Joseph Pascaretta, General Manager, Credibility, Dun & Bradstreet
Just a few short months ago, businesses across the U.S. applied for the funding offered through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). I watched friends who own small businesses navigate the loan process and do their best to stay afloat during an event unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes.
I was a small business owner during the last recession. It’s likely you had to make some quick decisions when the first wave of government closures occurred, like I did in 2008: deciding who to pay, where to find savings, and how to better serve your customers. Now that we are beginning to restart our businesses, I’d like to focus on what can be done proactively to better position it to survive potential future downturns.
Evaluate Your Business Relationships
Always look at your business holistically and on an ongoing basis to evaluate your customers, partners and suppliers so you can quickly scale back or change operations as needed in the face of any economic uncertainty that arises.
Customers – Make sure you understand your customers’ needs by periodically checking in and asking them how you can help. This is especially important when their needs may have also changed.
Vendors – If your supply chain was disrupted during the pandemic, you’ve already had to look for alternate vendors, suppliers, or service providers. Now is the time to use the information you have from that experience and make a tiered list of what your business needs to be operational. Determine what is necessary, what is “nice to have,” and what makes doing business easier, but can be foregone if needed, at least in the short term.
Community – Don’t forget about your community – your biggest advocate. Look for where your business can give back or show appreciation for customers, partners, and friends that supported your business during the pandemic or partner with other businesses to offer services to help your customers get back on their feet.
Investigate New Technologies
You may already be leveraging new technologies as a result of pivoting during the pandemic. You can use the evaluations you’ve done already to pinpoint where a change or improvement might drive efficiencies. For example, there may be a fintech solution that could help your company improve cash flow or gain full insight of an order to invoice and cash process.
Create an Emergency Plan
Health professionals have warned about a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the Fall, so it’s wise for businesses to prepare accordingly. Best case scenario, you’ll never need to use this emergency plan, but it will help position your business to survive another possible cease in operations, should that happen. I’m a huge advocate of checklists. Putting a checklist together before an emergency can help you deal with both the immediate and long-term challenges more quickly and effectively.
Things to consider include operational costs that you need to cover, where you can find immediate cost savings, and ways you can pivot production or delivery to continue to fulfill promises to customers and partners. And the most important advice I received as a small business owner was to always prioritize your employees and communicate openly and often with them. There are costs associated with minimizing your workforce that you may not have been aware of, and letting people go does not immediately translate to money back into the business. Make sure you can take care of the people who take care of your business
If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s that being nimble and open to change can be your biggest asset to keep your small business alive when disaster strikes. And by using what you’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to build contingency plans for other emergencies, you’re making your small business even stronger and more resilient in the face of a challenge.
Joseph Pascaretta is the General Manager of Credibility at Dun & Bradstreet, a leading global provider of business decisioning data and analytics. In this role, Joseph is responsible for the strategy, product development, and sales efforts for the company’s Credibility business and small to mid-size business portfolio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dnb.com