In this episode we are talking about taking action in your business during difficult times. What can you do with the information you already have and your plans from the beginning of the year? How can you use that to make the adjustments needed to keep your business running? Hopefully you took advantage and have listened to our 10-part strategic planning series, because this will be helpful! How do we take the information we have now about your business, leverage it, pivot and change as needed as you face these different challenges that COVID-19 is throwing our way?
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:01 – Intro
- 02:19 – Challenging times
- 03:09 – Making decisions
- 06:06 – Budgeting and cash flow projections
- 09:54 – Contingency plans
- 13:54 – Where are you now vs. revenue goals
- 15:12 – Line of credit and reserve funds
- 17:16 – Federal assistance
- 20:28 – Unforeseen/unprecedented occurrences and the importance of strategic planning
- 23:30 – Communication with lenders
- 24:36 – Team of professionals
A few weeks ago in episode #28 we discussed keeping calm and pressing on in times of uncertainty. One of the topics that we talked about was how challenging things have been for individuals and families, but spoke about how as business owners, you may have added stress because those individuals and their families rely on you. With everything that we’re facing, it’s easy to become almost paralyzed by everything going on, all the information coming at us and how quickly things are changing. So what can we do? What actions can we take? We are going to talk about what we already have in our business that we can leverage today and start taking action to gain back the control we do have over the situation.
Decision making has become even more difficult as we are surrounded by uncertainty and we don’t know what the future holds, even in the short term. But as business owners, we have to be able to make good decisions. In order to make good decisions, we need good information. We can’t put our feelings aside completely, but we have to look at the business situation of things. We have found that everybody really is concerned about people, which is an amazing trait and characteristic of many business owners. Unfortunately, during times like this, you really have to look at your business and how you’re going to make your business successful.
Bigger picture: You’re going to impact every individual related to the business if your business fails completely. Ultimately, you may have to make some really tough decisions in the coming weeks and months. That may mean letting some people go or making other significant changes for which you hadn’t planned. You really need to do what’s best for the business overall. Although these tough choices may impact a few people, it’s going to keep many others employed moving forward if you’re able to keep your business afloat. These are really tough decisions that we know business owners are having to make in these times. It’s unfortunate, but you have to keep the business at the forefront because otherwise you may be going down a road that you can’t endure, which is going to ultimately be a bigger sacrifice for everybody.
Budgeting and cash flow projections
One of the first things that we can tackle in our business is to look at your budget and cashflow. If you have already created a budget or cash flow projection for the current year, you’ll want to start there. You have information down, you have goals set for this year and you can start with that. You may have met some of those goals for January and February, but really the rest of 2020 is not going to look like you had envisioned originally. You’re going to need to take a hard look at that and see where you fall. There are many businesses that have closed completely and will have absolutely no revenue for several weeks or up to a month or two. You need to adjust your budget or your cash flow projections to account for that.
Expenses: Start with the expenses you may be able to reduce or postpone. You may want to reach out to your landlord if you have a rent payment. Can you push that back? Many payments are being given a two month leeway so there are no payments due for two months, but you will have to pay all of that the next month, meaning three months rent all at once. That may help if you’re struggling with bringing in cash right now and anticipate resolving your cash flow issues so you are prepared when you owe more in the future. Go through your budget and look at things that may be able to be reduced or removed and it will give you a better sense of what the next several months and the rest of the year will look like.
Cash flow: If you are struggling with cash flow, which many businesses are, you’re going to want to take a hard look at your cash flow situation and look at all the money coming in, all the money that needs to go out and make decisions on that. Review that information and see where you might be able to save or make changes. We talk about issues with cash flow and offer a free template in episode #23, 5 Ways to Manage Cash Flow Issues.
Options: Tough decisions are going to have to be made and a big part of the decision is do you have the cash flow to get through the next several months? If you don’t, then you’re likely going to need to lay off some of your employees to have them go collect unemployment and hopefully hire them back in several months. Another option is to keep them employed, continue to pay them their salaries and get some credits and some tax refunds in the future. However you need to have enough cash flow to be able to support that for several months because it’s not going to be an immediate cash relief for you.
Those are two of the biggest decisions many businesses are having to make today. If you have budget and cash flow projections, that’s where you want to start because that’s where you can take a look at where you are now, adjust those numbers to where you expect to land and see what that impact is going to be for you.
Cash Flow Template
This free template will help you establish a basic cash flow spreadsheet.
Complete with instructions, this straight forward template shows inflows and outflows that will help you manage your cash flow on a monthly basis.
Prior to any crisis occurring, we try to create contingency plans that we’ll put into place if something happens. We always hope we will never have to use them, but now we’re actually living through whether or not those plans worked or not. Some of the typical items you’ll see listed in contingency plans are backups of your information, locations if needed, and remote work. If these items were not in any of your contingency plans, we talk about how to get setup remotely in episode #26, A Quick Start Guide to Running Your Business Remotely, which can help you moving forward.
Backups/cloud: Do you have a way to back up your system and access important documents from the cloud? Many businesses are discovering whether or not those backup plans are working in today’s environment. Do you have a way to get everything onto a cloud or maybe dial in or access your systems from home? There are VPN processes available depending on the type of businesses you have and it could be well worth the investment into IT support to continue operating.
Working remotely: This is giving many business owners the opportunity to figure out how they can do things remotely. We did put together a quick start guide to running your business remotely. If you missed that and you’d like to listen, it’s episode #26 of the Cultivating Business Growth Podcast.
Where are you now vs. revenue goals
Not only are you working from home or in different locations, but there is also an impact to revenue for many different businesses. You’re going to want to look at what your revenue goals were for 2020 and come to terms with the fact that you’re likely not hitting those goals. If you’re trying to project for our new reality, you should look back to 2019. That will give you a historical frame of reference for what your business can really do. Then we recommend taking some percentages of that number – 70% 80% 90% of your 2019 numbers are more realistic estimations of what’s going to happen for 2020.
None of us can tell with certainty what’s going to happen, when businesses will be allowed to reopen, or when our economy will start to rebound. We all hope it’s very soon, but we just don’t really know. You want to be prepared for some different outcomes and take a look at the impact of a situation where you make as low as 50% or 60% of last year. Ask yourself – where does that put me? What does that look like on the expense side and what do I have to cut? Then you know what to do as you track your budget and cash flow in the coming months.
Line of credit and reserve funds
Line of credit: We have hounded on this in prior episodes, but we want to again discuss the importance of a line of credit. We highly recommend having a line of credit available in normal times and even more so now. You can’t predict the future and this safety net can help you get through small bumps or even timing issues with cash. We always recommend trying to get that line of credit set up in advance of actually needing it, but you still may be able to get credit to help you with some short term cash situations you’re dealing with today.
Reserve funds: We also recommend creating a savings account. It’s good to have on your personal side, especially during times like this where you build up enough reserves to be able to get you through six months of no income. What do your expenses look like if something terrible happens that you can’t necessarily foresee at the moment? The same thing goes for your business. You want to have that savings built up so that if you happen to need a short term infusion of cash, you can borrow it from yourself. Whether you can put in $500 a month or $200 a month, make it part of your normal budget. The more money you can invest in a savings account, the better. The first thing you can do is go to your reserve funds if you need a little bit of cash then you can go to the line of credit.
In today’s environment with the Coronavirus outbreak, there is legislation that has been passed to help both small businesses and families. In our podcast episode #27, we discussed legislation, support and assistance programs that are available to businesses. There is funding for employers who are keeping their work staff employed. There are going to be some tax credits and reduction of payroll taxes that are due to them if they do continue to employ their employees during this tough time. There’s also going to be additional funding for unemployment for those who do get laid off and lose their jobs.
SBA loans: The SBA (Small Business Administration) loans that were available have now been put on hold as of the release of this episode on April 20, 2020. If you have not already submitted your application, it is unlikely that it will be approved. If you did however, and you’re funding your business with a loan like this, there are important considerations to make. You have to be comfortable that you’re going to be able to turn the corner and bring revenue back in because you are going to have to pay these loans back. While the interest rates are low, you don’t want to just borrow money unnecessarily without realizing that you have to bring revenue back in and have additional money to be able to pay off those loans. Fully understand the terms of the loan prior to committing. Will you have to personally guarantee the loan? How much may be forgiven? How do I figure out how much may be forgiven? When will that be determined? All of these questions need to be answered prior to committing to a new loan.
Unforeseen/unprecedented occurrences and the importance of strategic planning
This exact situation is not something anyone could have or would have reasonably seen coming. But that’s what strategic and contingency plans are for, as we discussed above. You cannot see the future and that’s why we plan ahead for any type of emergency or lack of funds.
We were able to sit down with our clients and take a look at their budget to quickly answer questions and make decisions.
- What are my expenses this year?
- What, if any, adjustments need to be made?
- Are there certain payments you can stop making?
- Are there any loan payments that need to be delayed?
That is why we encourage all business owners to have their strategic plan in place. Although your plan may change, it gives you a starting point and helps to give you a sense of direction, which ultimately helps you to make decisions. The only way you can get in control of this situation is by knowing the facts, knowing what you have in front of you and knowing the impact. Maybe you are still open part time and you are getting some revenue, it’s just lower. How does that impact the future? How does that impact what changes you need to make today? Again, planning and having that information quickly available is the best way for you to make solid decisions.
Communication with lenders
We also want to highlight that it’s important to communicate with your lenders and everyone you pay. If you can’t make a payment, reach out and talk to them about it. What are your options? Many companies are being flexible as far as deferring or offering payment plans. Don’t just ignore it and don’t assume you have to pay it no matter what. This could be an area that you could work with to improve your cash flow situation for the time being.
Team of professionals
The last point that we want to emphasize is to surround yourself with a team of professionals.
It’s really important as a business owner, especially if you’re a solo business owner, to get as many people on your side as possible. If you have a tax accountant, a CPA, an attorney, or HR support, you need to reach out to them. You need to pull them into these decisions that you need to make so that you’re not making the decisions alone.
There’s a ton of support out there and there are experts in all these areas. Don’t take on all the pressure yourself. Track down the people who are experts in the areas with which you need assistance. You likely have many of these people in your arena and you just need to reach out.
We also highly advise having discussions with anyone who is a part of your team. Reach out to any employees you trust to discuss their ideas as they can be a good sounding board. Have them ask you tough questions that maybe you’re trying to push back. You need to hear tough questions sometimes and face the reality of the situation. Those advisors and trusted employees are there to ask you those tough questions and make sure you’re considering everything you really need to consider.
If you want to come out of something as tough as this economic downturn that we’re all experiencing, we highly recommend getting advice from the people who have the most expertise in those areas. They’re going to carry you through.They’re going to give you advice and you may choose not to take their advice, but you want to hear all the options, thoughts, and questions that these people have. They may bring up a great thought that didn’t know was an option, or make your decision easier. Get as many good experts on your team as you can.
So as we’ve been shifting our focus and talking about these topics that surround how to move your business forward during these difficult times. With the stimulus bill updates, legislation changes, we are encouraging you to share this with anyone who could benefit. We’re putting this information out there for free and having these types of discussions with our clients and trying to help them get through this with their business intact.
Start with your budget and cash flow. Review the cash flow template available for free and listen to episode #23: 5 Ways to Manage Cash Flow Issues if you don’t already have one in place..
It is crucial to get as informed as you can and make decisions based on accurate and whole information. Obviously the emotional impact is something you need to consider, but as business owners we have to make tough decisions. Sometimes you have to be able to make those tough decisions because that’s your role as the business owner to be looking out for the best interest of the business long term.
Look at your contingency plans, any line of credit or reserve fund and the federal assistance to develop your game plan for how you will move through the next few months. Obviously this situation is not one we could have seen coming, but your strategic plan is so crucial to have because it allows you to take action and make decisions in your business during difficult times like these. There will be difficult decisions to make, but again you have to really base it on data, facts, and what’s coming down the road.
Leverage your team. Pull in the professionals you work with like your CPA, attorney, banker, etc. to get information about what your options are in the months ahead. They are experts in their field and the investment spent in talking to them could very well save your business. Lean on employees you trust. Work as a team.
It’s a tough time, but we’re tougher. We’re going to make it. Keep your chin up, keep working hard, ask the tough questions and we’ll all come out of this on the other side a lot wiser and hopefully growing or continuing to grow our business well into the future.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- 10-part strategic planning series
- Episode #28: Keep Calm & Press On In Times of Uncertainty
- Episode #23: 5 Ways to Manage Cash Flow Issues
- Episode #26: A Quick Start Guide to Running Your Business Remotely
- Episode #27: Legislature, Support, and Assistance Programs for Your Business During Coronavirus Outbreak – Part I
- SBA (Small Business Administration)