"Every business owner feels like Dorothy—we aren't in Kansas anymore." Jim Carroll, the Executive Director for the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center and Vice President for Small Business for the Hampton Roads Chamber, began a webinar on June 24. "And for customers, the feeling is it is hard to believe the good old days were only a few months ago." Those good old days of a bustling economy were January 2020. "Then we hit the trifecta. First came COVID-19, then massive unemployment, then social unrest."
Carroll walked the participants through the phases we have encountered. He then pivoted to what businesses will need to recover and prosper. Small business owners will need to go to where their customers are right now. Most customers are at home, doing business online. That means business owners need to use their websites as a resource. They need to reach out to their best customers and reconnect.
Establishing new consumer confidence will need to include making customers trust you, and making them feel safe. Customer service is at the forefront. Tell them you are smiling behind your mask. Business owners will need to offer the flexibility of payment, as many customers are unemployed. It will be essential to prove to customers that your service or product is the best.
Marketing concepts will need to shift to low touch, soft sales approach. Again, making customers feel at ease and safe in your environment.
Carroll went on to explain the most challenging thing right now for business owners to deal with is the incomplete data to support decision-making. Can you keep your business liquid, maintain profitability, and generate enough cash to sustain the business year-round?
Carroll offered the advice to look out no more than 90 days with the financials. Use tools to estimate cash flow. He encourages business owners to negotiate with landlords and suppliers. Be mindful of setting prices. Price too high, you could lose customers. Price too low, you will lose revenue.
If you need funds to keep your business running, the window is still open for PPP and EID loans. Payroll Protection Program loans application cut-off date is June 30. EID loans reopened at a lower amount, but the cut-off date for application has not been announced. Keep in mind EID loans are taxed.
Carroll stressed to the audience, "don't turtle, ask for help." Resources available include the Small Business Development Center, Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), local economic development offices, and your management team of your attorney, banker, accountant, insurance agent.
To contact Jim Carroll and the SBDC visit hrsbdc.org.