There’s no denying it: We’re living through a period of uncertainty and angst that we won’t soon forget. Like many of you, we’re doing our best to navigate these uncharted waters with empathy and optimism. With each day comes updated news and discoveries on the many impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19), which means your game plan has likely shifted each day as well. Here, we’ve provided some concrete, actionable steps to consider – from securing cash flow to communicating with your customers during this time – that can help keep your business above water, your company healthy, and the future of the hospitality industry secure.
First Things First: Get Your Finances in Order
The unprecedented public health shutdown due to coronavirus is posing serious challenges to small businesses, many of which have been forced to cease normal operations. “If any hard but important lessons are to be learned from this devastation, it’s that is cash and access to cash is the life of one’s business; therefore, planning for adequate cash reserves should be the number-one priority of all businesses,” said California-based CPA, Trina Rosen, when providing strategies on how to stay afloat until the storm passes. During this downtime, Rosen suggests that business owners evaluate their contracts and especially cancellation clauses, look into budgeting tools for the future, and establish working capital and cash reserve goals to be implemented after this disaster passes.
Take Advantage of Federal Relief…ASAP
Coronavirus is making a huge dent in the business world and economy, but don’t panic: The government is feeling the heat to pass legislation to help small businesses and individuals negatively impacted by the virus. The government will be providing millions of dollars in funds for low-interest federal disaster loans, backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This SBA loan has an interest rate of 3.75 percent, a loan term of 30 years, and repayments don’t begin for at least four months from the date the loan is secured. Businesses can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan to help cover expenses that companies can’t afford due to the virus. This includes payroll expenses, accounts payable, and fixed debts.
We’re also closely watching the details that are unfolding regarding the $2 trillion economic stimulus package that’s being made available to small businesses that have been forced to shut down, or that have seen at least a 50 percent decline in gross revenue over the same period last year. As of right now, it appears that at least a portion of the government-funded loans through the SBA may be forgiven after June 30 if businesses are able to maintain payroll levels through the end of Q2. In addition to low-interest SBA loans, the government is offsetting mandatory paid sick and paid leave costs (signed into law on March 18) for employers with an employer tax credit, equal to 100 percent of the benefits doled out. We also recommend looking at your corporate insurance to determine if you have business disruption insurance and if there’s a clause for viruses. If you’re one of the fortunate few without a clause, you can also file a business disruption claim. You can find additional small business relief programs here.
Work with Vendors & Clients to Pause, Not Cancel
Remember that many businesses are feeling the same hit you are. Practicing empathy, sharing experiences, and being authentic with client communication right now will go a long way. Letting your valuable vendors or clients know that you are willing to work with them at a slower pace or even hitting “pause” on ongoing or larger projects for the immediate future can prevent cancellations and preserve relationships for the future. Slowing down accounts payable payments is a strategy that can stretch the cash. And chances are, your clients will be grateful to be able to hit “pause” or work out a payment plan instead of going through an entire cancellation process for a product or service they actually love and find great value in.
Communicate Internally Often & Honestly
No one likes being left out of the loop, especially when something like the coronavirus strikes. When it comes to protecting your business, you must, must, must communicate with your managers and keep them up to date, which means you must stay up to date as well. Check the CDC’s website every day for more information about the outbreak, as well as your state and local news for details about the spread and regulations pertaining to COVID-19 (e.g., closing of schools, restaurants). Company-wide uncertainty and anxiety will not result in good or meaningful work, which may be what you need most right now. With more and more companies implementing work-from-home plans, that internal connectedness becomes even more crucial to the health of your company and culture. Managers should check in with their teams at least twice a week and be available to talk through their employees’ concerns or questions.
Communicate with Your Audience
How do you encourage your audience to book during a pandemic? You don’t. It’s no surprise that most businesses can’t run their campaigns, social media, or content marketing as usual right now. But by no means should you drop all communication. You just need to take a step back and ask, “How can we positively provide content for our people right now?” The biggest challenge going forward is identifying precisely what you can contribute right now to inspire brighter times to come (future bookings) while striking the right tone in the meantime. The experiences your company provides are already inspirational, which means that right now, it can provide a lot of hope. Practice being human and communicate on social platforms more with your comments, messages, and feed, rather than pushing out your own posts. Being authentic, empathetic, and mindful with all outlets of your messaging right now will go a long way when normalcy returns.
POSTS OF POSITIVITY: Four Seasons spotlights some of their past pup guests, saying, “four-legged friends make our days brighter – at the hotel and at home.”
SHOWING SUPPORT INDUSTRY-WIDE: A simple message of support and empathy goes a long way, Longwood Venues writes, “…No one wants things to be back to normal more than the hospitality industry and our amazing couples. Feeling all of your love.”
PROVIDING VIRTUAL TOURS: A great outlet to remind couples of right now, as The Vine does with a light-hearted post, that allows them to keep their excitement and planning alive amid the crisis and social distancing.
A SIMPLE, POWERFUL SHIFT: Utilizing existing imagery, VisitColorado has shifted to posting short videos of the state’s stunning settings for users to enjoy daily doses of “Colorado Calm.”
Stay Positive & Prepare for Recovery
When the immediate future is full of unknowns, we can keep a level head by setting aside some time each day to look ahead to when we recover. Take what you’ve learned and work on new policies or plans for your business, revisit paused projects, campaigns, and ad copy and update where necessary – make sure you’re ready to hit the ground running when the time is right, Perhaps you prepare an email or paid social media campaign to go out when normalcy returns in an effort to reach those potential customers and get them to book a new trip, stay, or event.
Thank you for reading. From all of us at Hawthorn Creative, we wish you good health and a positive mindset throughout this challenging time. As always, we’re here to help with anything you or your team may need.