3 Things to Know: Running Your Small Business During a Pandemic

It might feel like information-overload with all of the resources being thrown at you during this uncertain time. Here are three pretty simple but, we think, important things you should know when it comes to running your business in this climate.


In our 3 Things to Know series we explore a variety of topics popular on the Mind Your Business site. This month we are featuring the subject everyone is talking about right now—COVID-19. Here are three things you need to know when it comes to running your business during a pandemic. 

Need to know no. 1: Preparation is key. You probably were not prepared for COVID-19—nobody was. But you better be prepared for the next one—and if you are, your preparation will help bring out the best in you, your team and your business. Here are 6 components to consider when creating a pandemic strategy.

RELATED: Closed due to COVID? Check out these tips for your business.

Need to know no. 2: Different can be OK. You are operating differently these days and there may be some things you are not currently able to do as a small business. But sometimes a little out-of-the-box thinking can lead to a pretty good backup plan. Try communicating with your audience through Facebook Live instead of in person, switch gears and try a new product or service that lends itself better to this uncertain climate, or get your team together (virtually) every Friday afternoon for a happy hour or “Popcorn Friday.”

And, if you’re thinking internships are off the table for this year, you are still thinking inside the box. Virtual internships have become a reality for many employers and students across the nation as they consider how to adapt during these challenging times. On April 30, join a panel of local employers in a free webinar that explores approaches to virtual internships.  

RELATED: Labor and employment updates during the Coronavirus pandemic (webinar).

Need to know no. 3: GCP/COSE is here to help. We understand the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is unknown and changing quickly. From resources for businesses and health and wellness information, to local information, advocacy updates and related webinars, we are here to help you. 

As Greater Cleveland Partnership works with government officials to aid businesses, we are also committed to providing the best information possible about the economic impact of COVID-19. Check back for frequent updates to help you stay informed and give you access to relevant resources as this situation continues to unfold.  

RELATED: Read more in our 3 things to know series.

If you have a story to share about how your business is adapting to the changing times—whether you’re making a PPE item or offering a different service to help others stuck at home—we want to hear from you. Please contact Marie Zickefoose so that we can help spread the word of what you’re up to.

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  • Next up: Sales Q & A: Goal vs. Objective

    Sales Q & A: Goal vs. Objective

    If you own a small business, then you need to know how to sell. So, what are your most pressing sales questions? Let us provide expert answers to them in this new Mind Your Business series.

    With this article, we are introducing a new series inviting questions about sales pitches and responding to them. A COSE member recently asked about the specific objective of an effective sales pitch versus the goal. Here’s a summary of our conversation.

    Effectively Setting a Sales Goal

    Let’s start by re-examining the actual goal of any sales process. Obviously, it’s to make the sale … win the business … beat all the other competitors. But, remember that the goal from the prospect’s perspective is to choose the best provider/product/service that meets their needs and works within their limits of time, budget and staff. The two should not be mutually exclusive. Consider both sides of the proverbial coin as you work to set your sales goals.

    Keeping it Classy When Losing

    Also consider a counter-intuitive secondary goal for your sales process - lose with class. When you get that dreaded “Thanks, but no thanks” call or email, respond with class and style following these steps:

    Classy Step 1: Thank the prospect for the opportunity to work with them and present your product/service.

    Classy Step 2: Wish them success with their choice.

    Classy Step 3: Ask who did win the business and why and what was your proposal lacking? This is important information that you might not want to hear but need to. And while you might not get straight answers to these questions, you’ll never learn anything if you don’t ask.

    Classy Step 4: Close with a genuine wish that your paths might cross again with a future opportunity.

    Classy Step 5: About the time the project should be completed or the product/service they bought should be fully operational, follow up with a call or note. Simply check in to see how they’re doing and their overall level of satisfaction.

    Classy Step 6: Once in a while, the prospect may confess that their first choice didn’t work out or meet their expectations. And, by losing with class, you might get a second chance to win the day. Of course, that will rarely happen if you don’t casually check in with them.

    Setting Pitch Objectives

    That all said, the specific objective of the sales pitch is also important, but very different. Consider this approach: The objective of your sales pitch is to provide the prospects with all the information they need or want to make a fast, fact-based and logical decision on whether or not your product or service meets all their needs. Sounding rather counter-intuitive, you can accomplish your sales pitch objective by showing the prospect that you’re not their best choice. So, you can lose the goal while still winning the objective—no small solace, I realize.

    Next time, we’ll consider another question about sales pitches. Until then, if you have a topic you’d like to have us discuss, contact me anytime.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  

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  • Next up: Save Time Using Office Depot’s Product Subscription Function

    Save Time Using Office Depot’s Product Subscription Function

    Does your organization purchase the same products on a recurring basis? Office Depot’s product subscription allows you to schedule and control automatic deliveries on your organization’s favorite products. The subscription service makes thousands of products available for automatic delivery including ink & toner, paper, coffee, cleaning supplies, water, shipping materials, snack boxes, and so much more. Simply follow the steps below and you’re all set.

    office depot subscription function

    As an added bonus, you can receive special discounts on subscription purchases for thousands of eligible products. Plus, if the product is on sale when your subscription ships, COSE Members will receive the subscription discount in addition to the sale price.

    You can easily modify, skip or cancel your product subscription at any time. Yes, it's easy to change or cancel your Subscription.  All you have to do is sign in to your Office Depot account and open Subscription Manager.  Here you can change the frequency, item quantity, skip a delivery, or cancel your Subscription.  You can also update your payment information.

    What’s Trending?

    It’s no surprise that among Office Depot’s most popular subscription items are paper, toner, and coffee! Office Depot’s large assortment of printing supplies offer an easy and risk free way to cut costs, without sacrificing quality. COSE recently added to the Core List over 20 new multi-use copy paper options, including color and recycled paper. We further increased the opportunity for our members to maximize their office supplies savings with the addition of over 200 remanufactured toner products. The Office Depot brand replacement toner and inkjet cartridges can save you up to 30% off the price of the equivalent national brand cartridges.

    Coffee is another popular subscription item. Office Depot carries a variety of coffee options, including Executive Suite® brand, now available in K-Cup® pods. Right now, you can get a free coffee maker with a two-year coffee subscription.

    To learn more about Office Depot’s subscription service click here.

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  • Next up: SBA Hosts National Regulatory Fairness Hearing

    SBA Hosts National Regulatory Fairness Hearing


    The Small Business Administration (SBA) National Ombudsman office held a National Regulatory Fairness Hearing in Washington on August 19.  The office is responsible for investigating and resolving challenging rules or regulations for small businesses and GCP volunteer leader Keith Ashmus of Frantz Ward serves on the Regulatory Fairness Board. 

    The hearing afforded a unique platform for small businesses to surface concerns regarding inequitable federal regulatory enforcement actions taken against small businesses involving any federal agency which impact them, their members, or others in the small business community.

    While regional regulatory fairness hearings and roundtables are held around the country, the recent national hearing allowed stakeholders to hear directly from small businesses and provided an opportunity for representatives of small businesses to report significant national trends in federal regulatory compliance and enforcement and thereby, inform their assessment of systemic regulatory barriers to small business growth and prosperity.

    Comments and concerns raised at the regulatory fairness hearing will be directed to the appropriate federal agency for a fairness review to reduce undue regulatory burdens, while helping small businesses succeed. 

    Click here to visit the SBA Office of the National Ombudsman’s website.

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  • Next up: Senate Committee Convenes Hearing on ‘Alternate Employer Organizations’

    Senate Committee Convenes Hearing on ‘Alternate Employer Organizations’


    On November 20th, the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and its small business division, the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), provided written testimony regarding our support for Senate Bill 201 (SB 201). 

    Click here to view what was submitted to the Ohio Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committee.

    Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) provide services to their employer clients – often small and middle market businesses – by assisting with an employer's human resources services or employee benefits and payroll.  These entities allow job creators to spend more time and focus on running the day-to-day operations of a successful enterprise. 

    SB 201 would create Alternate Employer Organizations (AEOs) and they would function as a PEO, but the AEO would pay taxes under the federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) of its various client-employers – not the EIN of the PEO.  The initiative would provide another option for clients to access programs that offer co-employment programs that can be highly beneficial to small and mid-sized businesses across Ohio. 

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  • Next up: Senate OKs Priorities, State Budget Bill Due Soon

    Senate OKs Priorities, State Budget Bill Due Soon

    The state legislature has a few days to iron out their final priorities for Ohio's next two years of policy in a multi-billion-dollar spending bill that sets the state budget.  Last week the Ohio Senate passed their version of a proposed FY20-21 budget. A final bill will be presented to the Governor by month’s end and after the Ohio House and Senate conference.

    Among the many issues GCP is engaged in, the Senate’s budget bill would require state agencies to review and repeal regulatory restrictions over the course of the next four years, an element of regulatory reform measure Senate Bill 1, legislation which GCP supported.

    In addition, the Senate budget maintains language for an Opportunity Zone tax credit, including allowing the transfer of credits and increasing the share of invested assets in zone property from 90% to 100%. An amendment supported by GCP—to create an Opportunity Zone Study Committee to study best implementation practices from other states and impact investment strategies that support more highly distressed rural and urban communities—was not included in the final bill.

    After the Governor prescribed no significant tax changes earlier this year, the Ohio Senate recommended an 8% income tax decrease and the Ohio House approved a 6.6 percent income tax cut. That aside, GCP has continually requested state leaders consider the following:

    Preserve Ohio’s current small business tax deduction, which is utilized by our members for reinvestment back into their companies, workforces, and communities.  Reducing the deduction for business income, as proposed by the House, by 60% is significant and it would seriously jeopardize future planning and investments.

    Maintain the 3% flat tax rate that pass-through businesses pay on earnings over $250,000. Should elected officials choose to eliminate the current rate and increase the tax rate on these Ohio businesses, allowing entrepreneurs an opportunity to plan and budget for it in the future, as outlined in the Senate’s proposal, is absolutely critical. Because most businesses are set up as pass-through entities, they pay taxes on business income at the income tax rate of their individual owners. Ensuring the proper treatment for a variety of business types, expenses, and investments made by business owners—to support the growth of their businesses—is a crucial focus in deliberations on tax policy.

    Late last week the House and the Senate named members of the budget bill conference committee. To view a summary document of the Senate’s latest amendments, click here.

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