grants, so it doesn’t hurt to throw your hat in the ring. It also may be worth a look into some alternative grant options.
There is always hope and opportunity in adversity. Although we are not living in the easiest of times, so long as we are living and breathing there is hope in each new day. ☀️
This is a time for our planet to heal, and perhaps for each of us to re-evaluate and decide what is really important. If you are fortunate enough to have extra time on your hands right now, take account of your skills and put them to use by helping someone else. Could you sew someone a mask? Do you draw? Sing? Bake/cook? Shop? Maybe you could lift someone else’s day with your talent or expertise.
If you need extra funds, consider picking up some gig work. There are so many resources online; start here.
For business owners, use this time wisely to start planning to reopen as soon as you’re able. Expect that business operations will be different this year and may be interrupted. You should have a plan to gradually ramp up your operation and pivot quickly as conditions change.
Take a few deep breaths and remember also to take care of your mental wellbeing by taking a walk in nature, meditating, cuddling your cat, or whatever it is that you do.
Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge. — Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Following are some excellent C-19 resources that have helped me:
Next Door tools for local businesses navigating the crisis
SBE Council (Small Business & Entrepreneurship)
All of the Michigan Executive Orders in one place
An Employer’s Guide to Navigating the Coronavirus by payroll provider Gusto