Organizations across the country are rallying to provide financial and technical assistance support to small businesses effected by COVID-19, and loyal customers are stepping up to purchase gift cards and order online from their favorite shops and restaurants that have had to close their storefronts. But many small businesses still struggle to access the support and the resources they need to survive this. Next Street sees thousands of businesses each year through our brick-and-mortar business solutions centers, many of whom are struggling to stay above water. Here are a few services we think other Business Service Organizations (BSOs) should keep in mind to serve their clients in this unprecedented time.
Navigating applications for financial support
Applications for federal and private grants and loans are complicated for even the most sophisticated entrepreneurs, but many small business owners have never had to navigate such a complex process. We have learned from our small business clients that one of the most important services BSOs can offer is hands on support – we have heard time and again that our account managers are the first humans these business owners have been able to speak to after spending hours on hold with banks, the IRS, or others. BSOs should be prepared to walk borrowers through the various application requirements, and should be able to connect borrowers with accounting and tax experts who can help them organize, and in some cases create, the documents they’ll need to complete the process.
Small business owners for whom English is not their first language will have an added challenge navigating the support available to them. BSOs should be able to bring on translators to bridge this gap. They may consider offering translators high level training on the different resources available, so they are able to anticipate common questions small businesses may have.
Making difficult decisions
Unfortunately, many small businesses have limited options while navigating this pandemic and are now forced to make tough decisions. Business owners may need help terminating leases, communication with suppliers and lenders, liquidating assets, and submitting final tax and payroll payments. BSOs should be prepared to connect business owners with pro-bono or low-cost lawyers, accountants, and other experts to make sure all loose ends are tied.
Small business owners need us now more than ever. Once immediate challenges are addressed, they will need help figuring out the new world we will find ourselves in. How will small businesses adapt to adhere to new regulations that are put in place? How will they engage with new clients when face-to-face networking is limited? We continue to explore how Next Street will support small businesses in navigating the road to long term recovery. Do you have other ideas for how we can support them? We would love to hear from you.