The coronavirus remains the biggest story in the world. And it is touching the lives of nearly every American. If you own a small business, you have unique challenges that the typical full-time employed worker isn't thinking about. From covering your business bills to making payroll to paying for your own living expenses, you have a lot to think about.
Staying safe from coronavirus takes more than just staying home. Follow these tips to stay financially safe in these unique and difficult times.
Steps You to Take if You're a Small Business Owner
Managing Your Team — When you're the boss, the buck stops with you. In addition to following every local, state and federal guideline on keeping your community safe, here are some useful tips to manage your team during a virus outbreak.
- Allow remote work– If you have employees who are able to work from home, now's the time to make it happen. Don't focus on how many hours they sit in a chair. Instead, focus on their productivity. As long as employees meet deadlines and goals, you can trust them to keep up with their work from anywhere with a fast internet connection.
- Reduce face-to-face meetings — You probably shouldn't travel, even if you are still allowed to. You can have nearly any meeting from home using a remote video conference app like Zoom or Skype. If you already use Google's GSuite for your team, Hangouts is another popular conferencing tool.
- Communicate – In this unusual time, customers are more lenient with businesses than usual. But reach out and communicate rather than simply assuming your customers will accept delays or a lower level of service. Equip and empower your team to solve customer problems as they arise.
- Put safety first — The health and safety of your employees and their families is just as important as for yours. If anyone needs added flexibility, time off or other support during the coronavirus outbreak, do your best to support and work with them to meet their needs. If you still have anyone coming into an office, restaurant or factory, make sanitizer and handwashing stations available. And tell anyone with cold or flu symptoms to stay home.
- Offer employees flexibility — Just like you, your employees may be quarantined at home. Or maybe they're helping to take care of sick or elderly relatives or keeping kids home from school. Give them flexibility on work hours. As long as they are available for meetings and meet their deadlines, there's no reason to force employees to follow a specific schedule.
Remember that you have a lot of power over your employees. In a challenging time like today, you can build loyalty and strong relationships with your entire team if you respect their needs and support them throughout the crisis.
Manage Your Business Finances
Once you have your team safely covered, it's time to look at the dollars and cents behind your business. Many businesses are seeing lower sales and struggling to pay the bills. Here are some steps you can take to shore up your business's finances:
- Build cash savings if you're able — If you still have cash coming in the door and you're able to do so, siphon off as much cash as you can into your savings account. And add to those savings if you can. There's no telling exactly how long the lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders will remain in effect. Your money may have to last for months.
- Delay payments to preserve cash — If you are seriously low on operating funds, consider reaching out to suppliers and creditors to discuss delaying payments. They are probably in a similar position as you and want to get paid ASAP. Call or email to discuss your plans rather than just skipping paying the bills.
- Work with banks and lenders if you're out of cash — If you're in a dire position where you don't have cash to pay yourself or anyone else, reach out to your bank and any other lenders to discuss line-of-credit or another financial lifeline while you weather the storm. Bank Novo is a good option for doing that.
When these measures are not enough, you have additional resources available. For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers ongoing programs that can help struggling small businesses.
There's no doubt that millions of small businesses are struggling. If you count yourself among those trying to stay afloat while everyone stays home, a new stimulus plan from the U.S. government may be exactly what you're looking for.
U.S. Government Stimulus Plan to Help Small Businesses
The coronavirus stimulus plan is the largest stimulus in the history of the United States. With $2 trillion rolling out to nearly all corners of the economy, there's a good chance you and your business will get a slice of the pie.
Headlines mostly focus on the $1,200 payment to single households and $2,400 for married taxpayers who file jointly, plus $500 per child (income limits apply.) Businesses and self-employed workers get something extra. The support you get depends on the type of business and industry.
Small businesses benefit from the $377 billion carved out for core small businesses. This comes in the form of different SBA loan guarantees, including the Paycheck Protection Program. Here's how the program works:
- Fast loan availability: Small businesses will have access to bank loans backed by the U.S. government almost immediately.
- Forgiveness for some uses: These emergency loans give businesses quick cash to cover expenses. The portion of loan proceeds used for paying employees, mortgage, rent or utilities might not have to be repaid. Up to eight weeks' of payroll expenses won't have to be repaid.
- No personal guarantee: Unlike most business loans, the emergency stimulus loans don't require a personal guarantee from the business owner.
- Loan limits: Small businesses can get up to $10 million in borrowing through the program. To qualify, you must have 500 employees or fewer. There are no fees and interest rates are capped at 4%.
The program has special provisions for self-employed freelancers. For example, unemployment used to be available only to those who were let go from part-time or full-time employment. Now, some small business owners and sole proprietors may qualify as well.
You can also get help through the SBA's disaster relief fund and get up to $2 million in loans.
Don't Lose Focus From Your Finances
Your business finances support you, your family and your employees' families. With a combination of good management, a focus on your finances, and a potential loan through the small business stimulus plan, you may be able to keep your business afloat even during these challenging times.
Whatever you do, don't ignore your business finances, or problems could sneak up on you. With so many businesses failing, it's more important than ever to pay attention to the dollars and cents of your business. If you stay focused, you're in the best position to maintain your business during the coronavirus crisis.