April 21, 2020

Ask a Local Expert: Tips for Small Businesses Adjusting to COVID-19

As a city, state, country, and world, we’re all adjusting to the impact of COVID-19 on our lives. For many, that adjustment means dramatically altering their business to meet CDC guidelines, changing customer habits, or loss of revenue.

We talked with Devon Laney, the CEO of 36 Degrees North, an incubator for small businesses and entrepreneurs, about what small businesses and start-ups need to be doing right now to react to the economic and social changes this pandemic has caused.

At 36 Degrees North, CEO Devon Laney’s business is all about understanding and meeting the needs of small businesses and the entrepreneurs who push them forward.

Portrait of Devon Laney, CEO of 36 Degrees North
Devon Laney, CEO of 36 Degrees North

But the typical road map for small businesses has completely changed (at least in the short term). Now, Laney is focused on helping businesses navigate the new world we’re living in.

Tulsa FCU: In general, what should businesses be doing right now?

Laney: Businesses should examine expenses and look for ways to better manage cash flow.

Tulsa FCU: How are businesses you’ve seen in the community responding so far?

Laney: People have had a lot of different reactions, but the advice I have been giving them is to manage their emotions and not panic. You can’t control the situation or how long it will last, so focus on what you can control—delivering value to your customers. Focus on the core value proposition your business delivers, and make sure you continue delivering it during this crisis.

Tulsa FCU: What is crucial for small businesses or start ups right now?

Laney: Check your motivation. Remain proactive. As the days drag on, it can become easier to lose focus and motivation. To succeed and come out on top of this crisis, you must keep a positive attitude and press forward. What are you doing to not only sustain your business, but yourself. How are you preparing for the longer-term effects of this crisis?

All small businesses need to prioritize these four core business objectives right now:

  • focus on your value proposition and how best to continue delivering it
  • maintain regular communication with your team;
  • closely examine all business expenses and eliminate unnecessary ones
  • stay proactive and productive.

Tulsa FCU: But how do you do all that?

Laney: Let’s break it down. For new start-ups, take this time to hone your craft, increase your communications and marketing efforts and find ways to be creative.

For more established small businesses, it’s time to start exploring funding assistance programs like the CARES Act, SBA and other programs. 36 Degrees North has put together a list these programs and resources in its COVID-19 Resources for Entrepreneurs and Newly Remote Workers page.

Tulsa FCU: What can businesses do to help them progress in this crisis?

Laney: Explore new ways to deliver your product or service. Work on refining your business strategy to prepare for the ‘new normal.’ Lean into, or create, your marketing and communications plan. Now is not a time to go silent. Spend the extra time thinking about your business model that you maybe didn’t have the time to do before. Think about what virtual offerings your business can offer. How can you build your business through innovation in this crisis?

Tulsa FCU: What is 36 Degrees North doing to adapt?

Laney: We are hosting and participating in virtual town halls and webinars with our partners, as well as communicating with them regularly about how we can work together to continue delivering the resources our members need.

In addition to gathering needed resources, 36 Degrees North is adjusting in other ways to meet the needs of its partners right now as well. We have begun launching new digital events and virtual spaces where our members can collaboratively share information and resources. We are partnering with local experts to get their questions answered and help resolve the most pressing issues, and we are facilitating one-on-one calls for our members with our team to support and help them in any way we can.

Everyone is impacted by the changes the world is facing right now. With help, preparation and each other, we will get through this. And as always, Tulsa Federal Credit Union is here to help.

This article is for educational purposes only. Tulsa FCU makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as legal, tax or financial advice. Nor does the information directly relate to our products and/or services terms and conditions.