Taking Care of Business During a Pandemic

SPECIAL NEWS: The Arsenal team at IVMF is facilitating a series of webinars to discuss the impact COVID-19 is having on small business, and providing resources and guidance for veteran and military spouse business owners to successfully navigate the pandemic. Corporate partners and entrepreneurship experts also will be contributing to the series to enhance our myriad of resources.

Stay tuned for information about future webinars. 

 


Our team is working hard to make good on our promise to serve those who have served. Never has that been more critical than this year as we have faced and continue to face a lot of uncertainty in business. We have compiled a list of personal and professional tips and resources to help you navigate the current COVID-19 situation. This page continues to be updated as more information becomes available.

Short-term action and long-term response need to be key areas of focus during this time. Here are some key pieces of advice to consider right away:

  • It is not too late to write a business continuity plan.
  • Be clear but concise about what your customers can expect from your business – if you are still up and running, communicate what you are doing to continue to serve them during this crisis. And if you decide to temporarily suspend operations, let your customers know that as well.
  • Post Program Resource providers (Gardner & Capparelli, CPAs) have put together multiple articles and presentation webinars on the forgiveness portion of the PPP loans. Find out more information here: https://www.gardnerandcapparelli.com/blog/
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees may claim an exemption from the emergency paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and the exemption applies specifically to leave taken for reasons of child care and school closures related to COVID-19, according to a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) guidance updated March 28. More details listed in People section below.
  • In addition to traditional SBA loans, the CARES Act created new temporary programs to help small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are all listed here – https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options.
  • The SBA has 68 District Offices throughout the country and also partners with a variety of other organizations and agencies to support and supplement its work. Find a local resource here – https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance.

In the current economic climate, it is important now, more than ever, to continue supporting veteran-owned businesses. View our Buy Veteran & Military Spouse Shopping Guide.

  • People

    While businesses are reviewing reopening procedures and other policies, consider the effect the virus has on the people within each organization. Employees have become increasingly anxious with the rise of the pandemic and what it means to socially distance yourself in a working environment. While most companies have implemented a strict protocol to promote hygiene, other companies have reverted to working remotely. Big businesses have issued travel restrictions with the intention of limiting their employees’ exposure. In some cases, companies have been forced to shut down completely in response to the lack of incoming business. This outbreak has left many employees without a job. What’s next? First, protect your employees and provide them with resources to safely prepare as the virus unfolds:

    Tips to prepare:

  • Operations

    COVID-19 is affecting more than just healthcare operations. Small businesses in all industries are forced to adjust and adapt to the changing consumer environment. While many companies are forced to cut their hours of operations to lower business costs, other businesses are capitalizing on e-commerce opportunities and virtual services. Below are tips to help shift your daily process to accommodate social distancing:

    Tips

    • Communication Is Key
      • Communicate with your customers to let them know what you are doing to combat the virus; hygiene procedures, operating hours, response to the outbreak, SOP changes
      • Chamber of Commerce tips on how to communicate with your customers and what other businesses are doing to stay connected during the pandemic
    • Virtual Sales and Services
      • Offering gift cards and vouchers online is a great way for services to increase a cash flow immediately. Kabbage Payments is helping small businesses sign up to sell gift certificates online.
      • Digital marketing is essential in the wake of the coronavirus. Strategize how to shift to more digital efforts via ClickZ’s article on Digital Marketing in the Wake of the Coronavirus Outbreak.
      • Virtual Customer Services
        • Connect with your customers digitally; social media, video chat, telephone
        • Increase online posts and advertising
      • Shifting to e-commerce – The Balance Small Business released an article, 8 Easy Ways to Get Your Small Business Into Ecommerce
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Team to Win
      • Team up with local businesses that would otherwise be your competitors to share information on responses and successful strategies
      • Seattle is doing it right – teaming up with local businesses that would otherwise be your competitors to share information on responses and successful strategies
      • Share your customers – collaborate to offer bundle deals that will entice customers to shop at both locations
    • US Chamber Small Biz Corona Guide – https://www.uschamber.com/co/small-business-coronavirus
    • The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to arm as many people as they can with tips on how to spot, avoid, and report Coronavirus scams. They are continuing to help their customers by establishing a website to keep everyone updated with important information on how to protect themselves from COVID-19 scams.
  • Business Continuity

    All employers need to determine how best to mitigate the spread of the virus and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace. They should identify and communicate their specific intentions, which could include protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, maintaining business continuity, and minimizing adverse effects on other departments or organizations in your supply chains.

    When reviewing your organization’s policies and procedures, it is important to think through the second-order effects as well. For example, a ban on travel without a solid work-from-home policy can make the office crowded, leading to higher risk of transmission, and, if you conduct business from multiple geographical locations, consider what impact the closure of one office has on the productivity of another.

    Some of the key considerations when making decisions on appropriate responses are:

    Tips to Prepare:

    • Have you written a business continuity plan? It’s not too late.
    • Virus severity (i.e., number of people who are sick, hospitalization and death rates) in the community where the business is located
    • Impact of virus on employees who are vulnerable and may be at higher risk for COVID-19 adverse health complications
    • Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools:
      • Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace. Implement plans to continue your essential business functions.
      • Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
    • Do you know the rules around giving notice of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and the sharing of medical information? Here is need-to-know data privacy information for reference.
    • Allow local leadership/management to have authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business infectious disease response plan based on the condition in each locality.
    • Coordination with state and local health officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each operational location
    • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has additional tips for preparing your workspaces for COVID-19 (OSHA Standards for COVID-19 and Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19)
  • Financials

    Troubled organizations are more likely to believe in a faster recovery—or a shallower downturn. Facing up to the possibility of a deeper, more protracted downturn is essential, as the options available now may be more palatable than those available later.

    Keep your financial house in order during the pandemic:

    Tips to Prepare:

    • IVMF Post Program Resource providers (Gardner & Capparelli, CPAs) have put together multiple articles and presentation webinars on the forgiveness portion of the PPP loans. Find out more information here: https://www.gardnerandcapparelli.com/blog/
    • Ensure accessibility to vendor information, account numbers, and invoices/payments if employees are not permitted to be physically present in the office
    • Evaluate ability to cut checks early if necessary, for quarantine purposes
    • Evaluate potential penalties if payments are delayed due to quarantine purposes
    • Set-up automated payments for recurring expenses such as utilities, janitorial services, and maintenance, where possible
    • Contact your creditors to let them know if/when you are affected by COVID-19-related regulations. Most will have a plan in place to help you.
    • Consider deferring any optional expenses
    • Apply for a SBA Disaster Loan if your business has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. There’s no guarantee everyone will be granted assistance, or at what rate, so qualifying businesses are encouraged to apply early.
    • Are your business and personal finances in order? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a checklist for you to review.
    • Restructuring Protections in a Time of COVID-19 – some legal guidance from the National Law Review to help you navigate what may or may not be protected at this time. Please note this is guidance and not specific to everyone’s unique situation.
    • A fund has been created to support Targeted Small Businesses with zero employees that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Review the requirements, eligibility guidelines and complete an application here.
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is applied for through the SBA directly – application link
  • Consumer

    By now, everyone has received a handful of “This is How We are Responding to COVID-19” emails from company mailing lists. It is important to let clients and customers know if you are still up and running, and what you are doing to continue to serve them during this crisis. And if you decide to temporarily suspend operations, let them know that as well. Be clear but concise about what your customers can expect from you.

    Tips

    • Ensure you have virtual capabilities to serve your customers who may not be available to see you in-person
    • Recognize that your customer has not changed, but what is important and valued to them right now likely has. Adjust your messaging appropriately.
    • Be cognizant of the rapidly evolving situation and remain flexible with your planned communications to customers
    • Do not expect consumer spending to immediately return to pre-pandemic ways. Put a plan in place to both keep your business operating and serve your customers where they are when a sense of “normalcy” is regained.
  • Notable Corporate Efforts
    • Walmart has a new policy to support any associate who may be affected by the virus, including paid leave for any associate who needs to self-quarantine. Also, Walmart has adjusted operating hours for Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets to help ensure associates are able to stock products and sanitize the stores. No-contact pickup and delivery is available in some areas with a full roll-out expected in the coming days.
    • Darden Restaurants, parent company for Olive Garden, announced it will begin offering its 170,000 workers paid sick leave amid coronavirus concerns. The company was developing the policy but is rolling it out sooner following a report that workers were coming in sick because they couldn’t afford to take time off.
    • Forbes released an article to highlight 5 Ways Companies are Giving Back During the Coronavirus Pandemic
    • Chase is helping small businesses develop a contingency plan – check their webpage for more information on how to develop your plan and join their webinars
    • Amazon created a Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide grants to small businesses in Seattle
    • In addition to steps taken to support their employees, customers and communities, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to supporting organizations on the front line
    • JPMorgan Chase & Co. has made a $50 Million investment to help address the impacts of COVID-19
    • Facebook is Pledging $100 Million To Small Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus
    • Lockheed Martin has established a dedicated COVID-19 page on Supplier Wire for announcements, updates and relevant memos
    • Fiserv has implemented the following initiatives to help support small businesses:
      • Waived software plan fees through April for qualifying clients
      • Waived minimum monthly processing fee for the month of April for qualifying clients
      • Set up a hotline for those experiencing a business-related disruption – 866-383-1745
      • Created a Clover COVID-19 Response Page with a downloadable Business Preparedness Plan, where the company will continue to push information and resources along with targeted blogs that include information on Access to Capital based on federal programs and state initiatives.
      • Fiserv is helping you track the latest spending trends. Read more HERE
    • Google is providing free resources that may be helpful to their audience in response to the COVID-19 Situation – (grow.google/remotework & smallbusiness.withgoogle.com/news)
      • Tools to help you work, teach and learn remotely- Remote Work hub
      • Tips to help veteran or military spouse-led small businesses manage through uncertainty- We also created a new site for small businesses with additional tips and recommendations to navigate this time of uncertainty for their employees and customers.
    • Chase Paycheck Protection Program Loan – As part of the CARES Act and guidance from the SBA, Chase will be offering the Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL) for small businesses. This loan will be available to Chase clients starting Friday morning, April 3 (please see eligibility; other banks will be offering similar programs).
    • The COVID-19 situation reminds businesses everywhere that customers, employees, financial operations and supply chains can all be affected.  That’s why every business needs a plan to face disruption with clarity, confidence, and relative calm. Chase has tools and support to assist your business.  Visit the Chase for Business Covid-19 program page for important information about how to create your contingency plan.
    • Amazon is helping veterans start their own delivery business
    • Verizon started a Pay It Forward campaign that features a livestream of some of the biggest names in entertainment to help small businesses
  • Manufacturing

    Thomas Coronavirus Resource Hub for Manufacturing

    Manufacturers Marketplace is helping manufacturers fill the gap in their supply chain

Resources for Specific Fields and Professions

Educators:

Event and Meeting Planners:

For Faith-Based Leaders:

Food Industry Professionals:

Healthcare Professionals:

Human Resources Professionals:

Small Business Impacted by Exports or Trade Disruptions:

Additional Resources

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