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Berkonomics

Three questions to answer about your COVID response

Most of us are affected by this current crisis. Many businesses threatened with closure forever.  Small businesses are the most vulnerable, even though most have furloughed employees. Rent and other fixed costs continue, even when revenues have dried up – a fatal combination.

So, here are three urgent questions for you

FINANCIAL:  Do you have twelve to eighteen months of cash to cover your “burn rate” now and as you recover?  Raising money during this crisis will be almost impossible, even from friends and family shocked by the stock market declines.

Everything will recover. Stocks will climb again. COVID will become a word used in the past tense.  But that good news will not help you if you run out of money during the time it takes for these to happen.

The financial effect of acting early

Plan for reductions in fixed overhead, salaries, and other costs now. Every day you wait is at least a day lost in the future when you could be growing again.  Apply to the SBA for an Emergency Loan or through your bank for the new “PPP” loan program.   Both are easier to get than conventional loans, and the PPP can be forgiven in some circumstances.  There is lots of literature published by the SBA, attorneys and accounting firms about both.

What are you doing today to modify behavior during this crisis?

[Email readers, continue here…  ]  DURING THIS CRISIS:  Having no plan is like having a bad plan.  Have you squeezed every dime of cost that is non-core related from your business?  Do you still need marketing costs when there is no-one out there buying new product?  Are your salespeople making few if any sales because your prospective customers are distracted by their own problems?

Act boldly to address painful layoffs, reductions in salaries, cuts in trade shows already contracted (even if cancelled or reset to the fall months.)  Rethink the value of these to your bottom line even after you’re open for business again.

What is the plan for after it’s all over?

AFTER THE CRISIS:   Here’s one most small and medium business managers forget in the midst of the panic to survive.  How about a marketing and sales blitz at just the right time to overwhelm your surviving competitors, look larger than life to your largest competition, and restart sales faster and perhaps at a greater clip than ever?  Your competitors will most likely be conservative at just that moment and be timid in their approach to spending lots for marketing and sales.

Consider that some of your cuts made during the crisis should be make permanent.  

Take advantage of shedding the overhead. Test whether those expenses are contributing to profits after the recovery.  It is easier to keep them off the books than increase overhead again, especially after earlier payroll lay-offs.

Be smart!  Plan now for financial and operational changes during and after this crisis.  You’ll be “miles” ahead of your competitors if you do.

  • Michael O'Daniel

    Also, I’m reading nothing but horror stories about SBA and PPP lending. Perhaps someone has some tips as to how to navigate the process more effectively with the banks or the govt agencies that are originating these loans.

  • Michael O'Daniel

    I would add that one additional benefit of following these steps is that you signal to the rest of the world that you have strong, proactive management and you’re a good place to work; even if you had to make painful cuts along the way, you treated both the employees you kept and those you didn’t with honesty and compassion.

  • Dan Hoefflin

    That’s a great summary at the perfect time. Since we are in uncharted territory, we really don’t know the full down-stream negative affect of the virus. Some are obvious, some are not (AKA oil being negative). Cash will be extremely important. It is a great time to rethink and discard anything unnecessary.

  • Harley Kaufman

    Dave–
    How ’bout “Are there any new products or initiatives that we can bring to market that are uniquely suited to the post COVID-19 environment? Coming back out of this serious vortex is the time to be intelligently aggressive, not stupidly cautious. Go boldly (but with intelligence and good data) into the abyss and you just may wind up as “The Last Man Standing” with your business opportunities expanding exponentially.

    • Harley,
      Although there will be lots of opportunities to develop new products that had no demand before the crisis, existing companies should consider marketing blitzes as soon as business looks like it is returning. Spending on wide marketing will overwhelm the rest of the competition, most of which will be conservative or even barely alive. It is the best way to increase market share with this one-time opportunity.
      -Dave

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