The coronavirus pandemic is unlike any crisis small business has ever faced. But small business owners are nothing if not resilient, and you can get through this. The key is to take quick action.
Here are 12 things you can do now to help save your business from COVID-19.
1. Contact a SCORE mentor
If you already have a mentor, get in touch with them ASAP. If you don’t, you can get matched with a SCORE mentor right away. SCORE mentors are current and former business owners who can give you free, expert business advice about everything from where to get an emergency loan to how to run your business remotely and lead during a crisis. They’re available to participate in remote mentoring sessions via phone, email and video—whatever works best for you.
2. Take care of yourself and your team
Leading through this crisis will not be easy, especially for small business owners who are also dealing with child-care, family and health issues. Make sure you and employees are following the CDC guidelines to stay safe during the outbreak. Additionally, set aside time to focus on your mental, emotional and physical health and manage stress. Encourage your employees to do the same and don’t expect perfection during this time.
3. Assess your business finances
What are your immediate and most important expenses? What can be deferred or negotiated? How much cash do you have in reserve? Use SCORE’s 12-month cash flow statement to test different scenarios for the coming months. Look for ways to reduce costs wherever possible.
4. Apply for financing
If you need more money after completing the above steps, the best place to start is with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This program provides business loans, debt forgiveness and emergency grants to help small businesses. Due to limited appropriations funding, the application portal for the EIDL–COVID-19 assistance program (EIDL loans and EIDL Advances) is temporarily closed, as of April 16, 2020. We will post updates when funds become available.
Private companies such as Facebook and GoFundMe, are also providing loans, grants and discounts. Other financing options include a business line of credit, invoice financing, short-term loans, merchant cash advances and more. Find out where to get business financing and how you can qualify.
5. Take advantage of tax provisions in the CARES Act
The CARES Act includes several tax relief provisions that can significantly slash your tax burden. For instance, you may be able to delay estimated tax payments and employer payroll tax payments, get tax credits for employee retention; and benefit from modifications for tax treatment of net operating losses, AMT tax credits, business interest deductions and more. These changes can help you conserve precious cash.
6. Negotiate with customers and creditors
Do everything you can to get paid faster and defer paying your bills. Contact clients to see if they can accelerate payments. Contact your lenders, suppliers, vendors, landlord, mortgage company and credit card companies to let them know you may have trouble paying and see what arrangements can be made to defer, reduce or forgive payments.
7. Assess your staffing needs
Cutting staff hours or pay, laying off employees, or furloughing employees are all options for reducing your costs. A furlough is a temporary layoff that allows employees to apply for unemployment benefits while still retaining their status as employees and company benefits such as health insurance. The CARES Act significantly expands the number and type of workers who are eligible for unemployment; for example, it now covers part-time and gig workers. It also increases the amount of unemployment benefits and extends the amount of time individuals can receive benefits. A SCORE mentor in your area can help you assess your options and make sure you are following appropriate labor laws.
8. Transition your workplace for COVID-19
Can your employees work remotely? Now is the time for any employee who can do so to from home. Learn how to make a smooth transition, find the right work-from-home tools and ease the way for your employees. Do some or all of your employees have to work on-site? Develop a plan to minimize the risk of coronavirus contagion. The CDC’s coronavirus resources for businesses and employers can help.
9. Stay in touch with customers
Maybe you can’t connect with customers in person, but there are plenty of ways to do so online. Ramp up your email, website and social media content. If appropriate, create livestreams or chat groups. Focus on sharing information or offers that can help customers with the difficulties the crisis has caused. This can be a valuable time to forge a deeper connection with customers and gain new insights into what they really want.
10. Adjust your business model
How can your business adapt to serve customers even if your location has to close down temporarily? Think creatively and investigate how to provide takeout, delivery, drive-up or pickup service. How can you offer your product or service online? From yoga instructors offering online classes to retailers expanding ecommerce or offering curbside pickup, there are many ways to modify your business to survive in the era of coronavirus.
11. Stay informed and flexible
Keep up to date on coronavirus news, but don’t overdo it. Choose a trusted news source or two and set aside times to check in—perhaps 15 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. Sign up to get email updates from the CDC on the medical aspects of the virus. What we know about coronavirus is changing day by day, so keep your options open and have plans for a range of scenarios.
12. Plan for the future
The coronavirus pandemic will eventually end, and when it does, the businesses still standing will be those that rose to the challenge. Use this time to connect with your customer base, develop stronger ties with your community, and improve your own skills, and you’ll come back stronger than ever when the crisis ends.