No one has a crystal ball to see when businesses will start to open up again, but smart business owners and marketers are already planning for what lies ahead. If you wait until you get the go-ahead to open up to start to plan your business comeback, you may find all your competitors racing past you at the starting line.
As you make the shift from survival mode to comeback mode, take a look at these tips which we've pulled together to help you hit your mark, get set, and go.
1. Stay in Touch with Your Employees
No business thrives without a dedicated workforce who bring their skills and passion to the job every day. You have probably already been keeping your whole team up to date on your own company's situation, and as you prepare for your comeback, you need to confirm your concern for them. Be transparent with all developments, and let them know your plans as they come into shape.
2. Plan for Interaction with Your Customers
All brick-and-mortar businesses are likely to face new requirements when they reopen. While you definitely need to stay up to date on what your state, county, and city ask of you, you also need to make sure your employees are fully informed. Your staff may have to wear masks and gloves for a while, they may have to practice social distancing, and you may have other requirements you insist on for your customers' health and safety. Put your expectations in writing to make sure everyone's operating on the same page.
3. Get Your Finances in Order
If your business has been closed for a matter of weeks or even months, your balance sheet may not be in the best of health. Before you open up, take a long, measured look at your financials to determine how to approach the new normal. You may need to apply for a business loan to pay bills that have been piling up or to replace inventory. You also need to estimate just how much business you expect to do immediately if, for example, you have to limit the number of customers who enter your establishment and you experience hitches in your cash flow. Working with your banker and your accountant can help you make wise decisions while you have time to consider all your options.
4. Plan to Remain Flexible
Even when your local governments okay opening up again, you may not want to leap feet first into the fray. Check with your insurance company for guidance, especially if customers or clients enter your workplace. Social distancing guidelines are likely to remain in effect in many locations, so you may want to allow staff to continue to work from home — a situation which requires a great deal of trust between employer and employee. If you can create contingency plans now, you'll provide yourself with more options once it's time for your comeback.
We believe in the ability of our community to bounce back from tough times and to adapt to new environments, so we are optimistic about the future for our region. If you're ready to pivot and adapt as you begin your comeback, you should find your business in a position of leadership again.
On Saturday, the 4th of July, President Trump signed legislation that extends the deadline for businesses to apply for aid under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The bill extends the deadline for businesses to apply for PPP loans until Aug. 8. The program, set up to assist businesses impacted by closures related to the coronavirus pandemic, had expired on June 30 with roughly $130 billion left unused.
The Senate in a surprise passed the legislation by unanimous consent late on June 30, extending the program hours before it was set to expire.
The House took up the Senate bill and passed it by unanimous consent on July 1, sending it to Trump’s desk.
The lending program was established by the $2 trillion stimulus package negotiated by the White House and congressional leaders and signed into law at the end of March.
The program experienced a chaotic rollout but has been popular, with the Small Business Administration lending more than $520 billion in emergency loans to more than 4.8 million small businesses.
The extension comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill prepare for negotiations over the next round of coronavirus stimulus. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion stimulus bill in May that included aid for state and local governments and another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans, but the measure gained little traction in the GOP-controlled Senate.
COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for small and medium-sized business owners and managers. While we're still learning what the true economic fallout of this pandemic will be, one thing is clear: companies that want to survive, and even thrive, need to double-down on efforts to manage cash flow. That means finding ways to deal with big-ticket expenses such as rent, contracted services and wholesale orders.
Should you try to negotiate a rent reduction? One of the obvious strategies in light of the pandemic-related restrictions on businesses is to try to negotiate a rent reduction. This provides immediate financial relief, giving you time to reconfigure your business in a way that meets the current economic realities.
When deciding whether to seek a rent reduction or rent deferral from your commercial landlord, consider the following:
Who owns your building?
Is it a private investor, a property developer or a commercial investment firm? Understanding the short and long-term goals of your landlord will help you know whether they're likely to accept a reduced rent or rent deferral arrangement.
What has your relationship been like with your landlord?
If you're a good tenant with a positive tenant-landlord relationship, chances are good your landlord will want to work with you. On the other hand, if the relationship has been rocky, don't be surprised if your landlord uses COVID as an opportunity to terminate your tenancy.
What are your long-term business plans?
Even if you're unable to pay your full rent right now, you may be able to negotiate reduced or deferred lease payments with your landlord in exchange for extending your lease. From the perspective of the landlord this may be a better option than loosing you as a tenant, which means they'll have to try to recruit another tenant — that's not something most landlords want to do during a recession.
During the recession of the 1980s, commercial property vacancies nationwide skyrocketed from 4.9% to a staggering 18.9%, so there's good reason for your landlord to want to retain their existing tenants.
Can you enter into an income-sharing agreement?
Rather than thinking of your landlord-tenant relationship as an us-vs-them situation, consider proposing an income-sharing agreement. This arrangement involves paying a percentage of gross revenues rather than a set rental rate, and it's commonly used in the agricultural industry where the landowner crop shares with the tenant farmer. Not only can this type of agreement help you stay in business, but it can also align the goals of all parties involved.
What about vendors?Rent or lease payments aren't the only big-ticket expense that many businesses can't afford during COVID-19 — a number of companies are unable to meet their contractual obligations to their vendors. Whether or not you should try to renegotiate vendor contracts depends on a number of factors, including if your contract contains a Force Majeure clause.
A Force Majeure is an extraordinary event or set of unforeseen circumstances that prevent one or more parties to a contract from fulfilling their contractual obligations. If the right conditions exist, the contract will be temporary suspended for the duration of the event that triggered the Force Majeure clause, and in some cases, one or more parties may be entitled to compensation.
Even if your contracts don't contain a Force Majeure clause, you should be proactive by starting a conversation with your vendors about how COVID-19 has impacted your business. Given the global nature of this crisis, everyone has been impacted, so chances are good your vendors will be open to working out a plan that is viable for everyone involved.
As more Ventura businesses reopen or prepare to reopen, we've put together a list of where you can purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep yourself, your team and your customers safe.
Products were in stock when this list was originally published; please call or order online to verify items are still available.
Locally Sourced PPE: Oxnard Chamber of Commerce Members
*Converted several of its manufacturing lines to produce hand sanitizer
Fastsigns of Oxnard
2339 N. Oxnard Boulevard (Oxnard)
301 W Pleasant Valley Road (Oxnard)
*Facemasks and gloves
4731 Telephone Road (Ventura)
*Facemasks, hand sanitizer, protective shields
PrintPromoPlus by Safeguard
1000 Paseo Camarillo (Camarillo)
(805) 486-9769 or (800) 786-4222
*masks, hand sanitizers and other personal protection items
411 W. Esplanade Drive (Oxnard)
*Hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, shields
3891 N. Ventura Avenue (Ventura)
*Began producing hand sanitizer at the distillery; View pricing and details for bulk orders
2001 Rose Avenue (Oxnard)
2701 Saviers Road (Oxnard)
*Facemasks, hand sanitizer, gloves
CONNECTING WITH CUSTOMERS
From fast, flexible funding to collecting mobile payments, online ordering and e-invoicing, Heartland Payment Systems is keeping businesses updated with supportive resources to stay in business and connect with customers wherever they are. LEARN MORE>>
CLEANING YOUR BUSINESS OR FACILITY
JaniTek employee are tirelessly working at the frontlines of this pandemic. These behind-the-scenes heroes are responding to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 exposure and are diligently following all CDC cleaning and disinfecting guidelines. JaniTek has increased service to all essential businesses that remain open and are dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of our community. Learn more at www.janitek.net or call them for a consultation at (805) 823-8296.
SERVPRO of Oxnard is being called on by numerous business and community leaders to perform the necessary bioremediation service to clean, disinfect and sanitize their properties. LEARN MORE>>
HIRING FOR ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES
Businesses that are considered essential are busy and are hiring, such as those in food and agriculture, logistics, grocery stores, medical supplies and manufacturers/suppliers for defense. If you're looking for a job or if your company is hiring, please get in touch with one of these agencies.
Please note that email or telephone communication is best as most offices are closed to walk-in visitors.
FEEDING OUR COMMUNITY
Community Action of Ventura County is providing food through its drive-thru food pantry program every Thursday from 12:30-3:30 pm (or until food runs out) at its facility located at 621 Richmond Avenue in Oxnard. Before COVID-19, it averaged between 100-120 households served; two weeks ago, 292 households picked up food. LEARN MORE>>
Food Share of Ventura County opened pop-up pantry distributions throughout the county. Distributions are limited to low-income families residing in the city of that distribution. An ID or proof of residence is required upon arrival. All distribution sites are drive-thru only for the safety of you and our staff. Food is limited to one box per household on a first come, first served basis. LEARN MORE>>
CREATING ESSENTIAL SIGNS FOR ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES
From social distancing decals and safety shields for employees, to letting customers know that you're open for business or doing curbside deliveries, it's more important than ever to communicate new processes and key information. Contact one of these Chamber members to create attention grabbing signage for your business.
MAINTAINING SOCIAL DISTANCE IN YOUR OFFICE OR FACILITY
Party Pleasers Event Rentals has tables and chairs available at discounted rates for maintaining social distancing requirements in the workplace. Contact them at www.partypleasers.com or call them at (805) 377-7368.