Amid pandemic, small businesses eye budget realignment
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Even as Congress and the White House recently approved another $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, many small business owners are feeling it is not enough. Unemployment has reached its highest level in nearly 100 years, and small businesses believe it will be on themselves to stay afloat more so than any federal aid package.
Small business owners across the country had a front-row seat to see the Paycheck Protection Program play out the first time it was unveiled about a month ago. What transpired, for the most part, was clunky implementation, loopholes and a rapid depletion of “first-come first-serve” funds.
This time around, lawmakers have promised to fix the loans that have gone to large corporations and proposed solutions to jammed phone lines that frustrated so many, but most experts agree that won’t be adequate.
“It's probably actually more frustrating today than it was on April 3,” Robert Fisher, president and CEO of Tioga State Bank in Spencer, New York, said in an interview with Forbes. “I just find it amazing that community bankers are out there trying to help our communities, we're trying to help Main Street America and yet we're having difficulty getting access to the system that will help our customers and our communities.”
So that, as many people see it, leaves small business owners no choice but to plan for their own future independent of congressional action. This could come in the form of redoing budgets or revenue plans, as 57% of respondents in a Forbes poll concluded. While the top concerns for business owners, according to the same poll, were revenue impacts and funding, there is also the unknown variability in business after the virus slows.
Businesses are unaware, as of now, what it will look like to conduct operations with social distancing orders in place. While states like Georgia, Texas and Alaska have experimented with slowly easing “shelter-in-place” orders, no governor has wiped away orders entirely. Businesses in the most lenient states still have to be at some limited patron capacity and conduct operations in a manner never seen before.
“Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in the same statement in which he announced easements to business restrictions.
It is clear from statements like these that business owners not adjusting is steadily becoming a non-option. Many business owners, however, are not looking to cut staff while adjusting their budget. Instead, the adjustments are more often coming from other avenues like marketing.
A Harvard Business Review article has suggested that marketing adjustments can become a key tool in this pandemic.
“It is not the time for big-budget advertising but cost-efficient and proven marketing strategies,” the article read.
These include digital marketing campaigns to be allotted for in budgets. Email marketing and website marketing have been heavily favored over paper methods that are often more costly. While the payroll is not out of the question, studies suggest, these are the more frequented budget adjustments in the current times.
“Though it’s not an ideal situation, succeeding financially through this crisis may mean cutting back or cutting out certain expenses altogether to stay afloat,” Rebecca Lake, an advisor at Forbes, said.
While the coming months spell uncertainty, it will be an adjustment unlike any other for small businesses across the country. Unconventional methods and budget rearrangements are likely to continue as each state wades into its own policy methods.
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