COVID-19 has battered the U.S. economy over the past two months, and small businesses in particular are hurting. It's estimated that more than 100,000 small businesses have already closed permanently due to the pandemic, and if the Great Lockdown continues, countless more face a similar fate.
If you own a small business, it's imperative that you act strategically to salvage the venture that's not only your source of income but, to some extent, a part of your identity. Here are a few smart moves to make in light of the greater crisis.
1. Apply for a line of credit
Right now, lines of credit aren't so easy to come by for small businesses, but if you have a long-standing relationship with a bank or financial institution, it pays to apply for one, even if you don't need it immediately. Having access to capital could be key if the greater situation worsens or if circumstances in your part of the country result in added restrictions that reduce your business's revenue. You can also try securing a line of credit with a community bank – one that might be especially invested in helping a local business stay afloat.
Also, the U.S. Small Business Administration has put together a list of funding resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
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2. Have cash on hand
Now's not the time to invest in new business equipment or technology if you don't absolutely need it. We don't know how long it will take until the economy gets back to normal, and follow-up waves of COVID-19 could result in additional massive shutdowns that hurt your business later on in the year. A smart bet, therefore, is to have cash on hand. Just as individuals are advised to have an emergency fund with enough money to stay afloat for three to six months without an income, so too should you build your business an emergency fund with enough cash to cover essential expenses for a number of months.
3. Negotiate with your vendors
Everyone is struggling right now, so you might find that certain vendors or service providers are more willing to be flexible in the coming weeks or months. It pays to contact suppliers and see if they're amenable to looser payment terms or to speak to your commercial landlord about a short-term discount on rent.
4. Be as adaptable as possible
In the past 8 to 10 weeks, a large number of businesses have gone from the standard in-person customer model to delivery-only service. Some landed in between with outdoor or curbside pickup. As parts of the country start to reopen but face closures simultaneously, think about the different ways your business can change its model to accommodate our current "normal." That could mean shifting store clerks to delivery personnel or creating an e-commerce site through which goods are shipped to customers directly.
5. Invest in safety
Though now might not be the time to make extra purchases that enhance your business, you absolutely should invest in making your business site safer for customers and employees alike. That could mean providing anyone who enters your store with a mask, spending extra money on sanitizing stations, and hiring a service for frequent deep cleanings. Not only should you invest in safety, but you should communicate the efforts you're making in that regard so existing and potential customers understand what steps you're taking.
Right now is a difficult time to be a small-business owner. These moves, however, could help you ride out an otherwise difficult storm.
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