QUESTION: Like many other non-essential businesses, I have had to close my doors and lay off most of my employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am uncertain when or if I will be able resume operations again. What counsel can SCORE offer?
ANSWER: With all the uncertainties we are dealing with, it is difficult to plan a definitive course of action. One must approach the problem as if you were starting out all over again. A good place to start is to revisit your business plan.
The good news is that this time around you approach the problem of restarting an existing business, as opposed to a brand-new operation. You have the advantage of knowing what has worked in the past and will probably work again when restrictions are finally eased. Use this down time as an opportunity for reflection and forward thinking.
Envision several scenarios where we find a vaccine for COVID-19 and people, your customers, feel comfortable resuming the lifestyle we have previously enjoyed. Also, one where it takes longer, a year or more, to resume normal business activities.
In the second scenario you may resume operations with a scaled down staff, offering limited services to your customers. At least you will be putting bread on the table for yourself and those employees still working. While this is not the ideal, it is a way to cope until things get back to normal.
Hopefully, you have established a business line of credit with your local bank or you have been able to take advantage of the Federal Government’s “Paycheck Protection Program” that provides low interest loans that do not have to be repaid as long as 75% of the funds are used for payroll, employee benefits, rents, etc. A list of participating lenders as well as additional information and full terms can be found at www.sba.gov.
Reach out to your customers to let them know you are planning to resume operations as soon as restrictions are lifted. If your business offers retail goods and services consider offering gift cards at a discount. Forget about your profit margins. You short term goal is to generate enough income to meet monthly expenses.
Above all try to maintain a positive attitude. “This too shall pass” as the saying goes. Your local SCORE business counselor may have other ideas how you can cope with your particular situation.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples and can be reached at Gray.Poehler@scorevolunteer.org. Business counseling is available, without charge, from the Naples Chapter of SCORE. Call (239) 430-0081 or visit https://naples.score.org/content/find-mentor-165 The SCORE business office is located at 900 Goodlette Road North, in the Fifth Third branch bank building. Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.