By Megan Tsui, Unleashed Consultants, Red Wing Downtown Main Street, and Red Wing Ignite
Unprecedented. Strange. Scary. There are lots of ways to feel about this moment in time during the Covid-19 crisis. But it won’t always be like this. In a few weeks or months there will be a new reality and although we don’t know what that will look like, we can take steps now to be more prepared. As a business consultant, I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses over the past 20 years. I also own my own marketing and communications firm, so I’m in the thick of it as well. And these are the things that I think we could be doing. As they say, there is no better time to work ON your business than when you can’t work in it.
#1 – Call everyone that you owe money to and see if they can help. Credit card companies, utilities, your landlord, the bank. See what they are offering as assistance.
#2 – Do a quick cash-flow statement for the next six months, at a minimum. Don’t know how? Check out this resource: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/accounting-finance/beginners-guide-cash-flow/ This will help you understand where you actually sit. To me, it’s the most helpful of the financial statements in a time like this. It starts with how much cash you have on hand, forecasts income and expenses, as well as any debt payments you need to make. Each month’s balance carries over into the next month. You can also create several scenario cash flow statements that might help you make some decisions about how you move forward.
#3 – Stay up-to-date on Unemployment. The most up-to-date information for the State of Minnesota is here:https://www.uimn.org/ Minnesota has indicated that your rate of Unemployment Insurance will not be impacted if your employees claim unemployment.
#4 – A blanket statement of advice is to take advantage of the programs coming out of the Federal and State Governments if you know you will lose income and develop a cash-flow problem. You can always sign up for the programs and receive the funds but if you do not need them, then you can pay them back and I’m guessing there will be no penalty for early payments. Based on your cash flow projections, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the loan programs.
#5 – Reach out for help. In Red Wing, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) https://rochestersbdc.com/ is available to help. They are probably very busy at the moment, but the sooner you call the sooner you’ll get in line to have help. The SBDC is under the Small Business Administration (SBA) so they will have first-hand knowledge and training in the various programs.
#6 – Call your accountant and explain your plan. They will have other things to consider for your personal situation. If you do not have an accountant, now is the time to find one.
#7 – Business Plans. You have one, right? If yes, get that dusty thing off your shelf or reprint it from the computer file. How does it hold up? Are there areas that you think you should change? If you do not have one, or want to use this time as kind of a “do-over”, I highly recommend the book “Business Plan in a Day” by Rhonda Abrams. Even though doing it correctly may take longer than a day, it’s still the fastest and most comprehensive business plan book I have found. It’s part lesson, part workbook. It’s action-oriented and makes it easier to develop a business plan. Here is a link to the book on Amazon, but of course, we’d love it if you bought it from a local bookstore. https://www.amazon.com/Business-Plan-Day-Planning-Shop/dp/1933895373/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=business+plan+in+a+day&qid=1585068734&sr=8-1
Marketing and Communications
#8 – If you have to close your office or store, don’t forget to forward the mail. (This advice comes from Brian Schneider of Oliver’s!)
#9 – Update your website. Is your menu up-to-date? Have you had staff changes but haven’t had a chance to update that webpage? Now is the time. Could you create a banner image that explains how your company is handling the crisis? How about updating your business hours? What functionality do you wish you had;can you sell gift cards online? Can you pivot and sell some of your items online through an ecommerce catalog like WooCommerce for WordPress or the Store function on Squarespace?
#10 – Social Media–If there ever was a time to be social about your business, it’s now. Show the behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a small business during these times. Staying authentic is going to be key. You can’t post too much during this time, as many people are at home, craving for things to do and watch. To go a step further, now would be a great time to use your social media to put a face (faces) to your company, and create deeper ties with your customers and potential customers. If you are doing projects to improve the customer experience in your storefront do some small videos. You can show cleaning projects and how you are working to help the situation.
Uncertainty and change is difficult. Made even more so when we are in the midst of a health crisis. Ultimately, it’s going to take some new ways of thinking and operating our businesses to make it through.
“The future is uncertain… but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity.” – Ilya Prigogine