Charles Alexander - Headshot new Dec 2019

Alexander

For the past two-and-a-half months I’ve worked harder from home than I think I ever have in the office.

My email and phone have been blowing up with confused and frustrated entrepreneurs.

I have been on countless ZOOM conference calls and feel like I’ve read every article on SBA loans humanly possible.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, because small business owners have been through 10x worse. 

I’m just stating the reality of the situation.

Now that the world is opening back up with people getting out and most likely the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loan will be changed to give more time to work through the forgiveness process, it may feel like we are coming to the end of this thing.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but this is the beginning, not the end.

The recession will be real and it will be tough.

It’s like when the preacher baptizes a new Christian.  The preacher doesn’t say, it’s all over and you can coast from here on out.”  The preacher says, “Now is when the real work begins.”

During the Great Recession over a decade ago, Middle Tennessee lost several good businesses.  

They couldn’t generate enough revenue to pay fixed expenses, let alone for the business owner to feel like they were making the money they deserved.

However, several good businesses started then too.

  • Future Vision Energy (now Energy Lighting Services)
  • Green Village Recycling
  • Campione’s Taste of Chicago
  • Epic Events Centre
  • Café Rakka

And several more thrived, despite a down economy.

So what should you do?

I’m sure you’re over being told to just “pivot” or “every problem presents and opportunity.”

Both of those things are true, but sometimes the tone deafness of it makes you tune out altogether.

But there is something to changing your mindset.

Right now more than ever, you need to turn the TV off, put the phone away, and quit listening to your favorite angry radio/podcast host telling how things are worse than ever.

A)     You don’t have time for it.  You’ve got a business to run.

B)     It’s an energy suck and makes you anxious!

Unless, you plan on doing something meaningful with the information you obtain from the clickbait driven world we live in i.e., going to work for a local non-profit, sending money to a charity, peaceful protesting, writing your Congressman daily, etc., then you are just feeding your mind junk food.

Yes, I get that we have an obligation to be an informed citizen of the U.S., but that really only takes minutes a day and not hours.

Here’s the analogy that comes to mind.

The way we are “staying informed” is like, saying, “I’m hungry so I would be foolish not to eat.” 

But you’re not eating 2-3 healthy meals a day that are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

You’re snacking all day long on Doritos and Twinkies.  Lots of them!

Quit putting junk food in your brain!!!

So what should you do as a small business owner that is real and tangible?

  • Use that time and energy to reset your 2020 revenue goals. Literally, put pen to paper and write out what your revenue goals for the rest of the year MUST be in order to survive and/or get back on track to your original goals.
  • How many customers will you need to survive/thrive for the rest of the year?  What is you new average sale worth?  That will tell you how many customers you need each month to make this happen.
  • You’ll have to change your marketing in a lot of cases.  Be willing to set aside time on Tuesday and Friday afternoons and call people and ask for referrals and follow up on leads.  Send out good email marketing that people will find helpful and make them want to buy from you.  For some of you, social media is necessary, but also noisy right now, so pay close attention to what is working and quit spending time on the stuff that isn’t.  
  • Take this time to get your bookkeeping organized.  If you are unable or unwilling, talk to your CPA or bookkeeper.  This is not an expense you can afford to cut.
  • Decide on how many employees you truly need to move forward.  I understand that a lot of employees are making more money on unemployment versus working, but let me be blunt here.  This is a good time to upgrade employees in a few spots.  Unemployment is no longer 3%, so you can find possibly find someone else that has the right attitude to help you take your business forward. 
  • Be willing to streamline your business as much as possible and cut expenses that aren’t related to marketing.  Ask for deferrals and work out payment agreements.

And if you are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, then just do one small thing. 

Even if you only take a piece of paper and pencil, write one sentence.  Make one phone call.  Send one email.

But do SOMETHING!

Your momentum is everything right now and you can’t just sit there.

As far as the TSBDC goes, we are currently forming partnerships with accounting, marketing, and human resource firms to help businesses get back on track.

Hopefully in the coming month or so, we will have real, in-person workshops and in another month or so even live, one-on-one counseling.

In the meantime, if you own a business and want to receive free, one-on-one confidential advising through email and/phone go to www.tsbdc.org and click on Request Advising.

Stay safe and let’s get to work!

Charles Alexander is the Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Vol State Community College.

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