My name is Brian Boddy and I am going to share some business tips/skills for surviving the current crisis we find ourselves facing. I faced and survived the financial crisis of 2008, and these are some of the valuable lessons I learned that helped me rebound.
Customers come from all walks of life and any community service will make a positive impact. Check with your local churches, synagogues, community centers - even the ones that didn’t support you to see how you can help. If you are not able to give back from your store front then check out these websites that can connect you with opportunities: https://www.volunteermatch.org/ or https://www.idealist.org/en/ Be sure to wear your logo retail work shirts for in person services.
I really enjoyed going into my digital freeform lab and stores very early in the morning to be alone reviewing the process, furnishings and a quiet retail floor. Some of my best design ideas and process refinements came in the wee hours of the morning before most of my staff woke up. Shake off the nervous uncertainty that seems to be on everyone’s mind and get back into your business. Look at every aspect of your offering from the viewpoint of a customer who knows you well and expects the very best service every time they walk in the door. Now is a great time to remove sales obstacles that harbor germs and seem to collect dust and clutter. Address problems that were always on the bottom of a long list. More importantly, refine and simplify the sales process with a newly incorporated wipe down of all the frames before and after each customer tries them on. Create a sales presentation for your staff that places the customer’s health as the most important part of the sales journey. You will reopen; be mindful of social distancing by removing or separating sales areas. Customers will want to see, feel and smell retail cleanliness. Now is a golden opportunity to raise customers’ trust in you.
Everyone has a mutual sense of uncertainty and now is the time to up your credibility by reassuring customers that you are available and will be back in a cleaner, refined office. I suggest continued communication with them via a warm non-sales/selling email or phone call if it’s warranted. Convey to the customer that you are here as a trusted source in this time of need by offering drive through or home visits. Don’t limit your services, listen to the customer’s needs and meet their expectations but always protect yourself first! A good email starter is a recommendation to be especially diligent with proper hygiene when handling contacts. Use this article as your guide to craft an article communicated in your own words.
Another idea is to arrange in-store or drive-through appointments where you can fill or sell eyeglass cleaning bottles filled with a disinfectant. If you can’t verify ingredient compatibility of cleaners, don’t mix them, and instead suggest cleaning with soap and water. When you perform these services, take pictures and put them on your website with messages of hope and positive outcomes, no selling! Another idea might be to offer drive-through service; glasses are medical devices and, while some state emergency declarations have deemed optician services essential, others have mandated emergency services only, or closing altogether. If your office will be open, masks and gloves are required and place the staff at least risk into public contact positions. In all your customer communication channels, clearly state services you can provide and fully prepare to deliver the goods and services when the customer shows up.
If any of your vendors are open, now will be the time to find out who is vested in your future. If you’re behind or got hit mid-month in the crisis, make partial payments to your closest vendors after essential overhead costs have been met. It’s tempting to pay one account off but don’t. You will need this cash for your restart and if they are really your long-term partners, they will understand. Vendors who want you for a lifetime will work with you. Pushy or insistent vendors during this time may not be your business partners in the future. Know your rights as we enter a financially unpredictable future.
If you have not gotten really lean then start now and work on the tasks below, refresh your current data and be agile in the coming months. If you have not called your banker or accountant, now is the time get on their meeting list.
You need to know how much cash you have on hand by adding up your personal/business bank accounts and account for cash reserves and emergency funds as well. Be mindful that if you sell anything and exchange it for cash right now (generalizing here) you are most likely doubling down on losses in stocks and real property that took you years to accumulate. The cost will likely be more than the short-term return and might take years to recover. You will need startup cash once you reopen, plan for that now and seek opportunities to put dollars back into your endeavor.
My approach to the “How long can I financially last” question:
Start by pulling a Profit and Loss report from QuickBooks or other financial software making sure that your report basis is on cash not accrual. With solid numbers in hand, create a budget or adjust your existing budget (Excel has templates for budgets if you don’t have one). You can also create a budget or export the P&L from QB into Excel. Once you have that base or template budget, save it and make copies that you can use as worksheets for different money scenarios. I would suggest that your budgets should be month by month at this time. Use the PPP and CARE act offerings to see how they can help your financial situation. Analyze the spreadsheets and keep refining and reworking the numbers until you find something that you can live with.
The first scenario is usually business loans: How long can you stretch your money by making an interest only payment on your house and business loans? An example of this is: Current business loan is $250,000 for 5 years at 7% = $4950.30 per month. The first payment would normally be: $3,491.97 in principle and $1,458.33 in interest.
Take a copy of your budget and change the cells below to see how your “what if” budget looks. Keep doing this until you show a profit. Here are some suggestions to begin:
What if I made no payments for 2 months, next payment due in June of 2020? This would essentially give me 2 x $4,950.30 = $9,900.60 more working capital to survive until business picked up.
If I need more assistance, then perhaps in June and July my lender will allow me to make interest only payments of approximately $1,458.33 per month saving me an additional $6,983.94.
Make sure you communicate with your lenders and find out every option available to you.
Keep up to date on the many economic changes and offerings to small business owners by checking the www.sba.gov website every few days. Credit and borrowing will be an interesting new adventure as we roll through 2020, but for now, let’s go with the money available to you in the past:
Start with your existing banking credit lines and find out if they will remain in place, shrink or grow. Ask or petition your lender to expand credit during this time, increasing your borrowing power at specific recovery milestones in the future. Do yourself a favor and do some banking research yourself to find out what’s available from your lender and others: https://www.aba.com/banking-topics/risk-management/incident-response/coronavirus
My tips: Don’t use personal cash or assets for business expenses yet and If you own real property free and clear do not mortgage it. Your key selling or borrowing indicator will be when you can no longer pay for essential groceries and utilities, that’s it. No one can tell you how long lenders and creditors will carry you and millions of others, so continue to use your existing financial channels to keep informed. Your landlord is in the same boat as you; communicate with them and ask what options you have. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have suspended foreclosures for 60 days. Keep up with the latest news here: https://www.hud.gov/press
You can get more information about best practices for in-office infection control with our CE, The Hygienic Optician, at 2020mag.com/ce. This course is free, thanks to a generous educational grant from The McGee Group.
NOTE: Brian Boddy speaks from his own experience and is not a financial advisor. Be sure to seek help from financial professionals before acting.