Helping Small Businesses Navigate COVID-19 and Focus on Their Future
As someone who has spent her entire career supporting small businesses, first at some of the world’s biggest multinational banks and now at Mastercard, it pains me to see how the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting small businesses in this country and globally. We often say that small businesses are the backbones of their communities, but that observation has never been more deeply felt than now.
We all have a small business owner in our lives – they are our friends, family members, and neighbors. What’s more, small businesses employ almost half of the workforce in the U.S.1 Of those businesses, 92% report that they have been negatively impacted by the crisis.2 Still, small business owners are struggling to get the assistance they need. Underscoring the magnitude of the crisis, the first round of Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency relief funding, amounting to $350MM, was depleted within weeks.3
We know that this an extraordinarily challenging time for small businesses whose needs – from managing cash flow, to staying connected with their customers – are growing more acute by the day, and who must balance their own health and the health of their employees with the wellbeing of their business.
But small business owners are resilient. They are a determined community and no stranger to battling through obstacles. This mindset, coupled with a robust support system, will help to ensure small businesses not only sustain through this period, but arrive stronger on the other side.
At Mastercard, we have always understood the importance of supporting small business and continue to be committed to helping the small business community during this period and beyond. In collaboration with our partners, we remain laser focused on designing products and solutions that address the fundamental needs of small businesses – today and every day. As part of our continued efforts, we have launched the Main Street Resource Center, which serves as an online platform where small businesses can access a curated set of needs-based solutions and resources to help them navigate through the current environment and position themselves for future success.
Five Things Small Business Owners Should do now to Secure Their Business for the Long Term
We have put together the following tips to give you the insights, tools, and business support you require to navigate the current environment.
Review your business plan, books and cash flow to understand where you need to focus your attention immediately to ensure you’re safeguarding your business for the long haul. If you are a hairdresser who has had to close your shop, use this time to do a deep dive on your financial position to understand where the gaps are and where you can use the most help. Understanding your financials will be critical in order to apply for some of the grants and loans that are being made available and can also help you decipher areas of opportunity to save or extend cash on hand, supply chain and inventory needs, as well as employee utilization. You can see how you’re doing and manage cash flow with discounts on Intuit® Financial Tools including QuickBooks Online. Track income and expenses, create and send invoices, run reports, and more.
You are not alone in this. Your peers are going through the same challenges, and there is a plethora of resources out there to help you navigate this crisis. Based on your prioritization in step 1, seek out those resources that can address your specific business needs. Leverage reputable external sources for insights such as the Small Business Administration and the U.S Chamber of Commerce. You can also reach out to your support system to help you understand what other resources are available to you, including your bank, accountant or small business card issuer. They can help you navigate which loans or grants you may qualify for, understand which cash flow tools are available to help you get a better handle on cash flow, or how to leverage communication tools to address a new means of engaging employees. Some of these resources may even already be available to you at no cost through your small business card benefits. You can find a list of benefits available to you on your Mastercard BusinessCard here
Consumer spending patterns have changed almost overnight so in order to sustain your business it’s important to understand your customers’ needs and how you can uniquely deliver on those needs. That could mean taking your business online, providing digital commerce capabilities, or evolving your products and services to meet the new normal. If you’ve only ever had a brick-and-mortar shop, we know this involves learning a whole host of new skills. If you’ve operated a small grocery store for instance, you are learning how to set up a website and help consumers place orders for pick-up and delivery.
We also know a major consideration for you is how to protect your employees. As you pivot your business, think of new ways to utilize your employees in this new normal. That could be things like contact-free deliveries, managing digital or social channels for your business, and more.
As businesses and consumers shift toward more digital ways of conducting day-to-day life, it is critically important to safeguard your business and your employees against cyber threats. This is particularly pertinent for businesses who are rapidly transitioning to selling and managing their business through online channels for the first time. Using cyber vulnerability assessments and ID theft protection measures can aid in this transition and can keep your business safe.
You’ve pivoted your business, so now you need to ensure that your current and potential customers are aware of the services and solutions you’re providing. Leverage digital and social channels, local media, and like-minded local businesses to help spread the word. Focus on current customers who are supporters of your business and are willing to help spread the word about your new way of selling and providing services.
We have designed these pillars to be helpful references for you as you navigate this crisis, but we know that they are not a lifeboat. We recognize that the future is uncertain and challenging, but we hope that these principles can serve as lighthouses to guide you through this unprecedented time and beyond.
1 US Small Business Administration, United States Small Business Profile, 2019.
3 “Funding Exhausted for $350 Billion Small-Business Paycheck Protection Program,” The Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020.