The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Reflections and expectations

The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Reflections and expectations
Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)

As we closed out 2020 there was unanimous consensus that it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year in almost every respect.

As we toasted the incoming 2020, we had no way of knowing that the virus had already started to spread. The following months saw far too many deaths; families impoverished; community fixtures forced to close; other businesses holding on but under enormous pressure; and special occasions and community celebrations cancelled.

It’s worth reflecting on some of the achievements we’ve made under duress. We’ve become more comfortable with online meetings and processes. Work and commercial transactions will never be quite the same. New habits and practices should keep us healthier during future cold and flu seasons. We’ve realized how adaptive and resilient we are. Most importantly, the notion that we’re all in this together established a new sense of individual and community responsibility.

We witnessed healthcare workers, first responders, research scientists, everyday service providers – like those in our grocery stores, restaurants, retailers and pharmacies – rise to the occasion.

City government and business community leadership undertook swift, bold and creative actions. Business owners pioneered new business models to serve customer needs and continue supporting their employees. The nature of business was changed forever. Those most innovative and adaptive will fare best in the coming months and years.

What can we expect in the coming months? Hopefully, vaccines will ease our concerns about infection, and we can begin to resume contacts and activities. The return to normalcy will be gradual and require a lot of adjustments along the way.

The recently enacted relief legislation was a long time coming and is desperately needed. We’re now waiting for the implementing instructions from the Small Business Administration and Department of the Treasury and participating bank details. Our hope is that the application process will be less cumbersome and SBA communication with banks and borrowers will be swifter and clearer.

There are several things business owners can do to be ready to apply. First, they should monitor developments and be prepared to act promptly once the application process is announced. They should also keep track of their financial records by quarters for 2020 and how those compare to 2019. They’ll need to show a 25% drop in gross revenues for one of those quarters.

Having a banking relationship with one of the participating lenders, such as local banks, community lending institutions or credit unions, is vital. Those that already have those relationships should ask their contacts whether that institution will be participating in the next round of PPP and how they should keep in touch. Those who don’t have banking relationships need to develop them immediately.

Our center stands ready to help Alexandria business owners in a variety of ways. Our staff provides owners objective guidance on business financials and operations and can refer them to timely resources. We also continually update our COVID-19 webpage with the latest relief legislation developments and guidance at: covid-19-information-resources.

Alexandria SBDC resources are funded by the city, SBA and local banks, and there is no charge for SBDC services.

The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.