Closed Due to COVID: Tips for Your Small Business

Many small business owners have entered new territory and are having to make tough decisions in the midst of COVID-19. Here are 5 tips to follow to help guide you through this unusual time.

This is a very stressful time for all, but perhaps especially for those of you who have a small business. You have costs such as rent, payroll, insurance and other expenses that may still need to be paid while you are closed and not bringing in any income. These are very real issues that need to be addressed. 

Here are some suggestions that may help:

Tip no. 1: Cut spending as much as possible. Cutting all non-essential spending will help with your cash flow problems. Contact your vendors and stop all orders or if that is not possible then negotiate with them for payment and delivery options. We are all in this together so odds are that they are facing the same issues and will understand. Be open to all negotiations and solutions. 

Tip no. 2: Clearly communicate with your employees. They all know what is happening, but perhaps give them details about your specific situation. Since you want to be able to keep them employed if at all possible, is there a work-from-home option? Perhaps you are able to pay them at a reduced rate for the time being. And if you give them medical insurance as part of their benefits, helping them keep it is paramount at this time. 

RELATED: 5 tips to make working from home work for you.

Tip no. 3: Manage your business projections. Since this situation is constantly changing, what you project today may be very different from what you project tomorrow. Prepare for the worst-case scenario as no one knows how long these disruptions will last. President Donald Trump has offered $50 billion in loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA), where businesses can apply for a maximum of $2 million with an interest rate of 3.75%. According to reporting from CNBC, the SBA does not have the infrastructure to allocate such a large pool of money, which is likely not enough to cover the amount needed in the country anyway. But more budget is being allocated to the SBA, which is taking applications on its website. The president also signed an economic relief bill that expands unemployment aid, among other measures.
Tip no. 4: Protect your physical space. If you have a brick and mortar store or offices, make sure you have security in place to protect the premises. Since there are stay-at-home orders in place, you may need to hire a security firm to check on the location and to protect against any looting or break-ins. 

RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

Tip no. 5: Protect your virtual space. If you are doing business online or remotely from home, be sure you have good security measures instituted on your computers. This includes video conferencing and other forms of mass communications with employees or customers. 

This pandemic is frightening but it is important that we all stick together and follow all guidelines by the CDC, WHO and our state and federal governments. 

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

 
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  • Next up: Talking Tech in the CLE on a Wednesday in the Fall
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  • Talking Tech in the CLE on a Wednesday in the Fall

    So yesterday I was on the local event circuit. I joined 80ish folks for lunch at Corporate College for the CBC Magazine event, NEO’s Skyrocketing IT Presence and then sat in on One Community and ideastream and their Tech Town Hall event in the evening.

    So yesterday I was on the local event circuit. I joined 80ish folks for lunch at Corporate College for the CBC Magazine event, NEO’s Skyrocketing IT Presence and then sat in on One Community and ideastream and their Tech Town Hall event in the evening.

    I’m not going to lie; it’s good to hear someone else besides us talking about tech in the CLE.

    CBC’s event featured entrepreneurs from BlueBridge Networks and DXY Solutions along with public sector folks from OneCommunity and Engage! Cleveland sharing their thoughts on innovation, education, retention and more.

    A few notes from the event:

    • In an audience poll, 66% of the guests cited that “attracting tech talent was a part of their HR strategy”
    • Lev Gonick, CEO at OneCommunity, thinks NEO's advanced manufacturing history & skills make us incredibly well-positioned in the coming internet of things era
    • According to Ashley Basile Oeken, ED of Engage Cleveland, workers under 28 y/o look for the city they want BEFORE the job they want

    As we’ve been saying for years, talent is a key challenge to growing the tech industry here. While a lot is going on regionally to affect our talent pool, there were a few good nuggets in this discussion too. We do have an attractive depth of experience in manufacturing (and health care, of course!) that could help lure talent here, but the econ dev folks need to think differently about marketing the region, away form industries and careers perhaps and towards what makes Cleveland cool, unique, exciting and attractive to the next gen of workers.

    For the Tech Town Hall event, the highlight was a short address by Dr. Julian Earls, retired Center Director from NASA Glenn. Such impressive credentials, a great presentation style and some excellent points on innovation, talent and thinking differently.

    He also shared some information on Believe in Ohio and its approach to growing STEM participation; something we need to support.

    So, time well-spent yesterday hearing others in tech sharing their thoughts and ideas. And really glad to see the conversation expanding.


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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Tapping Efficient and Renewable Energy Sources
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  • Tips for Your Business: Tapping Efficient and Renewable Energy Sources

    More and more building owners and tenants are cutting their facility costs – and bolstering their bottom lines – by installing energy efficient and renewable equipment. Some business owners or operators incorporate energy efficiencies and renewables through an end of life event or a project-specific basis. Others opt for upgrading the entire facility. Having the right financial partner is essential, regardless of the specific need. KeyBank knows our business clients count on us for simple and straightforward solutions to all their financial challenges and opportunities, and helping businesses upgrade using energy efficient or renewable products is no exception.

    More and more building owners and tenants are cutting their facility costs – and bolstering their bottom lines – by installing energy efficient and renewable equipment. Some business owners or operators incorporate energy efficiencies and renewables through an end of life event or a project-specific basis. Others opt for upgrading the entire facility.  Having the right financial partner is essential, regardless of the specific need.

    KeyBank knows our business clients count on us for simple and straightforward solutions to all their financial challenges and opportunities, and helping businesses upgrade using energy efficient or renewable products is no exception.

    We start with assessing facility needs and then helping our clients identify and leverage available incentives that can reduce long-term capital cost. We can model the anticipated return on investment to include the funding, and can help clients find installers.

    Our goal is to provide each client with a personalized lending structure in which the annual savings from reduced energy costs exceeds the annual debt payment, providing business owners an immediate return on their investment.  (This is most commonly achieved when the business owners is making a simple retrofit to a highly energy efficient replacement.)

    We follow three steps to provide clients with a successful outcome. Those steps are making a proper assessment, designing a solution and developing a business case. The following scenario, which is based on a client’s experience, illustrates this process:

    The client had identified replacing their outdated HVAC system as an ongoing problem that cost the company $50,000 a year in repairs. The proposed solution was to replace the system with updated controls that minimized energy use while still maintaining a comfortable working environment. We identified incentives that reduced the long term capital cost and were built into the lending structure.

    The client was able to finance the project without tapping cash set aside for operating expenses.

    All told, not only is the client able to save $50,000 in annual repair costs, but reduced annual energy costs provides savings  that are 30 percent more than the debt assumed to finance the project.  The client is tapping those savings to employ two additional part-time employees.

    KeyBank can also help clients evaluate vendor and supplier proposals and establish which solutions make the most sense for the client based on their goals, the project capital cost and the projected energy savings. KeyBank then works with clients and clients’ accounting firms to align the selected projects with the clients’ short- and long-term capital goals and tax strategies. 

    Clients should also factor in savings available from grants and incentives when evaluating a business case for investing in energy efficient or renewable projects. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy fund an online resource, www.dsireuse.org  that lists incentives and grants.

    We at KeyBank believe there is tremendous potential for our clients to benefit from using energy efficient programs and renewable energy and we provide clients with expert guidance on resources, connections and financing so we can design and implement unique solutions. We also believe these products help our communities by advocating for sustainability.



    This article is designed to provide general information only. Before entering into any financing arrangement, please consult your own competent professional financial, tax and legal advisors.
    KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC, and KeyBank National Association (KeyBank N.A.) are separate but affiliated companies. Securities products and services are offered by KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. and its licensed securities representatives. Banking products and services are offered by KeyBank N.A. Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. Credit products are subject to credit approval. 

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  • Next up: Tech in the CLE: Inspiring Growth Trajectory
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  • Tech in the CLE: Inspiring Growth Trajectory

    Manufacturing is ok, I suppose: bending metal, making stuff, big and loud machinery, etc. And healthcare is not bad either: quality of life, longevity, social impact and more. But give me technology: mobile devices, software that gets rockets to Mars and beyond, websites serving up drones, pizza, Browns tickets, etc. and on and on.

    Manufacturing is ok, I suppose: bending metal, making stuff, big and loud machinery, etc. And healthcare is not bad either: quality of life, longevity, social impact and more.

    But give me technology: mobile devices, software that gets rockets to Mars and beyond, websites serving up drones, pizza, Browns tickets, etc. and on and on.

    So I was really, very excited to see the growth of the tech industry here in Northeast Ohio, growth revealed in our 2015 NEO Tech Industry Research Report, an update to our 2010 report.

    Some of the highlights from the report:

    • 19% of companies have more than 50 employees, up from 8% in 2010
    • 22% are doing more than $5m in annual revenues, up from 11% four years ago
    • 61% are doing business outside Ohio; only 40% reported doing so in 2010
    • And 10% get MOST of their business outside Ohio; that’s triple the results from 2010

    We see a lot of press around the need for software developers and from these results you can see why need them as badly here as anywhere else in the country.

    Check out the complete report and see why tech in the CLE is really starting to dominate.


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  • Next up: Tech Marketing Success - How Smart Companies Do It
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  • Tech Marketing Success - How Smart Companies Do It

    Marketing in a small company is a challenge:  limited budgets, small staffs, competing for resources and more.  Add a technical angle to it, for software and other tech companies, and the challenge is magnified. The annual Small Business Convention brings together nearly 1000 small businesses to hear prominent national keynotes with inspiring messages for growth, success and perseverance.  Coupled with the keynotes are dozens of practical workshops covering everything from legal issues to human resources, to marketing to finance and more.  The conference inspires small business owners to greatness and also offers the tools for day-to-day success.

    Marketing in a small company is a challenge:  limited budgets, small staffs, competing for resources and more.  Add a technical angle to it, for software and other tech companies, and the challenge is magnified.

    The annual Small Business Convention brings together nearly 1000 small businesses to hear prominent national keynotes with inspiring messages for growth, success and perseverance.  Coupled with the keynotes are dozens of practical workshops covering everything from legal issues to human resources, to marketing to finance and more.  The conference inspires small business owners to greatness and also offers the tools for day-to-day success.

    Each year, OHTec hosts workshops embedded within the convention.  Typically, these sessions are marketing/sales oriented from our annual Tech Growth series of events.  We were very pleased this year to host sessions on Small Company Marketing Success,  InBound Marketing and a unique marketing strategy case study.  Successful, local tech firms shared insights into their successes as well as pitfalls to avoid.

    Panelists from BlueBridge Networks, Clum Creative, and Level7 shared their small company stories.  Check out the podcast here.

    Triad / Next Level, a pretty cool ad agency in Cuyahoga Falls, shared a really interesting case study for “Meato” to demonstrate innovative, effective ways small companies can market themselves and their products/services.  Here’s the podcast.

    And finally, marketing experts from SyncShow Interactive, TMW Systems, and OEC shared first-hand stories on inbound marketing success.  This great podcast can be found here.

    The convention was great with more than 800 attendees and the 100+ small businesses at these sessions got a lot of value from successful tech marketers.  And our new friends at Triad even gave me this sweet, Meat-O shirt!

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  • Next up: Tech Perceptions: What Does The Industry Want?
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  • Tech Perceptions: What Does The Industry Want?

    Growing the tech talent base, enhancing R&D tax treatments, and better connectedness with legislators lead the list of interests of tech leaders in Cleveland and Cincinnati. In a joint survey with The Circuit, Cincinnati’s IT association, we asked tech leaders in our respective regions, CIOs and entrepreneurs, to share their thoughts on different issues affecting the industry.  The Ohio Tech Leaders:  2015 Tech Issues Report offers insight into that survey. We also asked for their general impression on the state’s support for the industry.  But more on that in a minute.

    Growing the tech talent base, enhancing R&D tax treatments, and better connectedness with legislators lead the list of interests of tech leaders in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

    In a joint survey with The Circuit, Cincinnati’s IT association, we asked tech leaders in our respective regions, CIOs and entrepreneurs, to share their thoughts on different issues affecting the industry.  The Ohio Tech Leaders:  2015 Tech Issues Report offers insight into that survey.

    We also asked for their general impression on the state’s support for the industry.  But more on that in a minute.

    Not surprisingly, tech talent rose to the top of the list of important issues to be dealt with.  But somewhat surprisingly, within that talent continuum, attracting IT workers from other states was very highly ranked in terms of importance.  Surprising in that consistently, we here how difficult it is to get folks in from outside the region; maybe tech leaders are ready to kick that notion to the curb.

    On the other end of the spectrum, increased support for start-up tech firms and funding software development boot camps were comparatively lower ranked.  To be sure, the majority of respondents felt those two aspects of state support for the industry were important, just not as important as other areas.

    Check out the rankings of issues in the report here.

    We’ll use this data to inform our conversations with legislators and policy makers in this region, in Columbus and in DC, as will The Circuit in their region.  We’ll also work to arrange more frequent meetings between elected officials in this region and our tech companies.  Fostering better connectedness could lead to more positive outcomes for the industry legislatively.

    And finally, how do tech leaders here and 240 miles southwest feel about state support for tech in general?  Not that great to be quite honest and a little blunt.  When asked about the adequacy of state support, most respondents, 49% in fact, were neutral while 19% were positive and 31% were negative.  We’d certainly love to see those perceptions change with more beneficial support from Columbus and around the state.  Stay tuned!

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