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How to Lead a Small Business Through Coronavirus and other Troubling Times

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How to Lead a Small Business Through Coronavirus and other Troubling Times

With the coronavirus shaking up the economy and upending the day-to-day operations of businesses, it’s perhaps more critical than ever that corporate CEOs and small business owners summon up all their leadership skills.

Employees who usually are just down the hall are now working remotely from home. The supply chain is disrupted. And customers and clients may be changing their spending habits.

But, as important as business savvy and financial expertise can be in riding out all the economic effects of the pandemic, other traits also come into play and maybe just as essential, says Marsha Friedman, a successful entrepreneur who still leads a business she launched three decades ago.

“One of those essential traits is courage,” says Friedman, founder and president of News & Experts (, a national PR firm. “Thirty years ago when I started my company, I probably would never have said it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail.”

Friedman, who is also the ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, understands this first-hand. Her firm, like many businesses, endured tough economic times after the 9/11 attacks. Revenue dropped and bankruptcy loomed as a real possibility.

“I had to figure out how to turn my company around,” she says. “It took courage, endurance, and perseverance, but I knew I could not go back, so I had no choice but to go forward.”

Courage is just one of what Friedman calls the 5 C’s for building and maintaining a successful business through good times and bad.

“They’re the guiding principles I’ve learned through the ups and downs and all the mistakes,” she says. “They can work during the difficulties we now face as well.”

In addition to courage, Friedman’s other C’s are:

Caring. First, care enough about yourself and your dreams to believe you can achieve success even in these daunting times, Friedman says. “Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them despite the troubles we face,” she says. “Be supportive of them throughout this situation that is bringing additional stress to everyone’s lives.” Finally, a good business leader cares about customers, Friedman says. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.

Confidence. Most people have faced and overcome challenges in life. The confidence that allowed them to prevail over those challenges needs to be brought into play in business more than ever right now, Friedman says. “Believing you can reach for and achieve your short-term and long-term goals is essential to getting you there,” she says. “Maintaining your confidence is important to get through these unsettling times.”

Competence. It’s critical to stay up on the disruptions in your industry that the coronavirus is causing. “If you’re forced to downsize, this may be the time to reorganize and tap into the skills and abilities of your remaining team that are different from the roles you hired them for,” Friedman says. “That’s why it’s always important to have hired competent people who you can rely on no matter what the situation.”

Commitment. Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes during these challenging conditions. Friedman says there may be times when this will be not only difficult but downright painful. That was the case for her during those tough times after the 9/11 attacks. “I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go of beloved employees,” she says. “But I never wanted to suffer a failure, and so I stayed committed to the goal and succeeded in pulling the business through those rough times.” 

“As we face the current challenges, you have to stay the course, remain positive and show caring for everyone related to your business,” Friedman says. “Most of all, no matter how dismal it seems right now, you need to have confidence that you are going to get through it.”


Marsha Friedman, ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, is a successful entrepreneur and public relations expert with nearly 30 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and professionals in the field of business, health and finance.  Using the proprietary system she created as founder and President of News & Experts (, an award-winning national public relations agency, her firm secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for its clients.  The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies, who shares her knowledge both as a popular speaker around the country and in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself.


Can We Afford Trillions in Stimulus to Combat COVID-19?

The United States has approximately $150 trillion of total consolidated private and public assets and $100 trillion total net wealth (assets minus liabilities). The $1.5 trillion monetary stimulus portion is about 1% of our asset base, so for context, it is far from being financially ruinous. We are a very wealthy nation with vast financial and intellectual capabilities.

The Federal Reserve action of lowering interest rates and driving the 10-year treasury yield into negative real yield territory causes concern that it will eventually produce inflation. But maybe not. The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 contain interesting and important economic history lessons regarding inflation. In response to this severe downturn, interest rates were reduced to near zero and the world was flooded for many years with US dollars, usually causing concern that inflation will ensue, yet inflation remained stubbornly low; as economic theory might have predicted, the classic scenario of too many dollars chasing too few goods did not unfold.

The world was simply too productive, spitting out goods and services at a rate unheard of just a few decades earlier, primarily due to new technologies in the fields of manufacturing, communications, transportation, and information systems. What ensued were too many dollars chasing too many goods, neutralizing the inflationary effect. By logical extension, deflation, to some extent, would have most likely occurred absent the monetary and fiscal stimulus. In short, inflation (or deflation) is the interplay between the money supply and productivity.

One of the best barometers and leading indicators of inflation is a basket of commodity prices which have, in real terms, generally been depressed over the past decade, not government statistics which are lagging indicators and can be improperly defined and collected, hence less reliable.

If this is truly a national emergency, a substantial fiscal stimulus is warranted, assuming it is applied properly. And that is a big assumption. Though large chunks of fiscal stimulus are designed to meet short-term needs, like a spike in immediate health care costs associated with the virus, and to soften a variety of financial hardships, there will be a significant set-aside for longer term projects to stimulate the economy in an attempt to avoid a recession.

Even prior to this national emergency, there was much debate regarding infrastructure projects to “rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.” The response should always be to build a business case, on a project-by-project basis, for public dissemination. With a conservative set of underlying assumptions, each project should estimate the discounted future cash flows to determine if it makes economic sense and, given that we have limited resources, compared to the net returns of other competing projects. There should always be (but probably are not) a backlog of these “shovel-ready” projects with well thought out and documented financial plans on the shelf at all times for just these kinds of emergencies.

Equally important, a rigorous post-audit process of public sector capital projects to measure what was projected in cost outflows and future beneficial inflows to the actual results, are required for accountability and full transparency on public record. Developing better forecasting skills and techniques is essential to enhance future efficiency in the allocation of limited capital. You get what you measure. And if you don’t measure it, you won’t get it.

Since interest rates are at historic lows, it makes sense to undertake valid infrastructure projects now versus later when both costs and interest rates may be at significantly higher levels. The reality is we probably have been significantly underinvesting in legitimate public infrastructure projects. The time is now when the economy desperately needs the appropriate stimulus.

Though often projects make sense and have public support, many people hesitate because it is subject to the wheeling-and-dealing of politicians, who have a dismal record of efficient execution. Coupled with this, are special interest constituencies which risk steering public funds to projects that have the most influential backers, not the highest return. Additionally, public sector projects have a storied history of massive cost overruns—poor planning, cronyism, corruption, and costly union preferences in certain jurisdictions. These factors serve to cast doubt and undermine public support for otherwise valid investment projects that benefit future economic growth and opportunity, as well as providing meaningful employment and additional economic growth in the short run.

Over a decade ago, we undertook infrastructure stimulus measures to confront another crisis, with less than stellar execution and results. Let’s get this one right by developing a new set of processes and procedures that will not only make this stimulus package much more effective, but will serve us well whenever a massive crisis arises requiring similar measures. If accomplished, it would represent a valuable silver lining to this crisis.

All eyes are on our political class to see if it is up to the task.


Richard Smith has a range of business experience from private development stage start-ups to $300-million public companies. As chief financial officer, he led a successful $132-million initial public offering (IPO) and many private placements to fund and capitalize high-growth companies. Currently, Smith is the Managing Director of an advisory firm specializing in analyzing economic and financial conditions and their impact on financial projections and operations. Smith received his MPhil from Cambridge University and is a certified public accountant (CPA).

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