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

small business

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 (www.newsandexperts.com), 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.”

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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 (www.newsandexperts.com), 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.

commerce

Commerce, Currency, and Credit —and What’s Next

The notions of commerce, currency, and credit are nothing new. For centuries, we’ve found ways to barter, borrow, and repay one another through the exchange of goods, services, or credit. Exchange aside, every form of currency has an assigned value agreed upon by the individuals or organizations participating in the transaction.

Need a house or a plot of land? Everything had a price. Back then, we offered what we had…like goats, cows, or crops. In modern times and with the development of currency, we have turned to coins, paper, plastic, and other forms of credit to define the values of our exchanges.

If we begin to think about the evolution of commerce in the context of innovation, we simultaneously begin to wonder, ‘What’s next?’

As the COO of a fast-moving fintech company, I look to innovation to answer this fundamental question. It will always be top-of-mind for me, in order to ensure that our business is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to contemplating the many ways Americans — particularly those in the small business community — think about and gain access to commerce, currency, and credit.

Today, small businesses are faced with an unfavorable choice when considering taking on additional capital: curb their instinct to innovate and grow, or encumber themselves with debt. While the growth of small businesses will help our economy thrive, we can’t increase our ability to provide funding to small businesses by maintaining the status quo. So how do we inject businesses with funds, without ultimately harming that growth and innovation?  I suggest several ways: decrease our industry’s approval time and simplify the process; provide customized offers and understand the uniqueness of each business through the implementation of artificial intelligence and advanced technology, and restore the innate integrity and trust from the nascent days of commerce.

Here are three topline factors that will drive commerce, currency, and credit — and what’s next:

Convenience

If we look at the transition in the consumer payments industry as a leading indicator, we think about the emergence of fast-pay apps like Zelle, Venmo, or Apple Pay, one thing is clear: convenience is king. Even if it costs the consumer a dollar or two, it beats the basic, but now outdated steps of writing a check, (purchasing and) putting a stamp on the envelope, putting it in the mail, and making sure the mail person gets it on time. Certainly, checks have a role to play in the exchange of money — and perhaps always will — but fast cash apps represent the shift.

If we examine the ways that small businesses have historically gained access to capital, what were once nothing more than hard-copy applications followed up by mountains of paperwork issued by traditional banks that required waiting weeks or even months to hear of an approval, is rapidly evolving into what is now a full-fledged industry dedicated to providing capital in mere days or even hours  —with companies in industries ranging from online retailers to credit card processors, and more, working to deliver working capital in the near speed it takes to complete an ATM transaction. Just as odd as dropping a goat off today to pay for a good or service would seem, so too will be the long timeframe to secure small business capital via a long arduous process.  We are quickly moving to a couple of button clicks on your cell phone and capital will be delivered into your business account.

Channels

When discussing my philosophy about our business, three words colleagues often hear me use are “channel of choice.” They refer to finding our customers by identifying who they are, where they are, and what is their preferred method of communication; and of course, delivering superior user experience.

Which “channel of choice” will appeal to the busy mom-and-pop shop owner who calls us from her landline in search of new ways to gain access to capital for a new storefront facade; or to the construction company that does most of its business and banking online and prefers to be reached via the web; or, to the 20-something app developer who likes to do his business with a simple click on his phone?

Our success is contingent upon creating an appropriate environment and successful strategy for each of our customers, all of whom have varying degrees of means and preferences to interact with us.  While mobile interactions will continue the trend to dominate in preference, there will likely always be a need to handle interactions with just a simple phone call.  And delivering an intentional experience with all of those channels in mind will become the new normal

Caution

Over the past few years, the vulnerability of data, privacy, and information security systems has been exposed. As we move into a more digital environment where every piece of data is at your finger times, it’s incumbent upon us in the alternative financial services industry to evaluate the ways we protect the vast information we hold in similar ways customers expected traditional banks to hold and secure their deposits. The phrase “data is the new currency” is quickly becoming reality and expectations of security from those who provide us that information will be just as high as dropping of a deposit to your local bank. As mountains of information continue to become available, it will become a focus for all to consider how we store that information just as a bank locks up its currency in a vault.

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Herk Christie is the Chief Operating Officer of Expansion Capital Group, a business dedicated to serving American small businesses, by providing access to capital and other resources, so they can grow and achieve their definition of success. Since its inception, ECG has provided approximately $400 million in capital to over 12,000 small businesses nationwide.

small business

Small Businesses: Here’s How They Impact Communities

Every small business owner knows how important it is to have the support of their community. Luckily events such as Small Business Saturdays help bring small businesses and their local shoppers together in order to benefit the community as a whole. This survey put together by OnDeck, a small business loan provider, looks at small business customers to learn a little bit more about how they support small businesses AND also how the small businesses they
support helps the community in return.

why small businesses are important

ondeck second annual small business community impact survey

why small businesses are important

ondeck small business community impact survey

small business

Three Reasons You Should Support Small Business

Small Business Saturday takes place this Saturday, November 30

Every year, when Small Business Saturday rolls around, Americans are reminded to ‘support small businesses.’ But the need for your support extends far beyond the holiday season.

American small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. In fact, they make up 99.9% of the economy and employ 47.5% of the workforce.

As a small business owner, I’ve built much of my career around serving the incredible community of entrepreneurs who drive innovation and economic progress, locally and nationwide. These men and women are the hidden heroes of our neighborhoods, often putting everything on the line to provide the services and staples that we rely on…not to mention, those which make our communities unique. It is they who pass the torch of the American dream to future generations — all of whom fight to defy conventional wisdom that only half will survive their first 5 years. Make no mistake about it: they depend on your support to hold onto that dream.

Here are three reasons you should support small business, and go out of your way to contribute to Small Business Saturday every day.

Small Business Owners Drive New Jobs

It’s no secret that small businesses create new jobs, fuel economic growth, and contribute to lowering unemployment rates. Even in today’s globalized world, America’s 30.2 million small businesses still make up 99.9% of all businesses in this country, and employ 58.9 million people.

Check out ‘The Best Small Places For Business And Careers’ in Forbes, to see where our city ranks. None of us should be surprised that we have an incredible workforce; we are well below the national unemployment rate; and that most of our 16+ population is in the civilian labor force. There’s no reason not to keep this momentum going and drive more business and more jobs to our area.

Small Businesses Strengthen Communities

It’s not the megastores that give our communities vibrancy; but rather, the mom-and-pop coffee shop that serves a great cup of morning joe, the family-owned pastry shop that’s been a local staple for decades, and the go-to-guy auto mechanic that give our communities personality, and a spot on the map.

Small Business Saturday is a community-centric day, where we have the opportunity to rally around our local small companies that make our lives a little bit better. So long as the community connection created by small businesses remains strong year-round, the benefits of strengthened communities will too.

Small Businesses Empower the Next Generation

Almost all of us got our start at a small business, whether it was helping out the family, as a cashier at the local movie theatre, waiting tables, working in the local bank, or even babysitting! We learned the basic skills and requirements of the workforce: showing up on time, working hard, being accountable, and leading others (and being led). It is still incumbent upon small businesses to perform the vital role of training the next generation and offering them mentorship opportunities and ways to learn professionalism.

 Things have changed a little since my first days as a neighborhood lawn mower in my hometown. Still, today, I scout for great small businesses everywhere I go, which was why I came here. I have found that small-business owners here understand best what it takes to make an area a real community. To me and many others, that’s an important public contribution and one I hope to never live without.

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Vincent Ney is the Founder and President of Expansion Capital Group, a business dedicated to serving American small businesses by providing access to capital and other resources, so they can grow and achieve their definition of success. Since its inception, ECG has connected over 12,000 small businesses nationwide to approximately $350 million in capital.