There are lots of great resources popping up on the internet aimed at helping organizations navigate the challenges of operating, adapting, and ultimately surviving the COVID-19 crisis. So much, in fact, that it can be overwhelming. If you’re struggling to get your bearings, you’re not alone. Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve shared with many young companies and non-profits over the past several weeks. I hope they will be helpful to you as you push to keep your particular set of plates spinning.
Your business model needs to change. Right now. Double down on the startup mindset, move quickly and favor action over trying to predict an uncertain future. Developing new revenue streams is not only important for surviving the immediate crisis, but will also serve you well as every economy and business ecosystem around the globe pushes the reset button, and we all ride out the uncertainty that follows together. Until further notice, it behooves every organization to be an entrepreneurial organization.
Cut Your Costs. Keep Your Integrity.
Now is the time to take drastic action to cut any expenses not essential to survival. Of course, looking for innovative ways to be more efficient is critically important, even if it means a drastic change to your business model. You will inevitably have to make hard choices, especially if it becomes impossible to keep your people fully employed. If it comes to this, be forthright and transparent, explore all contingencies, bend over backward to help take care of people and get them help to recover, call in every favor. These toughest of times are when people’s true colors start to show. Be the kind of person (and lead the kind of company) you always hoped you would when it counts the most.
Go All-in On Community
Be stingy with your cash flow, but go for broke investing in your community. Do this, first and foremost, because it is good for you as a human, and good for the other humans around you. But, also do it because it’s the smart play for your business and the community you are part of. My own research on the long-term effects of entrepreneurial action on communities following widespread disasters suggests that collaboration and investment in community are not just beneficial in crisis response and recovery, but leads to stronger economic and civic outcomes for years or even decades afterward.
Learn more about what research can tell us about entrepreneurship and community recovery post-disaster HERE.
Use Your Lifelines
Many states and municipalities have approved relief stimulus funding and loans for businesses. For example, here in Oxford, the city is donating $200,000 to fund a gift card grant program which will effectively inject revenue directly into local businesses and defer redemption of gift cards until after August 1, 2020. The city’s Community Improvement Corporation has also amended the rules of their revolving business loan fund to allow for zero-interest loans for the purpose of staff retention. At the state level, Ohio launched the new Office of Small Business Relief (https://www.businesshelp.ohio.gov) this week. This new office coordinates State level initiatives including product buyback, insurance premium deferment, and commercial property eviction/foreclosure suspension programs.
At the federal level, the CARES act, recently passed in DC, provides some real relief for businesses in need of cash. This money comes in the form of relief loans through the SBA. Loans up to $10 million (dependent on average monthly payroll) are available as well as bridge loans to tide you over while waiting for the primary loan to be approved. Loan money used for certain expenses (e.g. rent, utilities, up to 8 weeks of payroll) can be completely forgiven, and payments on existing SBA loans can be deferred.
We're In Your Corner
The Altman Institute and our network of alumni and friends are committed to helping organizations in the midst of this crisis and to helping build the new society and economy that will emerge post COVID-19. We believe innovation and entrepreneurial action are (and will be) more important than ever as the world gets back on its feet. We want to help you and to enlist you in helping others. Reach out, and connect with us today.
About Michael Conger
Dr. Michael Conger, Ph.D. is the David F. Herche Endowed Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, OH. His research and teaching focus on how entrepreneurial action can contribute to solving social and environmental problems and the ways in which social enterprises are changing the role of business and organizations in society.