Just a few weeks ago, the Illinois Small Business Development Center of McLean County at Illinois Wesleyan University served its 540th client while small businesses across McLean County were engaged in business as usual. What a dramatic change in the landscape!
Regarding small businesses, let’s look at the COVID-19 pandemic from “opposite directions”:
What can small businesses do?
First of all, overcommunicate to all of your stakeholders. Maintain a constant flow of information to your employees about changing conditions and, importantly, remember to seek their input/feedback.
Utilize social media channels to keep customers apprised of any changes to the “basics” of your business: special hours, availability of curbside pickup, delivery options, etc.
Seek professional help from your legal adviser, accountant, insurance agent, and financial institution for assistance in mitigating your financial challenges.
Recommendations and guidance are rapidly evolving. Monitor official communications by the federal CDC and also the local health department.
The McLean County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Economic Development Council and the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to create a new website: BNPrepared.org. This site is providing the current status of local and state resources for businesses. And don’t forget to regularly check the SBDC website at www.mcleancosbdc.org.
While we’re waiting for further developments from Washington, the Small Business Administration's Disaster Loan program (www.sba.gov/disaster) already has low-interest loans of $25,000 to $2 million for small businesses and private nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These working capital loans can be used to meet needs including payroll, accounts payable, and fixed debt payments until the situation improves. They have repayment options of up to 30 years. Interest rates are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private nonprofits, but the loans will have a deferred payment of one year from the date of the note.
What can we all do to help small businesses survive this existential crisis?
As we’ve outlined in previous columns, small businesses make up the very fabric and character of our community and our lives. If we lose any of them, it will be a long time, if ever, before we can restore or replace any of these small enterprises.
To these essential friends and neighbors, cash flow is the very lifeblood of their survival. An excellent way to get money into these businesses is by purchasing gift cards to help them stay afloat. Also, it should go without saying that individuals and larger businesses that are contracting with small firms should pay all outstanding invoices as fast as humanly possible to support their vendors and keep the economy moving.
If you’re a small business owner and need further information, feel free to reach out to the SBDC at www.mcleancosbdc.org. We’ll find answers to your questions or, if possible, arrange a virtual or telephone appointment by going to the SBDC’s website and clicking “Request a Meeting.” Stay healthy and be safe!
Bussone is director of the Small Business Development Center, Illinois Wesleyan University.
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